Thursday, February 27, 2014

Storytelling with Props

Verbal Storytelling with Props 
A few ideas to get you started
 By Cheryl Jackson 
Children love stories – whether reading books, listening to story CD’s or having stories told to them. We as parents and caregivers know that stories feed the imagination of children and provide strong foundations for children’s own storytelling, as well as rich and varied language development and a love of books. Sharing stories is also great fun!
 A different approach to stories is making up your own whilst incorporating characters and props in scenes for your children to watch. This can be really personalized for the children and you can pitch the story just right for their attention spans, ages and interests. However it can be a bit of a scary prospect for a novice storyteller! So here are a few ideas to get you started.
Step 1:  Setting the Scene
As you'll see in the photos below, your story can take place anywhere. There should be a defined stage for the story to be enacted upon and a comfy seating area for the audience to sit. In the stories above I have used my dining table while the children sat on the chairs, the sofa and low table with the seating area being cushions on the floor, outdoors on the patio with waterproof fabric to sit on and my seasonal table shelf with beanbag seating. It is enough to suggest the scenery with appropriate colored fabric pieces, natural materials and simple shelters made from folds of fabric, piles of stones, boxes, building bricks etc. The children have great fun guessing what the story will be about as they watch you set the scene.
To populate your stories you can raid bits from the children’s toy boxes or have a special set of figures, animals, etc. that are kept just for telling stories with. You can hand make your own characters and scenic objects – in the stories below I have used felt dolls, needle felted animals and folk, and clay models. Whilst the children model clay or thread felt necklaces, they like to watch me make new props and people for the story basket.
Step 2:  Telling the Story - Seven Story Ideas to Get You Started:
A Winter’s Tale 
Grandma and Grandpa’s day in the snow, caring for the hungry animals, fetching firewood and making tea.
How about a story about a family’s daily activities involving the seasons, festivals and your children’s own daily activities. The family characters can reflect your own family make up and include pets and friends. This type of story can be told daily or weekly and awaken children’s awareness of the cycle of the year and the rhythm of their home life.

At the Construction Site 
A handbrake left off and the empty car rolls over the cliff, how the diggers and trucks work together to move the car and take it to be repaired.
Children who enjoy playing with their favorite small world toys love to see them starring in a story. Seeing new possibilities for ways of using these toys helps children to develop their own narrative threads and enriches their play.  Other vehicles, animals, dolls, houses, soft toys, pirates, knights etc. can be used.
The Spider’s Web
How the spider tried to trap the bee in his web and how the other insects saved the bee.
A story can be educational, building on a child’s interests and adding new factual knowledge in a fun way. This type of story can broaden and support topics being learnt at school, perhaps awakening enthusiasm for a subject they find difficult or tedious. Think water cycle, homes and shelters, counting, mini beasts – take time to make sure you understand the subject and have your facts right before you start!

The Lamb Who Never Listened
Naughty lamb never listened to his parents and kept getting into trouble, rescued by the farmer, owl & fawn.
Sometimes children have difficulty in learning acceptable behavior, often in relation to others. Stories that reflect the problems they are experiencing and show how the story characters resolve these difficulties can help a child recognize a new way forward. As well as situations such as sharing and helping others which can positively affect all children, the story can cover a specific issue such as fear of thunder or death of a pet.  Using a gentle, supportive approach helps children who may not want to talk directly about their worries.

Jack Frost and The Snowdrop Girls
How Jack Frost covered the garden in glittering snow and how the Snowdrops Girls swept him away to make Spring arrive.
Fairies, pixies, gnomes, elves, mermaids, witches, wizards – introduce your children to the magical folk that live in your home and garden, maybe only ever seen by children. . . Fantasy worlds populated with dragons and unicorns, full of spells, quests and treasure – add glitter and magic to your children’s imaginations!
Little Red Riding Hood
All the animals warn her about the wolf, the wolf shuts grandma in the outside loo and pretends to be her by dressing in her hat and apron, wolf tries to catch red riding hood, the animals tell the woodcutter, the wood cutter rescues red riding hood and chases the wolf away
A good place to start is retelling a traditional fairy tale. You can use the farm animals, soft toys, dolls etc to retell a story the children know well. Put your own twist on it such as changing the Three Billy Goats Gruff to being about a sheep, a cow and a horse if you don’t have three different sized goat figures. Or maybe the three bears don’t eat porridge but muesli, toast and yoghurt? In your story, Cinderella could have two grumpy brothers and go to the ball in a limo. Allow your children to see other ways to tell a story and that it is good fun to embellish and enlarge on a basic theme.

Step 3: Letting The Children Join In
After the story is finished and you have said ‘The End’, it's the children’s turn. How you do this depends on your children’s age and development, but these are the steps I use as the children grow.
1.  Retell the story and let the children move the characters around the scene.
2.  The children retell the story as they move the characters. At first they just retell key phrases and the bits of the story that interested them the most or the ending which is freshest in their mind, but soon they will remember more of it.
3.  The children will begin to add on their own bits to your story or take the characters in a different direction – it can help if you provide extra props and characters next to the scene so they have fresh ideas to hand.
4.  Don’t forget to role model good audience behavior! Sit still and watch, listen carefully, clap and say thank you at the end of the story. Enjoy your children’s storytelling and discover the events and activities in your lives together that they recall and incorporate into their tales. This can be very surprising!
So gather round, sit yourselves down comfortably and enjoy the story. . .
Special thanks to Cheryl of Waldorf on Etsy shop SoftnWoolly for her wonderful article on storytelling!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Extra Lesson

