Thursday, June 2, 2011

Three Fingers, Three Pigs

Story: The Three Little Pigs
Puppets: none
Props: none
Presenters: one
Audience: Family Storytime

I think of Finger Stories as sort of a cross between fingerplays and puppet stories. Like fingerplays, the kids move their fingers along with you…but there’s a bit more story to them, and the motions are similar to simple puppetry. The Three Little Pigs is a great example. Lots of kids know the story already, and I’ll usually quickly summarize it first anyway just to be sure. Then I show them who the characters will be: First Little Pig is your pinky; Second Little Pig is pointer; Third Little Pig is your thumb. And we’ll use our other hand for…The Big Bad Wolf. He’s all four fingers and your thumb, making a sort of mouth.

Then I tell the story and show and tell them along the way how to move their fingers. “The First Little Pig walked along...” (and you just march your pinky from right to left and the kids do the same, more or less). “He found some straw and built a house...” (you shape a house in the air with your pinky…the kids get it and do the same). “By and by, along came the Big Bad Wolf...” (your other hand pops out, fingers “chomping”). Then you get into the whole “huffing and puffing” section. The kids, who are listening to the story and watching you and moving their own fingers, still follow along pretty well. It’s good to do this bit slowly, drawing Wolf (hand) away from Pig (pinky), then towards him again, and finally blowing down the house. Pig then zips away behind your back, Wolf goes behind on the other side, and…. “The Second Little Pig found some sticks....”

The tale works especially well as a finger story because the repeated pattern gives kids a chance to practice the same series of motions a few times. Also the characters are distinct and you never need to have more than two “on stage” at a time. By the time you reach the final scene and have Wolf climb up on the roof, many of the kids are comfortable enough with telling it this way that they will “climb” their hand up the imagined house without even needing to be told.

Kids catch on at different levels, though, and that’s one of the cool things about it. If they just don’t get the finger movements, it’s still fun for them just to watch you tell it; and maybe they do join in orally. For the kids who do get the motions, it can be a great way to learn and retell a story. It’s also a good way to introduce puppetry to kids. The motions are the same, but without the distraction of actual puppets on your hand. They get the actions and the interplay down first, along with the telling, and then it’s just one simple step to telling it with puppets.

Other folktales that work well as Finger Stories include The Little Red Hen, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Three Bears (which is a little trickier because you change characters more frequently and more quickly).

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