Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gulls Copying Puffin

Don't Copy Me  by Jonathan Allen

Puppets:  none
Props:   none
Technology:  none
Child Volunteers:   two or three
Presenters:   two
Audience:   Family Storytime (mostly 3-6 year olds)

We often like to get kids up to help us tell during Family Storytime, but some stories work better than others.  You want the kids to have stuff that's not that hard to do, but you also want their actions to be a meaningful part of the story.  Don't Copy Me meets the second condition every time, and the first one most of the time.  For our "Silly Stories" themed sessions, Sheila and I did this one as an act-out.
The story features a puffin and three gull chicks.  We didn't bother with costumes or hats or anything like that, it was just:  "I'm a puffin; these guys are gulls," and that was fine, especially since the animal species don't really affect the plot.  Plus the story is familiar to most kids, because who hasn't done the copying thing just to be annoying to a sibling.  Well maybe not the three year olds, but they'll learn soon enough.  As Puffin, I tell the audience that I want to take a walk by myself, while Sheila, as Gull #1, is prepping two child volunteers for what they need to do:  copy the way I move and repeat what I say.  So I walk across the stage with exaggerated steps, then they follow me.  I stop, they stop.  I walk, they walk.  Pretty simple, and the audience instantly gets what's going on.

Then it's "Are you following me?" followed by (when it goes just right) Sheila saying the same thing, then child #1 saying it followed by child #2 saying it.  Which happened maybe two out of six times.  Other times we had both kids saying it together, which was just as good.  Or one child saying it perfectly and the other one not saying a word.  And that's really okay too. By the last couple sessions we decided that we should have three kids instead of two, to increase our chances of getting at least two to play along all the way.  That worked just fine.

When the kids were less vocal, I just did a few more actions and used a few less lines.  It's easier for the kids to do what you do than it is to say what you say.  I ran fast across the stage, they followed.  I crawled fast across the stage, they followed.  (And skinned my knee on the rug...I'm okay, but still have a scab on my knee four days later...nobody said being a children's librarian is painless) 

When Puffin finally has an idea to trick the Gulls, we wanted to make sure everyone in the audience will follow it, so I tell them (in a whisper-y voice so the Gulls don't copy) that I have a plan.  And when the plan works (Puffin sits perfectly still; Gulls get fidgety; Puffin sees them out of the corner of his eye;  Sheila tells other Gulls "this is boring" and they all leave, hiding before our trifold backdrop).  Then Puffin addresses the audience again, explaining the trick just in case anyone didn't quite get it.  And they may need to know that trick themselves if someone pulls the copying game on them some day.

For the finale, Puffin resumes his original walk, and of course the Gulls reappear to copy him again.  We finished with Puffin saying "The end!"....and the Gulls repeating the same words.  Since we did our usual four sessions during the week, plus two more for visiting Head Start classes, we had plenty of chances to work this story out.  It was fun each time, and we concluded that it's best of all when we picked three kids and when the Puffin didn't crawl across the rug and skin his knees...he's been doing stories a long time and should know better by now.     

1 comment:

  1. This sounds great and really pretty easy to do. Also, I'm laughing out loud picturing you crawling across the stage with another adult and 3 children following. Sorry about your knee, but thanks for the laugh! And for the idea.