Friday, July 11, 2014

How I Stopped My Children's Whining with Story Club

Stop Child Whining Story Club
The boys looking bored. "When will the fireworks start?" "It will be a while, yet. It's not even dark."

I'm Bored

Yesterday afternoon, after we had done all the things and the baby was sleeping I was sitting on the couch. It was a hot day. Benjamin came in and plopped down and said, "What do you want to do, mom?"

In Benjamin-speak, this phrase is code for "tell me something really fun to do and give me permission to do it. If you don't get it right on the first try I will whine at you in the whinyest voice ever."

I did not immediately guess the perfect activity to entertain his majesty my hot, tired six-year-old. But pretty soon Levi joined us and I thought of a great idea: Story Club!

Despite Benjamin's grumbling, Levi was up for telling stories. I picked The Three Little Pigs -- one of the best, most basic fairy tales for kids.*

Tell a story

I told the boys the story. You know it: Three little pigs making their way in the world. House of straw, house of sticks, house of bricks. And then the action really gets going with the Big Bad Wolf. Levi was riveted the whole time. And by the time the house of straw had been huffed and puffed to bits, Benjamin was into it too.

Now what?

I got to "The End" and it was time to test out the Story Club formula:
  1. Tell a story.
  2. Ask the kids to tell it back to you, with their own twists.
I was totally nervous! That seems so funny now, but it's true. Would Levi be willing and able to do this? He's not done any official preschool yet, you know. Would Benjamin want to participate? Or would he shoot us down and bring back the whine-fest?

"Now you tell it to me." I said to Levi. (Benjamin's body language was still non-participatory, so I didn't even go there.)

Levi started with the most memorable part for him: the wolf trying to decimate that brick house. When I had told the story, I had the wolf huff and puff and run out of breath. Then I had the wolf push and push and try to shove the house down. Then Big Bad tried the windows and at last the chimney, from which he scampered back up and sat in the river.

Levi's was a guided retelling. "There was a wolf, and he wanted to eat the pigs!"
"What did the wolf say?" I prompted. Followed by lots of "and then what happened? And then what happened?" But he did an awesome job of it. He stuck pretty close to the version I had told (though he passed over the wolf trying the windows and had him head straight for the chimney).

Did it beat the blues? 

By now, Benjamin had turned to face us and when Levi finished I praised his retelling and asked Benjamin to tell the story with his own twist. He delighted in it, naming the first two pigs with nonsense names and naming the smart pig Max. And the look of pleasure on his face was priceless when he announced that the big bad wolf got all burned up.

Ah! The joy of storytelling! The feeling of power you get when you consign the villain to a horrible fate! The pleasure you get in anticipating that you will shock your audience! Suffice it to say we were all having fun.

After this, Levi wanted to tell it again and started off strong with four little pigs (one was a baby). Things got murky, though, when a giraffe showed up and he wasn't a replacement for the wolf. His story petered out before really concluding. But man! It was so fun to tell stories together. I was so pleased to see the boys having fun together, with me, and learning and practicing literacy skills. I had to share it; it was the highlight of my day.

Stop Child Whining Story Club
Even from behind you can see them smiling.

*Is the Three Little Pigs really a fairy tale? I don't know. Maybe I should say one of the best, most basic animal stories for kids. I can't decide. Please weigh in on this debate in the comments.

4 comments:

  1. Folk tale? It's sort of a morality tale, but that sounds boring. If you get the chance to watch the Fairytale Theater incarnation, it's pretty great. The little pig is an artist. Very forward thinking. And I think the wolf is Jeff Goldblum.

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    Replies
    1. Definitely a folk tale. But is it a fairy tale? I wouldn't think it out of place next to, say, Jack and the Beanstalk. It has been AGES since I've watched Fairytale Theater! I will have to see if the library has them. :D

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  2. I'm way behind on blogs and Story Club, but I love this! Neal and Addison are the storytellers in this family -- I have a very weak imagination for stories, fairytales, and the like. But I like this twist. Even I could tell a story like the 3 little pigs and then see what Addison can do with it.

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  3. Yay! I'm glad you like the idea. It truly was so easy and fun.

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