Tag Archives: play

Let's act out the story!

Using Music to Enhance a Literacy Experience

In every classroom, we’ve been reading and retelling folktales, and one of the favorites has been The 3 Little Pigs. We decided to use an afternoon music group to see if the children would be interested in creating a sound script that could liven up their story, and, maybe, encourage some of the children to ask to act out the story.

We started by reading the story together (using a favorite version that clearly implies some sounds and actions) and talking about the various characters and what they do. Then, children used a variety of body sounds and percussion instruments to represent the important actions:

• Building a house of straw – ch ch ch ch with seed and other gentle shakers
• Building a house of sticks – tapping rhythm sticks and hands
• Building a house of bricks – loud slow thumping on the carpet (bricks are heavy and it’s hard work) with a large low drum
• Knocking at the door – knocking on the floor while tongue clicking
• Running away – quick patching in a running pattern
• Falling in a pot of hot water – splish splash

Children agreed that a wolf has a low voice, and the pigs had higher voices so everyone acted accordingly, and we told the story with sounds while a teacher narrated (read the book).

The chickadee class has been retelling the story spontaneously ever since. Not all the children were in the first music group experience, but now everyone uses the same sound effects for their play. Children choose roles now, and some are the audience and musicians, watching with the narrator as the story is acted out. Whenever the book is chosen at reading times, a crowd comes over and requests for the chance to act out the story are often made. And we’ve been watching as many children build “houses” in the block area, create pretend games, and tell stories.

Giving children opportunities to put stories into action (have a play) and use their growing pretend skills adds enthusiasm and excitement to our shared readings of familiar stories. A play gives structure and action to the parts of a story or book that we teachers would like children to be able to identify – titles, authors, characters, narrators, etc. in a way that is engaging and meaningful for just about everyone.

Music helps represent the characters and actions in a way that is both clear and memorable to the actors. In working together and taking a part, children come to realize that there are times when working together leads to a different, and sometimes more interesting, result than working alone. They also begin to understand that practicing improves the result, and that it is often worthwhile to try more than once and develop ideas and skills together. But one of the best by-products of these experiences is that children create and take ownership of the play with all its parts on their own and discover they can accomplish great things – in their pretend, in their own stories, and with stories that everyone knows and loves.

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Decorating a box to make a boat

Thoughts on How Children Grow and Learn

We’ve now had two opportunities to think together about Priscilla Sloane’s recent presentation on Brain Development and Sensory Learning. A few parents joined a “drop-in” discussion one early morning, and others joined our monthly evening discussion that was part of our November Board meeting. Here are some of the “big ideas” we’ve been thinking about together:

  • Early experiences have an impact on physical development and on brain development.
  • Sensory and motor learning create a link to language, social skills, and emotional development. For example:
    • A child must be able to lift his or her head to take in facial expressions and establish eye contact – both part of early language development
  • It’s important to connect children’s current behavior with their developmental history. For example:
    • A child who tires easily, is always leaning or can’t sit at the table, may have low muscle tone
    • A child who moves too quickly or is always running may have been an early walker and had less time engaged in weight -bearing activities earlier in development. Using speed can compensate for having less control.

Children think and learn through physical activity. They need many varied opportunities to take action in their environment, experiencing a full range of tactile and sensory experiences. Children need opportunities to use open-ended materials over time that can be used in diverse and increasingly complex ways. These materials require children to problem-solve and create their own meaningful experiences, so that play ideas come from each child’s imagination and not from an external source.

We can encourage children through both our interactions and through the materials and activities we offer:

  • Model “give and take” in conversations, so that children listen as well as talk, use eye contact, experience conversations where they both give and receive full attention
  • Encourage games that require taking turns and eye contact
  • Resist the temptation to “rush” into paper work or abstract learning too early. Children need a full range of tactile/sensory experiences to develop physically. For example:
    • Offer materials that require finger work and strength – playdough, putty, clay, crayons (more than markers that require very little pressure), sand, fingerpaint, pipettes, tongs, etc.
    • Use vertical surfaces for play whenever possible to support muscle development
  • Encourage open-ended interactions with natural materials outdoors
  • Encourage pretend play and other child-organized play
  • Think about the amount of time children are spending with ipads or other technology. Using these materials too much takes time and interest away from more foundational activities.

As we approach the holiday season, it’s a good time to think about how you can best support active, hands-on learning. Remember that “less can be more” – simple open-ended materials often offer the best play value. TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment) has posted a useful “Toys, Play, and Young Children Action Guide” that gives a great overview of the value of play, some good toy options, and what parents can do to support their children’s optimal growth and development. Check out the guide here and look over other resources that TRUCE has on their website too. For example, you’ll find “Family Play Plans” that have a collection of simple ideas for family activities with basic materials like cardboard boxes, playdough, mud, chalk, or water:

TRUCE Toy Action Guide

TRUCE website

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