There are infernally boring tidy-up songs, and then there are just the commands and then there are some nice ones which actually soothe the singer while chivvying others along. this is quite a nice song that I learned once.
Clean Up Time
Tick-tock goes the clock
What does it have to say?
Time for us to pick up our toys
and put them all away
https://blog.bellalunatoys.com/2014/waldorf-verses-songs-for-children.html. The video shows you the tune it is sung to.
She also has a song for folding the washing which would be great to follow onto my one… once they are old hands!! so to speak.
Corner to corner
Meet and greet
Fold our cloth so nice and neat!
….and here is my much more long winded version but which could be made fun? Folding washing
Check it out, it is sung to the tune of London Bridge is falling down.
I once wrote a hand washing one, because basically the ‘wet and forget’ strategy of 90% of children is simply, as I read with horror once, and primarily making ‘super highways for germs’. Better not to wash at all frankly!!
You have a new group of preschoolers or kindergarten children, your environment is ready, the room is full of loose materials, provocations….
The children arrive and chaos erupts.
Your materials are everywhere. Dumped, disposed, and disheveled best describe your classroom.
And you wonder how and why this happened.
Aren’t the children supposed to know how?
Extraordinary work, must be supported by solid foundations. Begin slowly, introduce your hundred languages, one at a time. Children like artists needs skills to create masterpieces. After 15 years of this work, we now find ourselves back to basics, as we have lost most of our proficient ECE teachers to school board full day kindergarten.It is somewhat discouraging to have to begin anew, teaching teachers to work in the “Reggio Inspired” way but we forge ahead committed to the process. Rome was not build in one day!”
I resonate with these very questions. And will probably write again on the subject. I have worked in centres where the children produce extraordinary work and there are numerous causative factors and it fascinates me as to what the key teaching strategies are, and also the role the environment plays as ‘the third teacher’.
Because I have been working at a centre where I have had the privilege of being a sort of ‘artist-in-residence’, I accidentally slid into the role of ‘supplier of loose parts’ and ‘organiser of shelves in the art area’…. and spent quite a while looking for ideas that I could collate into a send home list, asking parents to help us to supply the children with the wherewithal to play with ‘loose parts’. Some of you have seen this on my facebook page and asked me to share the list, so here you go. If you share it, please invite the recipients to like my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/storytellingthreads
And here is the list itself Loose parts 2 and there are items which are highlighted in yellow because some things can be played with in the block corner, the family area as well as in the ‘transient/ephemeral art’ corner. Meaning that they are not for simply hot gluing onto an empty cereal box!
Once upon a time, there was a boy who was turning five. He is a boy who loves stories about cheetahs. Everyone knew this about him… there were eight cheetahs in the cards he received from the other children (even though one was hiding behind a tree on one card!). Today was his birthday event at mat time. He hadn’t been to the centre for three weeks because he’d been in and out of hospital with a foot injury. Today he was distressed (unusual for him) that his mother left. Very. But he managed to get back from that terribly seductive edge. I had planned to tell a story for, with or by him… and was very relieved that he recovered his equanimity in time for us to quickly make decisions. Yes, a cheetah story… I could make it up. Could he tell me though, please, just three things that the cheetah was good at? Yes, running, jumping on other animals and climbing trees. And one thing that troubled Cheetah?…one thing he couldn’t do, and would like to be able to do? it turned out to be swimming. So I had all I needed.. a character and a challenge/obstacle/ problem.
In less than five minutes, I had fashioned a quick cheetah on one of the wooden bases I sometimes bring with me. And I remembered that the very first time, half a year ago, I had brought them, that very birthday boy had wanted to make a wolf. He/we made a wolf, and he produced a book at the centre, which clearly indicated the shape and colour of a wolf’s eyes. And he let the puppet stay at the centre, as a centre resource. It was still there!
Ceremonies over, I began the tale….on one of my storytelling mats, purchased by the centre. I did not know how it was going to go… I had the river, I had height – a tall wooden block…(for the visibility and mana of Cheetah!) and a tree. And so off I went…. “Once upon a time, there was a Cheetah who was turning five. It was his special day, and there were so many things he was good at. He loved to run (demonstration circuit on the mat), he could jump on other animals ( casts around for ‘prey’, finds Moana’s ‘flax’ skirt/ piu piu and mistake it for a spider! (black and white hairy legs variety!) and he could also climb trees.(Does so ).
But there was one thing that Cheetah could not do, and he wanted to do it, because he was hot! Very hot! And he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t swim because he was a cat. And cats don’t swim.
