The following is a guest post, Mountain School Faculty member Rebecah Freeling's account a of visit to storytime in her colleague Kimi Keating's classroom. It's a little slice of life in the Chickadee nest!
I had the great pleasure of spending storytime in the Chickadee nest a few weeks ago. Kimi had been telling a story about several creatures who ended up all snuggled together in a pot that had been dropped by a farmer. She told the story for a week, then she did it as a puppet show. The third week, the children acted it out as a play.
This was the first time many of the children had done a play, and Kimi guided them through it with great joy and clarity. First, she lined up chairs for each of the characters to sit in, and on each chair was the character’s costume. The costumes were delightfully simple. The farmer had a hat, the fly and mosquito had a silk crown. The other animals had appropriately-colored capes to wear.
The scenery was just as simple. Kimi had a large green cloth on the ground to represent the grass, and two large play crates represented the pot. She started this story the way she and Gale start all stories: she lit a candle and sang a song. Some of the children knew the song and sang along. They will all know it soon! Here’s the song:
Fire fairies come to us,
Bringing fire from the Sun.
After the song, Kimi rang the bell that signals the start of the puppet stories and plays. And the children sat still and quietly. Now, you may read this and think to yourself, “Oh, I’m sure most of them were quiet; but my child wasn’t.” But YES! Your child was! Kimi had created such a mood of joyful expectation that all of the children were waiting to see what would come.
Then she began the story. She led each of the characters through their parts. She guided the farmer, who was pushing a wheelbarrow. She led the fly (the fly’s name was Buzzing By) to the pot. She led each of the animals to the pot and through their lines.
Now, when I say that Kimi led them, you may imagine Kimi in her most upright and serious mood, as she is when she brings the whole group together in the morning. But that’s only because you’ve never seen her become a mosquito! She led the children in mosquito-like flight; she plodded like a bear; she hopped like a frog; she scampered like a mouse, to help the children express and experience the moods of all the animals in the story.
By the time the story was at its end, everyone was back in their chairs with rosy cheeks and happy eyes. And Kimi ended the story the way she and Gale end every story – ringing a bell, putting out the candle, and singing:
Thank you for your light.
The children had heard that day’s story six times over the last two weeks, and now they knew it pretty well. Some of them wanted to speak their parts, and some wanted Kimi to speak for them. But stay tuned – by the end of the year, they will all be comfortable speaking up and saying their parts. The joy of the storytelling moment will sweep them along and they will lose their shyness and become, at Kimi’s invitation, part of the living story.
The shared experience of story strengthens the classroom community – we have all BEEN someplace together! And a hallmark of great storytelling is this: that the children can BECOME the story, that they can FEEL and KNOW the many emotions and moods of the characters. This is what helps them understand their own inner world, which will become more and more complex they older they get.
Over the year, your children will go many places with Kimi and Gale as they tell carefully selected and prepared stories. With each story, the children expand their vocabulary, attention span, and emotional intelligence. They become knit together as a group through shared experience and imagery. These stories will live on in the children long after they have flown from the Chickadee or Hummingbird nests!