During the Woodland Park 3-5's free play time (what we call "Discovery Time") I periodically break out a clipboard stacked with blank paper and invite the children, one-by-one, to tell a story, which I rigorously transcribe, word-for-word, and read aloud at Circle Time. Most years, there is a hardcore group of storytellers who are responsible for the vast majority of our stories, but during this most recent school year storytelling took on a life of its own. Every child told at least one story and many told dozens.
As I write this I'm sitting beside a thick stack of pages covered in my improvised shorthand, chicken scrawl. I'm hoping to get at least some of these stories typed up during the next few days.
Here are a few I’ve finished so far.
This story is by our friend Mikey. Even as a two-year-old he had a well-developed sense of humor and enjoyed making adults laugh. This year, as one of our oldest kids, he delighted in telling stories that made his buddies laugh as well. I’ll bet you can pick out the biggest laugh lines:
Once upon a time there was a backhoe digging in a pile of leaves. Then it ate a hot dog. And then a burrito came along and then a avocado came and he washed himself off and then he jumped into the garbage can.
And then a walking banana came along and said, “If you eat me I’ll go to Safeway in your tummy.”
And then he went and said, “Oh man, I have to go to the potty.” And it went through a hole and got some glasses on. And then a hair came along and a little clip board. They went to preschool and got a nametag on.
You’ll note the deft use of toilet humor. This is a story from early in the school year, prior to the official banishment of “potty talk” to the bathroom. (I should mention that we did have a boy a few years back who was so determined to include potty talk in his stories that he insisted that we take the entire Circle Time into the bathroom so that we could read his stories.)
Here’s another story from early in the year by one of our youngest friends, Ella:
This story is about Nordy! Nordy just wobbles. He just wobbles.
Nordy is her special stuffed animal. You’ll note the brevity of the piece, which was one of Ella’s hallmarks throughout the first few months of the school year. Now check out this Ella story from closer to the end of the year:
My story is about Cat in the Hat. And then he goes crazy loco on his hat.
And then a Nordy came by. And then Nordy helped the Cat in the Hat go crazy loco. And then they fell down like they are crazy loco. And then they goed in a circle. Then they fell on the floor. And then they fell on their legs. And then they tied a knot in their feet. They dropped themselves on the floor.
And then Flower walked by. It smelled some soup and it ate some soup in the bowl.
There are always a few kids who anticipate the excitement of getting up in front of the audience at Circle Time, but who don’t want to take the time to actually tell a story. These children often plop themselves on my lap, spout off a series of nonsense words, then go about their business. During the first few weeks of school I usually just transcribe the nonsense, but soon start responding to the gibberish by offering them the choice of either using real words or defining their made-up words. Here’s a story by Esme in which she took the definitional approach:
Whoop. (It means “hello”.)
And then Toop. (It means, “Hey, what is your name?”)
And then once upon a time and it eats the lights. Then the vite (a thing that kills lights) came into the light. And then a digger exploded. And then the dodem (a thing that eats people) goes in the halloma (lava in a volcano). And then it takes apart our whole school. And then it tears out all the hairs except my friends.
It used to bug me when kids based their stories on movies or TV programs. I’d write them down, but tended to dismiss them as evidence of how the popular culture is diluting creativity, but I don’t feel that way any longer. I’ve now come to understand these stories as an attempt to share a powerful/exciting/moving experience with the rest of us through fiction. Every storyteller has his influences, but that doesn’t mean we get cookie cutter results. Here are three very different stories, each inspired by the movie Bolt:
From Jack (3):
There’s a dog named Bolt. And then he find the Green Eye. And then he got it.
And from Sarah (3):
About Bolt. One time he first he was a little kid. And then Penny was going on a trip with her dog. And then some motorcycles got up to them. And then Penny pushed a big red button. And then a rope came out and Bolt had it in his mouth. And then she hurted her. And then she said, “You saved my life.”
And, finally, from Jane (4)
Tinkerbell flied with her friend Lily and they played fairy tag. Then they picked flowers and made flower crowns. They met a dog named Bolt and then they found a cat named Mittens. And then they fighted the Green Eyed Man. And then they tied his feet with a rope.
More stories to come . . .