(Casts around quickly to spot someone who could maybe help…. Spies Moana, lying skirtless but definitely a potential problem solver). “Tane! What can I do? i can’t swim, but I am so hot!!”
Tane answers, through the voice of a child…. (I have asked for ideas and help) “You should drink lots of cold water”.
Cheetah replied “That’s a good idea and I tried it, but it just made me feel like I was going to pop!”
Tane said, “Then you should ask my brother, Tawhirimatea. He might be able to help cool you down”. ( I had noticed the puppets from the Creation story as I walked into the story room).
(Leaps up and retrieves Tawhirimatea from a top shelf. Spots and retrieves the boy’s wolf while in that corner).
Cheetah, “Tawhirimatea, I am so hot, and I can’t swim, because I am a cat, and cats don’t swim”.
“I could blow on you to cool you down”, offered Tawhirimatea. “Yes, please” said Cheetah.
Tawhirimatea huffs and puffs but it doesn’t help. Tawhirimatea suggests talking to cheetah’s friend Wolf.
At this point I have no idea how the story will resolve itself, and I increasingly become aware (as I write this up) of various adages that I have learned and grown to appreciate (and clearly integrate) from Improv classes. “First jump out of your plane, and then find your parachute”….. we are now at the door step of the crux point… the third person to be asked is likely to have something worthwhile to offer, but I have no idea what it is. “Everything you need in a scene is right in front of you”. And even more powerful, “The only security is that there is no security”.
So jump in at the deep end, and bring Wolf onto the ‘stage’, and Cheetah’s (my) immediate response is “Goodness, you have even more fur than I do!! Aren’t you terribly hot? How on earth do you manage to keep so cool?” (Cos you are one cool looking wolf!….missed that joke opportunity!) (so many questions are buying me time!)
Yet another basic rule of every good story…. any story you can name… is “always reincorporate significant earlier events or characters”. Wolf replies,” Why, I swim of course!” (I am grateful to you, Wolf, for your eminent common sense!)
This still doesn’t quite solve Cheetah’s overheating problem!But Wolf is not dismayed. He is channelling He Who Made Him, as well as the energy of Cheetah, who is nothing if not fearless!
“I’ll teach you how to swim!” cries the jocular and confident wolf! And down they go to the water.
“First you go in up to your ankles” instructs wolf. Cheetah does so… “Oh that feels so good!”. And now you have to go in up to your belly button” continues Wolf….”Ooh, that’s quite cold. Oh, that feels very good. I like this.” (in retrospect, I love the way these instructions perfectly take into account what every small child knows about entering water)
“And now” urges Wolf,” you can go right up to your nose, but don’t get your ears wet”… (something could happen, but I forget what now) and so Cheetah did, and before he knew it, he was swimming.
And so I moved them down the blue river, with Cheetah in the front. And they had a race.
“And Cheetah won!” cried out the birthday boy from the sideline! Yes, of course!
And that was the story of Cheetah who could not (he thought) swim.
I loved the simplicity and format of this story so much that I quickly whipped off during lunch, and took photos of the key characters.
I returned to work in a kindergarten where I had not been since autumn. When I was there in April I had created, in a tall vase, a display of vibrant red autumnal leaves from an ornamental grape vine. When I returned in August, with spring in the air, I was disappointed to find the dried grape vine leaves just where I had left them. I was stewing crabbily and judgmentally on my disappointment when I noticed something green among the dusty leaves. I was stunned to see a burst of new life, a fat green bud with tiny grape-looking flowers in its centre.
It seemed such a salutary life lesson in some way for myself that I was moved to create a story about a crabby old woman and the change of seasons. So I did. I started by creating the verses which give a story a structure and a rhythm and repetition. They changed as the days passed but finally stabilised. This is the story…
And these are some of the principles that I took notice of when I was creating it. I wanted to include rhythmical memorable lines that I could repeat each day. This way the children would be able to look forward to the accurately repeated lines each day, and I would not have to learn the entire story word for word.
I incorporated animals and events that were real and alive for me. I chose a pattern of three for the times in which the old woman intended to cut down the tree, and included three animals all of which are familiar to the children, I referred to seasonal changes with which the children are familiar. I tried to use interesting verbs and adjectives to give the story life, and I also tried to include some words which the children don’t hear often.
