Storytelling and Story Plays in East AM
By Sue Gore, Teacher
Caps for sale, caps for sale, fifty cents a cap,” sang the children, balancing towers of hats on their heads, playing gleefully in the autumn grass.
The idea for East AM’s fall project emerged from the children’s interest in the story Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Their enthusiastic response encouraged us to explore storytelling and story plays. Caps for Sale was a natural starting point because it was familiar and included repetitive phrases and recurring language patterns ideal for dramatization.
After repeated readings of the book during group time, the children adopted the roles of actor, director, and set and costume designer as they worked with the language teacher to prepare the story play. Through active participation, children assumed ownership of group time, an East AM tradition reflecting their interests and creative energy.
Storytelling and story plays were integrated into other aspects of the curriculum. Hats from a personal collection of the 1930s added a spark to dramatic play props in the classroom. Children began dictating their own scripts for dramatization and collaborated with others to produce original story plays. The River Dragon by Noam, Caroline, Olivia, and Jackson was written and enacted in the sand area, complete with castle and moat construction.
Children had opportunities for self-expression and development of fine motor skills as they designed costumes for story plays. Peers often assisted less experienced children in a cooperative effort. The story Stone Soup by Marcia Brown was extended to a cooking experience as children selected, washed, peeled, and chopped fresh vegetables for our own stone soup served during snack. The soup was “nutritious, delicious, incredible, and edible,” to quote the book. “To think, it was made from an ordinary stone and a magical ingredient called sharing.”
The benefits of storytelling and story plays are numerous. The more exposure children have to narratives, the better they understand how stories are orga-nized, such as the sequential occurrence of characters’ actions and other events and the plot predicaments to be overcome through interactions of the characters. Telling and hearing stories provide young children with opportunities for speaking and listening and, in the long run, contribute to language skills and reading comprehension. In addition, the activities foster teamwork and cooperation as children plan story plays and act together. They learn to listen to others and to respect their ideas. Self-confidence grows as they try new experiences and realize that their efforts are valued.
Excitement mounted as East AM’s fall quarter progressed. Children entered the classroom asking, “Is there a story play today?” They became skilled at remembering lines and adopting the persona of their chosen character. Plots were often changed to accommodate an expanding array of characters. The moral: You can never have too many foxes!