Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tale Twisters-Part 1

There will be no twisting of tails here. No animals are ever harmed in the creation of this blog--though my bird has been sternly reprimanded and put in his cage for biting my neck while I type.

The tales twisted here are stories that are used as a part of the half day camp that I am doing this week with students entering grades one to three. We read and tell stories and then do activities that tie in with the stories with the goal of having fun while inspiring both a love a stories and some creative storytelling from the participants.

On Monday we read Dirty Birdy Feet by Rick Winter which is a reliving of what the author says was a rough day in his mother's life. The evening after the white carpet was cleaned, a family sits down to a dinner of sloppy joes. (What was that mother thinking?) Suddenly a bird flops down the chimney and chaos ensues. There is a good dose of humor involved--there has to be or that mother would still be beating her head on the wall. After reading the story, the campers looked at and identified various animal footprints and talked about them a bit.

Did you know that most people are six feet tall? It is true and this camp proved that they fit that statistic by cutting out models of their own feet and using those feet to measure themselves. While they were not six of their friends' feet tall, most people were between 5 1/2 and 6 1/4 of their own feet tall.

For our final project we did some foot painting. Thank goodness it was a nice morning so we could go outside, paint our feet (and later our hands) and press them onto big sheets of paper.

Tuesday we read several books to get our creative juices stirred. Patches Lost and Found by Steven Kroll is both a good story about the number one problem faced by authors (specifically, struggling to find a story idea) and a touching tale of the recovery of a lost guinea pig. We had a good discussion of how we write. Is it words first and then pictures or pictures first? Many students told me that their teacher, just like the teacher in the book, always said that words have to come first. Tell me it isn't so. Inspiration comes where and how it comes, as this story suggests.

Then we did an Amy Krouse Rosental-a-thon by reading four of her books--Little Hoot, Little Pea, Little Oink, and Spoon. These are good twists are familiar issues. Little Hoot is a young owl who complains because his parents make him stay up late; Little Pea has to eat all of her candy before she can get her vegetables for dessert, and Little Oink does not like making the house look like a pigsty. These inspired some thoughts about what other animals nag their children about. Spoon finds a spoon envying other silverware for all the cool things they can do--knife can spread butter and cut the bread; fork gets to stick a hot dog over the grill; and chopsticks have exotic experiences. After reading these books some of the campers created silverware experiences pictures and others settled down to write a story. I wish you could see the marvelous tale that is still evolving about a very hungry bird who was eating a spoon girl the last time I peeked into the book. Also in the works are a detective story and a guinea pig adventure tale, both of which promise unexpected endings.

We also had time to read some of Mo Willems' classic (at least they are now classics in my mind) Pigeon books--Don't Let Pigeon Stay Up Late and Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog. The simple illustrations have so much expression and the text just begs for interaction so they are the perfect to read aloud.

Today we began with a book I had never read before, having run to the public library yesterday to get a book about dragons because I had forgotten to pull one out before packing the library this spring. The Egg by M. P. Robertson has beautiful illustrations of a giant egg being read to by the young boy, George, who finds it under his mother's favorite hen one morning. When the egg hatches, George finds himself mother to a young dragon. He teaches basic dragon skills--flying, breathing fire, distressing damsels, and defeating knights--and always reads the dragon bedtime stories. We found that we had to make time to look closely at all the details in the lush illustrations. With this inspiration we decorated some lovely flying dragon models, while some folks continued with their stories and other projects from yesterday.

We also took time during the day to read two of my favorite books. (One of the big perks of this camp is that I get to read several of my favorite books every day.) Bark, George! by Jules Feiffer would be worth reading if only for the picture of the vet reaching deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down inside George to pull out various critters. The twist at the end always gets a chuckle. The Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French makes me want to move to Australia where I could have a troublesome wombat living in my back yard. French does live in Australia with multiple wombats around so she has a good idea of what a wombat's diary might say. The pictures are warm and inviting. The wombat's matter of fact voice and certain misconceptions about human life is perfect.

We ended today with some made-to-order stories. The kids had me create a story that included a girl who liked to comb her hair, a fairy, a red, fire-breathing dragon, and George Washington. I was as amazed as anyone to learn what a good diplomatic skills George had when dealing with dragons, fairies and vain little girls. The campers then were given four random toys from my prize box. They looked at their toys which ranged from ugly eyeballs to Dora the Explorer to myriad Disney figurines and much more and came up with their own stories. This group of 15 came up with some pretty amazing tales.

Stay tuned to hear what we do for the remainder of the week.


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It sounds like your usual mix of creativity and magic. Wish I could go. ;-)

Linda said...

You would be more than welcome at any camp, Jennifer. I miss the time we did one together.