Improving Reading with Physical Exercise
When my first born was four years old he knew the entire alphabet, each letter’s sound, and how to write most of them in capital letters. I beamed and I even told the neighbor “He can read,” much to her disbelief. You see, I figured he was on the cusp if he knew three letters and their sounds. He could easily sit down and put those into a word, right? Four years later we are still learning to read and I’ve learned to be more humble.
I just assumed reading was easy. When I was a girl I loved to read. But, I never knew how I learned to read and I never appreciated language for it’s parts, more for it’s ability to come together to tell a story.  When I was pregnant I read to my son, when he was born, I read to him more. As a toddler he’d bring me tons of books and we’d point out pictures and learn general vocabulary. When he was just three he sat by while I read all of Stuart Little. Naturally, I thought reading would be easy for him, something that would magically happen. 
I’ve since learned reading is a process that involves games, rhymes, rules and repetition. As any mother would, I am always on the lookout for clear, easy and fun ways to teach him reading rules. Imagine my surprise when a fun new way to enhance reading ability arrived in the form of bean bags, crawling on the floor, and jump roping. 
The Extra Lesson: 
As a parent who prefers natural and holistic methods The Extra Lesson really appeals to me. An approach that helps children with learning disabilities, it is also beneficial to those without. For children with ADD, ADHD, Dyspraxic, Dyslexic, Auditory Processing Difficulty, or as Gifted and underachieving, this method works drug-free. For a mother trying to help her son put joy into reading, it works as well. 
As usual, this Waldorf centric approach focuses on meeting each child at his need level. Extra Lesson classes are available at many Waldorf schools from counselors following Audrey McAllen’s Steiner inspired curriculum. The most wonderful part is the exercises are really fun! 
With help from books and websites we came up with exercises we can integrate right here at home. Weekly we are tossing bean bags and doing crawling races around the house. My boys have learned to do Chinese Jump rope and are inventing their own challenges.
Both boys are improving their gross motor spacial awareness which translates to spacial awareness on paper. It’s easy to incorporate the exercises, they enjoy them, and it’s a great addition to our weekly reading practice.
Interested in finding out more about The Extra Lesson? 
Check out these websites: 
Check out these books: 
Take Time by Mary Nash-Wortham and Jean Hunt
The Extra Lesson, Movement, Drawing and Painting Exercises to Help Children with Difficulties in Writing, Reading, and Arithmetic by Audrey E. McAllen.
Waldorf Play Silk by Pail and Pie
Special thanks to Brenda from Pail and Pie for this article!

Monday, February 17, 2014

T-shirt Bag Tutorial

T-shirt Bag Tutorial
by Tania Prosser of Fairy Shadow
We all have them, the t-shirts that get left in the drawer month after month, year after year.  Maybe we think the color is unattractive, the neck a little too snug or too loose.  Maybe the design no longer calls out to us to be worn.  Whatever the reason, these shirts are good candidates for upcycling.  (Upcycling is the environmentally friendly art of taking unwanted materials and turning them into better, more useful materials.) Unwanted shirts make the perfect starting point to create your own alternative to plastic sacks.  These simple drawstring bags are easy to make and great for trips to the market, for holding your produce, to store toys, as beach bags, book bags, for environmentally conscious gifting and much, much more!
Getting Started:  Choosing Your Shirt
Choose a shirt that is made of jersey material rather than interlock fabric.  Jersey has a knit side and purl side.  Interlock has the “v” shape weave on both sides of the fabric.  The jersey will curl into the cord that will make your drawstring and interlock will not.  Choose a shirt with a sound hem at the bottom of the shirt.  It will form the casing for the cord to pass through.  
Step One:  Cut the Shirt
Make the first cut just below the arms of the shirt and then a second cut 1 ½" below the first cut.   
This narrow cut will be the drawstring of the bag.
Cut the sides off of both of these cuts, creating two strings and two panels.
Step 2:  Fold and Sew
Fold a panel in half and starting at the hem of the shirt sew a straight stitch down to the bottom.  A second seam closes the bag at the bottom, leaving the opening at the hemmed section. 
Step 3:   Thread the Drawstring
Turn the bag right side out.  At either side of the seam make a small hole in the top layer of the casing (hem).  Jersey stretches so it doesn’t need much of a hole to work.
Take up your drawstring and stretch it to roll the fabric.  Using a safety pin or hair pin, thread the drawstring through the casing.  I like to use a contrasting colored drawstring.  Knot the ends together.  I like to add an embellishment by hand stitching a little circle onto each bag.
Step 4:  Get Creative
You can use this same technique with the sleeves of the t-shirt for small bags.   
These make nice dry lunchtime snack packs too.
Step 5:  Share with Your Community
This project is a great way to introduce children to upcycling.  If your school or community group holds a rummage sale you will often see hundreds of pounds of textiles being offered for sale, much of it going unsold and then donated to charity shops.  Every Goodwill sorting facility processes hundreds of tons of clothing a year.  Consider a class project in which the students harvest from your rummage sale before the final cleanup.  After washing the shirts will be ready for sewing.  If you have fund raising events the students could produce collections of bags to sell at those events, having the satisfaction of both recycling the garments and bringing funds to their school or community group.
A special thanks to Tania for sharing this wonderful upcycling project with us!
Be sure to visit her etsy shop, Fairyshadow for a wide array of upcycled creations.
Connect with Tania via Facebook