The three days at FMS went very well, I think. The teacher, Renee Marchand, was happy with what I proposed and let me go for it. Basically I taught the classes for the first two days. When we had time on the second day, Renee put some topics on the board about community and had the kids write post-its and went over them.
It was a very enjoyable three days. The classes were very different and their reactions to things varied. They all loved the stories. I told Jack and the Beanstalk and Tatterhood, both to illustrate figures who have to make their own individual ways into the larger community. Jack worked particularly well since they got the notion of leaving a small community (family) to get into something broader but that this means facing large, scary things that might swallow them up. Good lesson for the sixth grade. The first class was largest and giddiest so the discussions took a little longer and they didn't immediately get to the point, but they finally made it. The second class was actually slower in some ways but they nailed the stories and their relevance to individuals and community. The third class was "honors" and more serious and more perceptive.
I told Hardy Hardhead on day two for the movement exercises. We discussed the contribution of different skills to community. They were puzzled by Jack's doing very little until they considered his generosity and his leadership. For movement I started with a walk-like-the-character and freeze exercise (thank you JP). All groups got it, though the responses were fairly obvious. Group one was again more giddy. I tried an artist/statue activity but it was too complicated for group one and it became a bit chaotic. Went on to tableaux and let them draw on all the stories. Not a lot of imagination but enough so that the class could guess the story and scene. I bagged the statue thing for group two. The rest went very nicely, though when one group made a tableaux with Tatterhood's sister below decks, one kid went under a table. They loved it so that every group after had to have someone under a table. Sixth grade.
We had time leftover so Ms. Marchand reviewed the post-its and tried to generate a bit of discussion that didn't get too far. I re-instituted the statue for the third group (at the teacher’s suggestion) and they were much better at it. I demonstrated the idea using Ms. Marchand as the statue. They all had a lot of fun and it helped them remember the stories, but I'm not sure they got into the stories any further with all this activity.
Ms. Marchand was absent for the third day but there was a good substitute. I reviewed all the stories I'd told, reminding them of the points they were all supposed to make. The first group needed more prodding. The other two were right on it. I told The Gecko about animals combining to dig a well, discussed it a bit and the sub presented the writing assignments. All three classes dug into the assignment and worked on it for the rest of the period. There was time left in the last class so I told Br'er Rabbit and He-lion as a parting gift.
In general I think it was a success. The students certainly loved the storytelling and seemed to get the connection to their own lives and the theme of community. I'm on for next year.
written by Jack McKeon