What else did I do? I recorded myself telling it to see how long it took to tell. I told it out loud to myself in the bath in the morning in the days leading up to the telling. I attempted to keep the pace slow and old woman-ish and slightly dreamy. During the telling I used my hands and body to demonstrate the physicality of the cat and the dog and the ants… When the cat was purring in the old lady’s lap, I stroked the imaginary circular shape of the sleeping, purring cat. When the dog leapt over the fence, I used my arm to indicate how he leapt. When the ants bit the old lady’s leg, I pretended my hand was scurrying around the back of my shin before the old woman slapped her own leg, etc, etc.
I thought about the temperaments... the phlegmatic sleepy, snug cat, the choleric Digalot the dog digging and chasing and refusing to come when called. I appealed to the empathy of the listeners when Suzy, the old dog, died in her sleep, and again, as they heard each animal respond to the threat of the axe chopping down the tree, and the urgency with which they knew they needed to act to save the grapevine. And the sanguines love all the adjectives and descriptive words which are in the verses and in the descriptions of the behaviour of the animals…the cholerics also got a moment of adrenaline when the captain or grandfather of the ants called on the swiftest, most agile and most courageous of the ants to go into action and fight for the life of the grapevine.
I included references to the senses... the taste of grape jelly, and the sweet raisins,… the smell of …no I did not include smell… the feel of Greysmoke’s warm fur, the cold winter chill of a winter’s day, the warm relaxation induced by the sun’s rays, the sound of purring like a miniature well-oiled tractor, the sound of the old woman trying to whistle, the scuffing sound of Digalot digging For the sense of sight,… the juicy purple grapes, the green bud unfurling, the daffodil bulb that looked like an onion,… so I did include the senses but not deliberately. If I had thought of them, I might have consciously included a few more… like the texture and taste and smell of well chewed old slippers!… or the texture, smell and feel of the sun-warmed corrugated iron, and so on….
I like the fact that I spoke openly about the fact that pets die and that it is very sad. It felt good to name it, and also soften it with the acquisition of the puppy. One other detail I liked was to include a compassionate view of the new young puppy who never sat when asked to sit, never came when whistled for, etc etc. We have a new child in the class who is intensely like Digalot in this regard, and it felt good to say that the puppy was young and that he was learning and that he did not mean to be naughty. It was simply that he was indeed a young puppy. And to hold the child in my consciousness and even, occasionally, in my gaze, while I described Digalot’s behaviour.
Whatever I did, it certainly held the attention of the children for four days in a row, and one child even asked ‘Is this story about you?” ( The cat was once mine, the dog that died belonged to a friend of mine…. and my mother was forgetful but never that bad!) I made a felted house for the children to play with and which I used to introduce the story and occasionally I referred to it, tracing the journey Greysmoke took to get to the roof, and the place where Digalot hid the old woman’s slippers so that he could chew them in peace! and so on and so forth. The hanging was left out for the children to play with and populated with other puppets who were available..I did not have a dog but the kangaroo looked very doggy like or foxy ( as one child commented) if you ignored the joey in her pouch! so we made do!!
It felt like a very healing thing to do to tell a story that somehow made bigger sense of my smaller, rather petty response to the continued presence of the grapevine. And it was a pleasure each day to reach the point in the story when the old woman sees the wonder of returning spring. Each day it felt alive and powerful and special. On the very first day, no one else in the room had spotted this little miracle so they were all delighted to run over and see it for themselves when the story ended and also to experience the wonderful miracle of the seasons…. and fancy the old woman forgetting all about the cycle of the seasons, and isn’t it wonderful that indeed the seasonal wheel is turning back towards the warmth of summer and fresh growth.
And then I made another house in a toadstool, with more windows and space! i have embroidered it a little, and added a door knocker and ‘apples’. I like this one a lot too! And will happily make something similar for you, and you could give me the specifications that you would like!
In storytelling improv theatre workshops, adults attempt to rediscover the skills they once had as children. There are numerous sayings in this art form, such as ‘First jump out of your plane, and then discover your parachute’ ( ie. Don’t pause to consider if it is safe, or funny, or ‘good enough’, just jump!) or ‘Everything you need for a scene is right in front of you” or “The only security is the fact that there is no security”. As an early childhood teacher seeking to document learning dispositions, I followed Jules and Georgia and Cypress with a camera and, to my appreciative surprise, realised that, in their play, they unerringly follow these maxims. Before I knew it, I was drawn into their ‘story’!
