Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stolen Cookies and Marching Ants

Book:  Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar  by Bonnie Lass & Philemon Sturges;  Illustrated by Ashley Wolff   (other versions also available)
Puppets:  Four animals, almost any will do
Props:  Guitar is nice if you can play, but fine without
Presenters:   Two
Technology:  Scanned images projected;  Also nice if you have a screen you can sneak behind, but not required
Audience:  Family Storytime (mostly 3-6 year olds)

Brad and I told this story for our “Bug”-themed Family Storytime.  Bugs really only show up at the end, but that’s close enough.  My first thought was to have one of us out in front, looking for the missing cookies with the other behind the puppet stage, popping out animals one by one.  But we didn’t have a good idea for the ending, where it’s revealed that ants are the culprits.  Then Brad came up with the excellent idea of projecting the ants on the screen.  And if we’re showing the ants at the end, why not also use the screen to show the cookies.  He copied images of ants and cookies, set up some Motion Paths with PowerPoint, and here’s how it worked. 

We set up our puppet stage to the left of our projection screen and a paneled wall on the right side.  Just beneath the screen was a table with a table cloth so you couldn’t see behind it.  Brad sees an empty cookie jar on the table and sings the song:  “Who took the cookies from the cookie jar…?”  The tune that seemed to fit best for him was the TIki Tiki Tiki Room from Disneyland (you remember:  “In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room / In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room / All the birds sing words and the flowers croon / In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room.”) and it worked great.  As he sang, I clicked the remote which sent one cookie marching across the screen towards the puppet stage.  Many kids spotted it, but not all.  So Brad approaches the stage and Mouse pops out.  Brad suggests that Mouse took the cookies, and the rodent defends himself with the refrain from the book:  “Who me?  Couldn’t be!  Please don’t tease.  I only eat….cheese!” 

Mouse exits, and another cookie marches across the screen, this time towards the panel on the other side of the screen.  And there’s just enough room behind the projection screen for me to move behind it, unseen by the kids, to the panel on the other side.  Brad follows the cookie, accuses the animal that pops out on that side (Bird:  “I share your concern, but I only eat…worms!” and the pattern continues. 

We did this four times, so all the kids soon spotted the traveling cookies.  Finally Brad starts the song for the last time and the next click shows cookies marching again, but this time you also see the Ants carrying them. 

Brad’s idea of using the screen as a sort of extension of the puppet stage was great.  We’ve already used it again for a different story (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, which will have an entry here soon).  It allowed us to move from one side of the room to the other, with the cookies changing directions each time.  Without using the screen this way, though, it would have been fine to have all of the puppets appear in the same spot.  We just would have had the cookies march across in the same direction each time, instead of alternating.   

The flow of this story was nice because it incorporated several types of interaction, but in ways that the kids could easily follow and play along with:  singing along with the song;  spotting the moving cookies;  and focusing on the puppets’ interactions with Brad.

Since we did this story four times in three days (all of our Family Storytimes run this way), I had some fun substituting different puppets:   a Frog (“you must realize, I only eat…flies!”);  two Dogs (“we don’t care for your tone!  We only eat…bones”);   a Bear (“You might think it’s funny, but only eat….bunnies!...Oops, I mean I only eat…honey!”).  So really any puppets will do. 

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