I recently attended a workshop with a colleague from Little Bears on storytelling. Jane Cobb was the presenter, and story teller. This full day Saturday workshop was for Early Childhood Educators to become more comfortable with sharing stories, learning rhymes and teaching songs.
Meredith and I had the same hopes for this workshop. We both felt that we were in need of some new and exciting songs to add to our mundane arsenal of (tricks) we use at our circle times. Hopefully, Jane could teach us some finger plays, transition songs and easy-peasy sing-a-longs for our upcoming long winter days ahead.
Well, I soon found out two very interesting facts about myself that I did not know. Firstly, I am a terrible story teller (or, let's re-phrase... story learner)... my short-term memory is unbelievably bad. And secondly, I learned a lot of sing-along songs as a child in Girl Guides which are re-surfacing again... and apparently, I do know a lot of songs, rhymes and finger-plays..I've just forgotten them over time!
This is how our workshop began....
Jane started off by telling us a story about the Gunniwolf, (Here's a condensed version)....."Once there was a little girl who lived with her mother at the edge of the deep, dark forest. The mother always told the little girl, "Whatever you do, don't go into that forest alone. Because if you do the Gunniwolf might get you!" The little girl promised that she would never go into that forest alone!....
The story goes on and of course the little girl ventures into the forest to pick flowers and eventually encounters the Gunniwolf! She sings a little song, "Kum-kwa...Ki-wa....Kum-Kwa....Ki...wa....Kum-Kwa, Ki-wa,... Kum Kwa-Ki-wa." and it puts the Gunniwolf to sleep. She runs away as fast as he can (slapping your hands on your knees to the rhythm of the pit-pats)... Pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat! but up gets the Gunni-wolf and he chases after her! And when the Gunni-wolf runs he makes a sound like this, "HUNKER_CHA....HUNKER_CHA.....HUNKER-CHA....HUNKER-CHA!" ... and...He catches her again...
So she sings him her , "Guten-Sweeten song" and he falls a sleep, and she runs away again. This happens a few times over, and finally, the last time the Gunni-wolf falls asleep, she runs as fast as she can home and slams the door. And the little girl never, ever goes back into that deep dark forest alone again! The end!... cute story!
We broke off into smaller groups and were asked to re-tell the stories over again, remembering to use the same key phrases, sing the little song, pat our knees when the little girl ran, make the scary sound of the Gunni-wolf chasing the little girl, and finish with the lesson-learned ending..... easy enough, right? Hmmmmm........
There are some people in this world I suppose who could hear a story once, and be able to repeat it again right away. I am not one of those people...in fact, I am not even close to being one of those people! I need a piece of paper with the story in front of me... and I need the important parts that I cannot forget highlighted.... and THEN I need time to rehearse... like days...or even weeks!
There were people in my group who could re-tell this story almost verbatim right away.. this was amazing to me. These people, are story-tellers! I believed.
Jane Cobb has written; to my knowledge, two books on rhymes, and storytelling, "I'm a Little Teapot!" and "What'll I do with the Baby-o?" she truly has a talent for captivating large groups of people, including adults for a 7 hour workshop.I wish I was more like Jane. I found her workshop challenging, (the remembering part, but super fun and inspiring!)
When I got home, I was so excited to see my little ones and hear about their day. It was (Soccer-Saturday) so I had missed three games... and they had much to tell me!
Half way through dinner, my little Eva asked me what I learned today at my class. (she doesn't skip a beat, my little mini-me)...
I told her that I learned how to tell stories! ........WOOPS! That came out wrong... because as soon as those words slipped out, I couldn't suck them back and you know she got so excited and asked me to tell her a story!
I didn't have my sheets! I didn't have the chance to highlight it yet, or practise it, or rehearse it for days!
"Come on mom... tell us!" all three prodded together.
Oh My Gosh, I thought, okay, I can do this! Think, think! Remember the key components, "The beginning, the mother leaves to town, the little girl sees flowers near the edge of the forest, she picks the flowers, the song she sings, the Gunni-wolf catches her, she sings him to sleep, she starts running , he chases her and the sound he makes,do it three times over until finally the little girl get's home safely)
"Okay," I said quietly....".But it's a scary story, and you might not like it, because you have to sing a song when the little girl picks the flowers, and you have to make this deep, grunting sound when the Gunni-wolf chases the little girl!" I warned.... "Gunni-wolf" Jaysun asked excitedly..."What's a Gunni-wolf?"
"Tell us!"... they giggled out loud.... so, I told them the story.... I started out, "Once there was a little girl who lived with her mother at the edge of a deep dark forest. The mother always told the little girl, "Whatever you do, don't go into that forest alone. Because if you do the Gunni-wolf might get you!" The little girl always promised that she would never go into the forest alone.......
and you know what... I didn't remember ALL of the things I should have in the right order, and I forgot to pitty-pat my knees until the second time the Gunni-wolf chased the little girl, and I'm pretty sure the tune for the little girls song was totally off, but they didn't know that! Somehow, I remembered it... there is definitely something to be said for repetition and practise! Not only did I remember that story, but two others, and many many songs that I had forgotten the tunes of from back when I was in Girl Guides! I completely shocked myself..a well deserved imaginary pat on back for moi!
"Well, if you liked the story about the Gunni-wolf, then you'll love the story about the frogs!"
"FROGS?".... my children chimed in again.
"When I was a little girl, my grandpa, Parley Garfield, told me he could talk to the frogs. And I believed him!....
and that's how story-telling begins, Jane Cobb would be proud, I'm sure.
Secretly, I am really trying to become a story-teller... I practise when I can, but mostly I read from my highlighted sheets so I don't mess up the important parts. I am intrigued with this new found-love of story telling, and I hope that this might somehow spark the interest of other educators or parents out there....it truly is a gift to carry on forgotten stories to our own children, in hopes it peeks their interest a little, or in the very least, keeps their brains fresh with imagination... and if I intrigued you with my stories and you want to know more about Parley Garfield and the Frogs, you'll just have to come visit me during circle time to hear the rest... or ask Eva... she's got it down pat now!..."Knee-deep! Knee-deep!"
Thanks for reading!
"After nourishment, shelter and companionship; stories are the thing we need most in the world.!" ~ Philip Pullman