Recently I had the opportunity to do a weekend storytelling project with very small group of nine- and ten-year-old boys. Before I even met these kids, I suspected that I should not try anything the least bit “school-like” with them. Who wants to sit indoors learning something on a beautiful Saturday morning in the mountains?
They turned out to be a great bunch of kids, but I was right about the school part! They would have much rather been on the ropes course with the bigger kids.
This was a challenge. Or an opportunity, depending on how I looked at it.
After telling the first story, I had everybody make name tags out of paper plates. My initial idea had been to use half a plate per name tag but the boys – still under the influence of David and Goliath, started referring to the paper plates as “breastplates.”
OK, turn a whole paper plate into a breastplate with your name accompanied by a drawing of your favorite scene from the story you just heard.
The drew a lot of bloody headless giants. They also talked about the story with each other.
My inner light bulb went on.
Leave the worksheets in the folder.
It was going to be a stories, crayons, and pictures on paper plates weekend.
Sequence a story? Let everybody draw their favorite part on a paper plate, punch holes in the paper plates, string them on a long piece of yarn in the proper order and hang it across the front of the room.
The 5p’s, beloved by the SMCC Storytelling Institute?
Outline your hand on a paper plate, decorate it while remembering People, Place, Problem, Progress, and Point.
Then listen to a story and draw your favorite person on a paper plate.
String everybody’s favorite person plates on another long piece of yarn.
And so on and so forth through the rest of the P’s.’
Not everything was a success. I had planned to have the kids make animal masks to go with Noah and the Ark. That was the reason for the paper plates in the first place. I even had popsicle sticks and glue so that the masks would have handles.
Gluing popsicle sticks to the edges of paper plates did not work so well.
When I wanted to punch holes in the paper plates to hang them on the yarn, I realized that the scissors at hand were not really up to the job.
When it was all over, my mall but mighty group of storytellers had taught me four important lessons.
First – paper plates are your friend. Heck, you can even use twelve of them for a storyboard!
Next – test your glue before you go.
And – know lots and lots of movement/story games. Make some up on the spot.
Finally – when in doubt, take a walk.
Thanks, guys. I had fun. I hope you did too.
Harriet has told stories at the Phoenix Fringe and at the Gila Bend Shrimp Festivals. She’s taken part in the AZStorytellers Project and in StoryRise events. As an instructor at the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute, she has performed in many events including the La Lloronathon and a number of Myth Informed concerts.