2/20/2013 - It's Elementary
Each week, I work with Nan Wilkinson’s 5th & 6th grade class at Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center – Phoenix, AZ

Story, Rhythm and Curriculum Too!
Last week we used The Barking Mouse for a “Story in Rhythm” exercise. There was some discussion this week on FaceBook about the story, The Donkey in the Well, so I thought I would do the same with it, but a little differently. I first told the story.

A donkey falls into a dry well on a farm. The farmer can't get it out of the well, so he decides that since it is old and feeble, he will cover it with dirt and bury it in the well. The donkey is at first scared, but then believes he can do something about it. With each shovel of dirt thrown on him, he shakes it off and stomps it into the ground beneath him. (The kids responded with shake-shake-shake and stomp-stomp-stomp) Eventually, the dirt has risen to where the donkey can climb out of the well.

We started out talking about audience participation and different ways you could get the audience involved. I talked about call-and-response, then (on the fly) wrote a couplet on the board. I used claves (a percussion instrument) to set the rhythm to a 4/4 count: The kid’s part (response) is at the end of the lines: “Oh No!”

The farmer's well was all dried up
As useless as could be – OH NO!

I asked what the donkey looked like, and Zoey said, “I think his back is curved, like a big banana.” Davin offered, “Maybe he was almost blind, that’s why he fell into the well.” The kids chose the rhyming sequence (A-B-C-B). With their help, I wrote some more lines on the board, then went back and changed one, then changed it again.

The donkey had a big swayback
And he could barely see – OH NO!

That donkey wandered all around
And fell into the well – OH NO!

He brayed and brayed and brayed and brayed
Like he was ringing a bell – OH NO!

Then the kids joined in with the chorus (rhyme=A-A-B-B):

That donkey brayed and brayed and brayed
But the well was where he stayed
Until he thought to use his brain
And then he shed his pain

Their assignment for next week is for each student to come up with more couplets and verses to tell the story. We had talked about the "iambic" structure of the stress on the second syllable. I told them they could get extra credit if they could tell me what the opposite of iambic was. Before I left the class, one boy came up to me and had already Googled it on his cell phone and had the answer! I love these kids.

Along the way today, here is what was discussed in the class:

Audience participation - Call and response - Shakespeare - Verse - Chorus - Greek Theatre - Poetic License - Couplets - Quatrains - Stanzas - Claves - Rhyme patterns - Meter - First attempts at crafting may not be the exact thing you want, but you have to start somewhere. There are always second, third fourth attempts, and that's okay. - Oh yeah, we also discussed "Shaking off the dirt that someone else throws on you."

In the past week, I mentioned to three different friends, "I know this is what I want to do and what I was meant to do. I am happiest when I am telling or teaching!" Today I did both. How cool is that!

©Mark Goldman 2013

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For more information contact Mark Goldman - 602-390-3858 - Mark@Storytellermark.com


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