I first came across the three of them, conveying small containers of water precariously balanced in a wheelbarrow all the way across to the other side of the playground, and then carefully pouring the contents into a tub, all the while talking about how they were making ‘ingredients’ (muffin making was afoot indoors with no doubt talk of such stuff!). One of our improv warm up games is to shout out any random idea such as “Let’s all be rabbits” or “Let’s all faint” or “Let’s all make a batch of scones” and each time everyone enthusiastically shouts back, “Yes, let’s!” and then we all proceed to do the actions until the next callout! You can’t get it wrong, and you all have a wonderful sense of enthusiastic belonging as the actions rapidly and erratically shift and change. This is what the trio did: “Let’s get more water!” “Yes, let’s!!” and they all hared off to get more! Again and again they enthusiastically ran and gathered and returned and poured.
Then I noticed (and pointed out) that the tub had a hole in the bottom, like all good garden tubs! Actually filling the tub was clearly a minor detail…the goal was to run, to share, to agree, to have a purpose, to be physical, to feel urgent….to play! So then they tipped out what water was left in it, loaded it up onto the wagon, the girls clambered aboard, and Jules proceeded to drive them away. The trip is underway, the action is happening… and now, a late ‘parachute’ or motive appears! Jules announces that the tub needs to go to the dump! There is another game in improv, called ‘Yes,and…” where you up the intensity in a partnership game and this is what happened. The wagon is now wet and therefore ALSO has to go to the dump! I pleaded on behalf of the wagon and also pointed out that we have two wagons. They were delighted by a new challenge… how to get the second one out of the shed and master the niceties of three point turns. Jules worked extremely hard to lift the wagon AND the two girls, past the trucks and back out on to the road to the ‘dump’.
Cypress held onto the wet one as a trailer. At this point, I suddenly appreciated that the long and committed friendship between the three of them is based partly on the fact that Jules loves the physicality of the numerous challenges that arise out of the imaginative story lines… and the girls were never short of ideas, as the three of them continually invented reasons for extending the trip and upping the challenge level.
And here it comes …..Whoops! They realise that they have forgotten their lava guns and have to return to the place where I first met them… and this is part of all good storytelling. A good story returns to previously mentioned people, events and objects and reintegrates them into the story.
All three children decided that their guns were now not good enough.( That the guns needed to provide different powers, in fact). Again I appreciated how the story drives the action, just as much as the action drives the story. Regardless of what the guns looked like, both the story and the action required them to be ‘not good enough’ and destined for the dump as well! Off the three of them went, inside to the glue gun table. While they were gone on this new challenge, I was so completely involved in my self-appointed role as saviour of the ‘doomed’ wagon that I decided to trick Jules so he would not know which wagon to discard… I made both wagons wet and wrote ‘Please don’t take me to the dump” in the bottom of each one! And then what happened? Five other children came belting past, leapt in to the empty wagons and drove off!
What a lesson in not being fixed on an outcome! What a perfect opportunity for me to experience how it works when you have to co-operate with 30 other children. You have a carefully calculated plan, you put something down, and then it’s gone! What flexibility, adaptability, generosity, and active social skills one has to develop in this world of early childhood!! (AND in improv!..we adults have to learn to let our ‘plan’ go if another person unexpectedly changes the narrative into a new direction. It requires an enthusiastic generosity and a letting go of one’s ego). One sees younger children who are still learning this, wailing with angst that someone has THEIR toy! But Jules and the girls returned shortly, all wheeling prams! They did not need the wagons. But the girls love to be pulled so they abandoned their prams and leapt into Philip’s wagon. The story simply takes another turn and no one tries to drag it back to some earlier, completely arbitrary, story-line.(Although I admit to being tempted!) The children just stayed in the present. As long as there was movement, dialogue, action, collaboration, apparent purpose and a forward propulsion of the narrative, then it’s all good. Again and again, I noticed how the girls’ imaginations and Jules’ love of a physical challenge were made for each other, like fingers in a glove. When the girls wanted to be mermaids, Jules dug furiously to cover their legs with sand. When Jules looked like he might be abandoning play and going inside, Georgia and Cypress raced after him so that he could save them from a monster, “ A monster, there’s a monster, Jules!” and back he came to help to save the day. And this was only a snippet of their day! The creativity required to be a successful player is gargantuan! Many adults find that the skills learned in storytelling improvisation stands them in good stead in all the other areas of their lives… it helps to have a sense of humour, flexibility, imagination and a creative ability to improvise on the spot! So thank you, Cypress, Georgia and Jules for letting me play too! (Recorded by Evelyn. July 2018)