(be sure to check out chapter one below…)
Close your eyes and think about the music of Peter and the Wolf, or In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg, or Fanfare by Aaron Copeland? These pieces of music create imagery in my head that I revisit each time I hear them. As I listen again and again I go deeper and deeper into their stories and each exposure reveals more of their magic.
This is what I want story telling to be like for my students, especially since most of them don’t understand my English or are unfamiliar with the cadence of story language. I want my students to listen to me reading stories the way I listen to music, and I want them to have the same cozy feeling I felt lying on pillows at night as my dad read Winnie the Pooh.
So I work first to build loving relationships with my kids and then I orchestrate my presentations to them as though I was a sorcerer. In telling and retelling a story, I reveal its magic and my students become apprentices to the power of the page and the word. It is an amazing privilege to witness a child’s first experience with story and I take the role of story teller very seriously.
And so the story that was to become The Mitten in December began way back in November with our first cold snap. I turned to a fresh page on my sketch pad and drew a picture of me going for a walk and losing my mittens. That was the beginning of my series of mitten stories and I brought the children in as story tellers by asking them to draw a picture of themselves with the color mittens they wish they had.
Wanting to lay more groundwork for the book titled The Mitten, I told another teacher story that featured my mom with her basket of yarn, picking through the balls of color to find the color I had requested – blue, I think.
I also cut out paper mittens in all sorts of colors and invited my students to choose the color they liked and write their name on it, always looking for ways to practice that skill. We sorted them out by color to graph which was most and least popular and I suggested that we send them to my mom and see if she’d like to knit mittens for all of us.
By this time I felt the kids had enough understanding of the basic narrative elements of The Mitten to open the book and tell the story from the illustrations. I used Jan Brett’s book first, introducing Nikki and noticing how Nikki requested mittens from his Baba the same way I had from my mom. Of course she had a basket of yarn just like the picture I drew of my mom.
Finally it was time for the children to receive their mittens. (go to my mom’s blog to read Chapter Three – after all, it began with her inspiration!)