Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Storytelling with Children ~ The Speech We Bring

How we tell or read a story can make a very big difference in the way the child experiences the story.

The vowels carry feeling. Vowels are called the singing letters. The Ah brings wonder and awe, the E carries fear eech!, the I with understanding one's place in the world, with self assertion, here I stand! Oh brings surprise, the o of protection as in love and the long U, brings concern and withdrawal.

When we tell a story or read to a child and bring it in an even, calm voice with stress on the consonants, rather than on the vowels, the child is free to bring his or her own feelings to the story. Try chosing one or two consonants and focus on them when they fall at the end of a word when telling or reading a story.

We can enunciate clearly the sound of the consonants which name and give form, the hiss of the s, the roll of the r, the closure of the bilabials sounds, b, p, the t, the rounding off of the m and the flow of the ll.

Try saying the phrase below with emphasis on the vowels:

The wicked wolf ate the small child.

This time say it with emphasis on the d, f, t, ll and d, at the end of the words.

The wicked wolf ate the small child.

Notice a difference?

But we love the drama you say. That is something for an older child and adults. For the child who has not yet expereinced the change of teeth, the calm, warm, even version leaves room for the child to find his or her own feelings within the story. With young children, before the change of teeth (birth to seven) the focus is in doing, in being in the will, in action, in deeds. What is done in the story, the action, is what is most important to describe for the young child.

A five or six year old can hear a complex fairy tale told in the even, calm way and take it in deeply without fear while the same story told with dramatization and emphasis on the feeling letters can make it frightening for the child. A three and four year old can hear simlper fairy tales.

With older children after the change of teeth, the feeling life and learning through feeling becomes the focus developmentally.

When we sing, chant nursery rhymes or tell stories to a small child, we bring the warmth of the our voice to meet the child on a deep level, soul to soul. We can envelop our words with warmth and evoke pictures for the child to live into, through their play, through their life. Children will play out the stories they hear with dress up, singing, self talk and the creation of scenarios and socio-dramaric play. This is the basis for imaginative thinking. This is the basis for a literacy that is infused with inspired feeling and creative action.

We can support this in many ways. (More to come on this topic)

Children under the age of seven are like a sieve, they absorb everything we say, do and feel. They learn through imitation. They know when our words are aligned with our feelings and when they are not. They will play out or act our our deepest feelings and concerns.

In bringing stories and rhymes to children here are a few questions to ponder about our speech:

Is it good?
  • Am I speaking clearly and enunciating my words?
  • Are the words and phrases appropriate for the developmental phase of the child?
  • Does it convey, in the end, that the world is good?
  • Is it imbued with warmth?
Is it beautiful?
  • Are the words beautiful?
  • Is the combination of words beautiful?
  • Is it rhythmic?
  • How does it feel for the ears to hear such soumds?
Is it true?
  • Am I here and fully present with the child?
  • Am I fully present with the words I am speaking?
  • Does it convey the truth of life I wish for the child to experience?
  • Is it worthy of imitation?

Next will be a little nature story of courage to tell.


Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling

~living curriculum program to support parenting and homeschooling

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What to do with all of those ripe tomatoes?

Make Tomato Goat Cheese Salad

This is one of my favorites from Cafe Liliane. Actually everything we made there was worthy of favorite status!

Slice tomatoes, arrange on serving plate, crumble goat cheese ( I like the chervre from Vermont Butter and Cheese) on top, roll basil leaves and make thin slices to place on top, also know as chiffonade, do this with red onion too, thin slices on top. Sprinkle some delicious olive oil and lemon juice over it all. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

The photo above is from Flower Power Annie's gorgeous offerings at the farmers market.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Storytelling with Children :: Nursery Rhymes

Recently I wrote here about movement and lullabies as the first stories the child experiences. From lullabies, flow nursery rhymes. Sometimes they overlap with nursery rhymes sung as lullabies and often accompanied by movement and touch. An example,

Sleep, baby sleep,
Thy father guards the sheep,
Thy mother shakes the dreamland tree and from it falls sweet dreams for thee,
Sleep baby sleep.........

