Sunday, May 15, 2011

Finding Food for Frogs and Choosing Kids Fairly

Story: The Wide Mouthed Frog by Rex Schneider
Puppets: Frog, Crocodile, Seal, Monkey, Rabbit (or substitutes for the last three)
Props: Fly, Fish, Banana, Carrot (or substitutes to match puppets)
Presenters: Two (and works with one) + 3 child volunteers
Audience: Family Storytime
Link to "Storytelling with Puppets" video demo

We decided to do “The Wide Mouthed Frog” for storytime and realized how very many different ways there are to do this story. Sheila and I both had done it a few ways, and Brad added more ideas….in the end we chose this way, which is closest in structure to Rex Schneider’s book version, though there are several others:

I play the Frog with a puppet on my hand and start with a little song: “I’m a wide-mouthed frog / I live on a log / I’m brave and I’m wise / And I always eat…flies.” Then Frog catches a fly, chews and spits it out into the audience. Which sets up the pattern of Frog going around to other animals and asking them for advice about what to eat, since he’s tired of flies. When I’ve done this on my own, I sang a similar little song for each animal, such as: “I’m a big brown seal / And my favorite meal / Is a great big dish / Which is full of…fish.” So we tried that with the kids. Frog approached them and Sheila prompted them to do the lines. We have little lapel mikes, so they could mostly be heard. Then Frog tries the food, chews it, and spits it out into the audience. The flying food can be a bit wild, but if Frog apologizes to the child who grabs it and asks her to toss or bring it back up, it works fine. Staying in character works best for that.

Finally Frog meets Crocodile, played by Sheila with the ending twist: “I’m an old green Croc / And I swim among the rocks / I look like a log / And I like to eat….Frogs!” Some back and forth between the two (“Especially wide-mouthed frogs,” says Croc and Frog answers while making his mouth very very small), and a brief chase. Frog ends up where he started and reprises his opening song, ending this time with “…I’m not brave, I’m not wise / I guess I’ll still eat…flies.”

The first couple times through this we had Frog come out into the audience to meet the kids with the puppets. Kind of fun, but in the end we decided it works better to bring the kids up to the front. They can face the whole audience and they have a better idea of what they’re supposed to be doing. Another change we’ll make next time is not to bother with prompting the kids to do the rhyming songs. A few times they were just all ready to say “I’m a monkey!...I eat bananas,” and that would have been fine and easier to follow. But it’s really hard to go wrong with this story, however you do it….

One challenge that arose this week is a frequent one for us. How to decide which three kids to pick to take part? Since we do involve the kids fairly frequently, some of them are really set on being up there when the time comes. Often those are the ones who have the most trouble staying seated, raising a hand, and waiting patiently, which is what we ask them to do when we pick. This week one three year old who typically sits in the back and just watches everything marched right up to the front row, got picked and did a great job. In another session, one girl who has never been picked just couldn’t hold in her disappointment and broke out in tears. So she gets chosen next time for sure. But there are so many kids and it’s hard to keep track of them, so we’re sure to leave some out. I guess it’s one of the many life lessons that kids learn from storytime; not just “books are fun,” and “the library is great,” but also: “you don’t always get picked.”

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