“Speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival yesterday, Pullman read from his 2012 book of Grimm’s fairytales “for young and old” as he joked children should be exposed to stories, “the bloodthirstier the better”.
read the rest…
The final week with the kids at Overby-Sheppard Elementary was by far the most successful so far. After playing a few games to use up some of their energy, we split up into our separate groups. This week, my group had two little boys and one little girl. The one boy had been in our group for the last three visits and every time we had opened the large book of fairytales, he had pointed to the table of contents and asked us to read Firebird. We had no idea what exactly Firebird was going to be about, but he had been very patient so we started to read it.
After swapping a few words to make the story easier for the kids to handle (replacing “tsar” for “king”), Tracy began reading what soon revealed itself to be a very long story. Interestingly, while the little girl on my lap soon lost interest in the story, the two boys lasted much longer. While I tried to keep her from distracting the boys, the book passed from Tracy to Julianne and then to James. The books was supposed to come to me next but, being slightly occupied with the little girl, James and the two little boys started reading instead. Their level of interest changed while they were participating in the reading, increasing as they got to become a part of the storytelling instead of a listener. It reminded me of how much more excited the children had become the week before when we had them roar when we read the word “Beast”. As soon as they could become active, whether through their listening or reading, they became much more involved with the story.
Unfortunately, in order to get to the drawing we had promised, Firebird had to be cut short. Even though the book had a few pictures, the boys had fun making their own interpretations of what a Firebird would look like while the little girl wrote James a valentine. The experience with the boys with Firebird was really different from the previous week with Beauty and the Beast. None of us knew what to expect from Firebird, so no one was complaining that it was a “girly story” which is why I think they paid more attention.
All in all, I’ve had a great time working with these kids every Tuesday. From the games to the fairy tales to one little girl always referring to me as “grandma’s house” from a game we played back on the first day, I always had a great time with them, and it was really intriguing to see what types of stories and activities related to fairy tales kept their attention and which types didn’t.
Many of our female tricksters—often new inflections of the ones we know from legends and fairy tales—have complemented their arsenals of verbal weapons with guns and steel. Little Red Riding Hood has been revisited again and again in recent years. The girl in red, often positioned as a seductive innocent who courts the predator as much as she fears him, is no longer a willing victim. When Buffy, from the popular nineties TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” dresses up as Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween, she carries weapons in her basket.
a video created by a YouTube user with images drawn from a variety of sources
To start off this last review we just want to say how much fun our experience at Overby was. Personally, I learned more from those four visits than I did in some of my classes at UR *which for the purposes of this post will remain unnamed.
I’m going to talk about what worked and what didn’t work in our last visit and briefly compare those to our prior three visits, that’s it. Simple and sweet… like the chocolates we gave out and I promised myself I wouldn’t eat (I had 3… more like 10, but who’s counting?) QUICK TIP: DO NOT BRING CANDIES WITH PEANUT BUTTER *Ms. B if you’re reading this… we’re still sorry about that, oops.
Okay, here we go! Our last visit, as some of my classmates already mentioned, was a lot (a hell of a lot) easier than the other three. After our first visit we realized that young children, due to no fault of their own, have extreme and at times unmanageable amounts of energy. So we started to think up ideas to “run them out” before we began our activities. These genius ideas included playing tag, playing Sharks & Minnows (our own version intelligibly named “Grandma’s House” where we’d have the kids run from one side of the gym to the other and freeze in place if they were tagged by one of our many wolves) and racing, lots of racing. For students going in the future, It doesn’t matter what game you play as long as it involves a lot of running.
On the last day we played a few rounds of Grandma’s House until the kids were sufficiently tired. Afterwards we had them get in a circle to play “Duck, Duck, Goose.” The game was a perfect segway into story time. Since it only involves two people running at any time it gives us plenty of time to joke around with as well as calm the kids down. It worked so well actually that we used it as a transition for every visit after the first.
Getting back to our last visit, after a few rounds of “Duck, Duck, Goose” and a few sets of pushups (Michelle Obama should thank us) we broke the kids up into groups for story time. My group definitely came prepared, we brought a picture book called “No Bears,” that was awesome and some crayons and paper to color after we read… and the chocolates. But even with the candy, after one of the kids in our group volunteered to read, the rest of them wanted to read too. After we read a page we asked the kids a number of questions to get them to think and to also see if they were paying attention, and of course they got a piece of candy if they got a question right. It’s amazing how well that works. Anyway, our group was happy to read the story we chose and the kids were happy to listen to it. It was a calm and relaxing experience. Two words I never thought I’d use in relation to those crazy kids! At the end of it all, the kids in our group drew some great pictures and learned a new fairy tale. Good work team!
It’s no surprise that the hardest part was saying goodbye. My group and I can honestly say that we’re going to miss every single kid there and would gladly go back and play rocketship or give some piggy back rides anytime. I’ll end this post simply with this: Bye Overby, it was a blast! Oh and everyone lived happily ever after.
Sing us out Adele:
We arrived for our last week at Overby-Sheppard excited to see the kids for the final time. We were all excited to get off campus and play the games that I had come to realize were more for increasing our energy levels than decreasing theirs. When we got there we immediately delved into our go-to race, tag, and duck-duck-goose shenanigans the kids look forward to so much.