One way to bring nursery rhymes is with touch, movement, song and gesture. Baby might like a game of pat-a-cake while the first grader loves Hey diddle dinkety poppety pet! (try saying that fast and articulately five times)

For baby:

Pat- a -cake, pat-a- cake bakers man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Pat it and Roll it and mark it with a B,
And pop it in the oven for baby and me!

Clap hands together and apart, you can do this holding babies hands, and trace the B on the child's arm of back or belly.

Here's another version:

Pat-a-cake, pat-a -cake, baker's girl,
Bake me a cake with a strawberry twirl.
Pat it and roll it and mark it with a B,
And pop it in the oven for baby and me!

When you say strawberry twirl, you can make a twirl on the child's arm or back.

Here's one of my son's favorites, for the first grader, to sing and do with gestures touching the body:

Hey diddle dinkety, poppety pet,
The merchants of London they all wear scarlet.
Silk in the collar and gold in the hem,
So merrily march the merchant men.

The child's sense of touch can be soothed or stimulated with nursery rhymes.

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
this little piggy ate roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy cried wee! wee!
All the way home!

Wiggle the toes with each verse then trace the way home on the child's foot bottom, around the ankle and up the leg

We can move the child's foot at the ankle, up and down or clasp the soles together while saying or singing a nursery rhyme. Here is an example from Mary Thienes Schunemann's nursery rhyme book in her series Naturally You Can Sing!

When I push very young children in the swing, I sing a little song that I made up and follow it with some nursery rhymes.

The song:

Up I go in my swing
Oh so merrily
Up I go in my swing
With a fiddle di di-di di

With little ones, I push from in front of them on the swing so they can see me and make eye contact. I push from their feet with the palms of my hands lined up with the soles of their feet and sing:

All around the cobblers bench
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey stopped to ties his shoes
Pop! goes the weasel

A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

For the pop I make a popping sound with my pointer finger inside my cheek.

Baa, ba black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
One for my master and one for my dame
One for the little boy who lives down the lane
Baa, baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes si, yes sir, three bags full.

Another nursery rhythm with a pop:

Higgledy, piggledy, pop!
The dog has eaten the mop.
The cat's in a hurry,
The pig's in a flurry
Higgledy, piggledy, pop!

More on nursery rhymes, rhythm, and speech for the young child tomorrow.

What's your favorite nursery rhyme?


Storytelling with Children~Movement and Lullabies

Many parents have asked me over the years, to write something about language, literacy and story telling with children: why story telling, why not reading, why does reading come later, what stories to use, when to use them, why tell them rather than read them and what props to use. The philosophy major in me wants to explain everything in great detail which becomes quite lengthy (and dull), so here it is, with an effort to make it concise, and to make some sense of it for you. Tell me what you think.

For this moment, let's think in terms of recapitulating history. Humans in ancient time went from movement to speech to writing to reading. That's it! in a nutshell. That is how Waldorf education approaches reading which is often the big question for those new to Waldorf or outside of Waldorf education. Why wait so long to teach reading? Ah, but literacy is being taught from the beginning and as it is so with all of Waldorf education, the child lives into it, with her very being, at the very start, beginning prenatally.

The very first story for the young child is the mother, and it begins in utero, with the mother's movement, movement that occurs before the child's ears are even formed. This is the first experience of story.

With the formation of ears and beginning of hearing comes the rhythm of her body and sound of her voice.

Next come lullabies, sung by the mother or father, grandparents, siblings or caregivers. Lullabies can be traditional or made up by you. I was astonished in pregnancy and early motherhood how songs and lulling sounds emerged from my lips spontaneously and flowed with ease in me which is something I had not experienced before motherhood.

For inspiration to sing with your children, Mary Thienes Schunemann created a Lullaby book in her series of songbooks with CDs for parents called, Naturally You Can Sing!, which are recordings of her remarkably beautiful voice and lovely illustrations with lyrics that make wonderful inspiration for anyone who wishes to expand their repertoire with lullabies. 

Parent-Child Classes at Waldorf/Steiner schools are another place to experience the beauty of lullabies, learn new songs and meet others with young children. Our parents and grandparents can be a source of lullabies when asked to recall what they sung to their children and if they remember lullabies sung to their siblings, especially if they were born into a family with many children and years between them.

Or just relax and remember your early days and let flow whatever comes from you, for your child or for yourself.

To be continued...... with Nursery Rhymes.


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