Fun with Folktales

Posted 27 February 2015 12:00 AM by By Lynn Mullin

Snow may be trying to keep us down, but this year’s group of third graders at Josiah Quincy is nothing but energy, smiles, and excitement. We’ve had many, many snow days to work around at the beginning of this program. At this point, our original schedule dictated we would be into lesson #11, but we’re only at #7. I suppose on paper this number doesn’t seem drastic, but when we take into consideration the constraints of the modern-day school year, making up four classes can become quite a feat. Luckily Ms. Sheung, the classroom teacher, is flexible and understands the value of making time for this process. We’re very grateful for her and her students.

My first impression of this classroom was one filled with a lot of raw energy. Many of the students found focus a challenge, and so these first lessons involved developing an environment that promoted routine, clear cues, and listening skills. That said, we’ve also had quite a bit of fun! Our regular lesson begins with warmups, and then we usually make our way over to a small stage we’ve set up in the room. Regardless of the day’s activities, we always end with a moment of appreciation, where we take a moment to reflect on what we’re grateful for from the day.

We’ve read and discussed two stories thus far from The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales: “Amrita’s Tree” from India, and “The Sun Mother” from Australia. Through these, we have begun exploring the ideas of protagonist, antagonist, setting, personification, and folk tales. As we begin to discuss plot, we’re also going to start the process of devising a play for their final performance. These stories have already done more than improve literary vocabulary, though. Our classroom culture has been impacted by them, too. For instance, we have started to say, “Namaste” when we greet each other or say goodbye, just like in “Amrita’s Tree.”

Thus far, the highlights of this program happen whenever the students have a chance to perform. They might not say so themselves, but they relish a good challenge, like when we played a version of “Bippity-Bippity-Bop” where they had to do all of the following in 10 seconds: 1) Remember what protagonist/antagonist meant; 2) Remember who the protagonist or antagonist was in “Amrita’s Tree”; and, 3) Create the statue that represents that character. That’s a lot to process when you’re just learning something! But they took to it with laughter and smiles. I look forward to seeing how this group—and how I—continue to grow over the course of this program. These students brighten my day, and I can only hope that I have done something small to brighten theirs.

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