When we finally finished tiring them out, the groups split up and we sat in a circle to implement a plan we’d constructed to read how the children really felt about the fairy tales we’d been telling them for the past three weeks. We touched base in the car with what questions we thought would provoke interesting material for our upcoming papers. After the questions we went around the circle making our own fairy tale phrase by phrase to see what aspects were the most important to them. Some the questions were:
- What fairy tales do you remember?
- What are you favorite fairy tales?
- What are your favorite characters from these stories?
- What things need to be in a fairy tale to make it one?
The answers to this varied slightly, but what we found most apparent was the prevalence of film influence what the children perceived as fairy tales. For example, when we asked the children what we thought their favorite fairy tales were, the answers we received were unanimously linked to the movies they had recently seen. When asked what things need to be in fairy tales, one boy responded with “vampires.” I think this accurately reflects how movies affected these children’s views, because not once did we as a class reference vampires in our interactions with the Overby-Sheppard students, nor did they have a presence in real fairy tales. They are, however, similar to fairy tales in their magical aspects, and have a strong presence in the modern entertainment world.
Rapunzel, The Princess and the Frog, and Sleeping Beauty were named in our group as the favorite fairy tales. All of the children who said these were their favorite tales cited the MOVIES they had seen for their reasons. This again supports the notion that the line between movies with fantastical elements and fairy tales is blurred for these children.
We loved spending time with these kids week after week and it was truly sad to part with them on Tuesday. From them boosting our egos in telling us that we can actually draw, from calling us “mommy,” or the incessant hugs—these children brightened our days while in turn giving us some perspective on fairy tales.
Overall, this visit to Overby-Sheppard felt the shortest, but also seemed to be the most productive – probably because there were about half the children there as last time. However, almost all of them who were there had been there at least once before so it was really fun to recognize and see all of them one last time. As usual, we started out our visit by playing a game so the children could get out some of their overly abundant energy. We walked into what appeared to be another freeze tag/sharks and minnows game. Once again, a few children (and Evan) were wolves while the other children were “little red riding hoods” trying to get to grandma’s house without being tagged by the wolves. Next, we finished off the games with a few rounds of duck, duck, goose to allow everyone to sit down and regroup. Finally, after all of the chaos had somewhat died down, we broke into our four small groups.
This time we ended up with two boys in our group since there were not a lot of kids there. Thankfully they were calmer and more focused than the last time (most likely because there were only two of them). Our group brought a few books and we figured we would let the children pick which one they wanted to read with us. Not surprisingly, the two boys decided that they wanted to read “ the Stinky Cheese Man”, which is a book filled with modern (and often comical) rewrites of classic fairytales. The pictures in the book are trippy, dark, but somewhat humorous. We each took turns reading a story and especially looked for the boy’s interactions to the different stories.
We started out reading “the Princess and the Bowling Ball”, but both boys did not seem to know the original story of “the Princess and the Pea” so they did not really understand this modern version, which results in the prince dishonestly choosing the right princess to marry. Next, we read a version of the “Ugly Duckling”, which ended in the poor ugly duckling just as ugly as he was in the beginning. The boys were not a huge fan of this rather unhappy ending and said they said they liked the one where he ended up happy and not as ugly. Another version of a classic tale presented in the book is “Little Red Running Shorts”, which actually did not make much sense to me as I read it, and I do not think that the children even understood it as being an interpretation of “Little Red Riding Hood”. However, we asked one of they boys to tell us the version of “Little Red Riding Hood” that they knew. To summarize his story: Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf who follows her to grandmothers house. The wolf then eats Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother and eventually runs away…the end. This was not exactly a version that any of us had heard, but it had many of the key characters and concepts.
However, the story that we had the most fun reading and discussing was “the Stinky Cheese Man”. This story follows the story of “the Gingerbread Man”, but instead the stinky cheese man smells so bad that nobody wants to chase him and he ends up falling into the river because the fox does not want to eat him. The boys thought that this story was really funny and loved helping us read the line: “Run run as fast as you can, you’ll never catch me I’m the stinky cheese man!” They both drew pictures of the stinky cheese man and decided that they liked this version more than the version with the gingerbread man. Afterwards we tried to get them to come up with their own version, which resulted in a story called “the Turkey-Egg Man” along with some pretty crazy artistic representations (hopefully to be posted later). In this story the turkey-egg man hops out of the oven, grows an egghead, is chased by kids, gets away, is chased again, and finally eaten. We recorded this comical ordeal so hopefully we can find a way to post it.
To conclude our visit we asked the boys about their favorite fairytales as well as what they think fairytales are. One of the boys responded that power ranger is his favorite fairy tale. He classified it as a fairytale because the power rangers have powers that people do not have in reality and they also defeat the bad guys. I think this surprised/intrigued our group because his interpretation of fairytales somewhat mirrors the discussions we have in class about what defines a fairytale. Overall, I really enjoyed this visit at Overyby-Sheppard and I think that our group as a whole had fun working with all of the kids. Even though they were disengaged and distracted from our discussions at some, they are a great group of children who I feel each appreciated the stories in their own unique ways.