Taking the story out-Little Red Riding Hood

Having written previously about taking story books out I’m now going to look at one that I particularly enjoy using in the outdoor provision: Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red Riding Hood is an all round good story for Foundation Stage and year one. It can be done quite dark, it’s got a good villain, a brave hero to come along and rescue the heroine or their are alternate versions with Little Red saving herself. While it has lots of less than suitable interpretations for the younger years it still has a basic moral about listening to parents and not talking to strangers that still has as good a place today as when it was written.

Three of my favourite versions are:

Little Red Riding Hood-Lari Don

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This version tells the traditional version with granny and Little Red getting eaten by the wolf. No messing about with wolves putting granny in cupboards this wolf does what fairy tale wolves are meant to do, eat people. Then the huntsman comes along to find a snoring wolf in the bed. While the wolf is asleep the huntsman opens up the wolfs belly and releases Little Red and Granny then sews the stomach back up filled with rocks. The wolf then drowns at the end. I’m not a fan of the many toned down modern versions of fairy tales as they generally lose something in the telling. This one engages children well. It has lovely illustrations and details the children remember.

The wolf’s story-Toby Forward

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This version of the story comes from the wolf himself. It’s delivered in a Del Boy style tall story with the wolf explaining unconvincingly what he was doing at Grannies cottage. Better towards the end of F2 and year one as the children understand the story more and get the jokes. There are quite a few alternative versions of Little Red, but this remains one of my favourites. It provides lots of good opportunities in the class for further development of the story. For follow up work this story really helps with hot seating with the children playing the part of the wolf and getting into the characters head. It has good possibilities for PSHE and writing. I’ve used it as a lead in to the children writing letters as the wolf apologising to Little Red and trying to explain to her what happened.

Revolting Rhymes-Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl’s version is full of humour with Little Red as the heroine. She later turns up in the three little pigs to take on another wolf. It has wonderful rhymes that stick in the children’s heads.

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.

Little Red makes an ideal story for telling outside as much of the story takes place outside. The parts in grandmas cottage are easy enough to set up a role play area for outside. Reading a story outside and practicalities around this were discussed previously. Once the children know the story it is one they have no problem finding areas outside to roleplay the story. if you are lucky enough to be working in forest schools you have a perfect setting for Little Red to meet the wolf. If you are within school hopefully you have at least one tree to be your wood, but even if you don’t a hedge or fence is enough for most children’s imaginations. For parents a trip to the park maybe with Little red’s basket seems a good excuse for a picnic. Children are good at assigning settings that look nothing like the actual ones. Within my school playground. They assigned three small trees as the forest, a stump as the woodcutters spot and the stage as they cottage. In small groups they successfully acted out the different parts of the story. Role playing and acting out stories makes up an important part of learning to make their own stories. By becoming familiar enough with lots of stories they can then draw on the different elements to make their own stories or change existing ones.

Extending it beyond the role play back at one of my previous schools we had a mud kitchen where the children were encouraged to make cakes for Little Red to take to granny. We had a fairy tale post office with the children writing letters to different characters from stories. The example from the wolfs tale given earlier was the starting point done as a lesson with the class, but they quickly started to expand to do their own ideas. The wolf sidetracks Little Red sending her off the path to pick flowers, so it is an easy step from the story to explore wild flowers. While I’m not in favour of sending classes off to find and pick wild flowers I have taken them around the school field to look and see what we can identify. It’s usually little more than daisies, buttercups and dandelions, but they enjoy it and it does form part of Year Ones science curriculum. We have also planted small pots of wild flowers to sell at our school fairs. Den building is a good way to set up granny’s cottage. Many units have a home corner outside already or one that is wheeled out each day, but often these are ignored much of the time. Building a new cottage each day sustains interest over longer periods than the same home corner day in day out. Story mapping is nice for an outdoor activity in warmer weather. Some large scrap card some pencils, felt tips and crayons and you’ll find many children will enjoy mapping out, drawing the different events of the story.

So ideas summary for outdoor play with Little Red:

  • role playing.
  • Letter writing to characters.
  • Cake baking (mud kitchen, playdough).
  • Wild flowers (planting and exploring).
  • Den building (making granny’s cottage).
  • Story mapping.

Props are good for telling stories, although not necessary it does add to the story telling. My Little Red contains:

  • A basket
  • Little Red’s hood
  • Wolf ears
  • Wooden food
  • A wooden axe
  • A shower cap (for granny’s night wear)

Cheap enough items that add an extra level of interest to acting out the story. The children particularly like putting the cap over the top of the wolf’s ears. _dsc0984

I won’t be going into my park though to tell Alice this one though at the moment as the trees have become a duck pond with all the rain.

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I’m sure there are many other ideas that can be done with Little Red. If you do anything else with it, please share in the comments.

Taking the story out

Today I’m going to be starting a series of articles covering ideas for 30 days wild for teachers and parents. Fairy tales and traditional tales are a key part of childhood. They capture children’s imagination, teach moral lessons and prepare them for the hardships of life. The vast majority of these stories take place outside and often in woods and forests. The backdrop of the forest makes up a large part of our fairy tales and folklore going back to a time when people were worried about the perils of the forest.This idea was well covered in gossip from the forest-Sara Maitland

Now we have the reverse situation if we don’t get people outside we face dangers for their mental well being and physical health. Teaching and taking the children out has been shown to be beneficial for children’s health and developing their education. Whether you subscribe to forest school practises or just the ideas in Richard Louv’s-last child in the woods, outdoor play is important. It promotes health, helps tackle childhood obesity, but more importantly for me it develops a love of nature and creates imaginative children.

A key message in last child in the woods is that a lot of the best imaginative play happens outside, seeing as many of the best fairy and traditional tales happen outside it is a perfect chance for going out of the classroom, out of the house to tell them. This might only be a basic as taking the picnic blanket out in the garden, to the park on the school playing field, but it changes the engagement with the story. It makes it more than just a story at hometime in school. Some parks have dedicated story spaces to go and read a story in or a story chair.York Museum Gardens have a storytelling area hidden away.

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For some teachers reading in this way may be a worry. The children will be too excited, their focus will be elsewhere. At the start of the year I explain to classes these times we are going outside to learn have the same expectations as the classroom. We are still going out to learn and the same expectations to listen are still required. It is made very clear that children who can’t follow instructions will miss out next time. I am fortunate in that my school has a large playing field (it is one that hasn’t been sold off to make a new housing estate)  with trees along the back giving us nice spaces to go out onto, but even going out a concrete playground will add interest to the kids.

In terms of practicalities in Summer going out to read a story on the field or playground is straightforward as most of the time the grass is dry enough to sit on. Currently though it is not. I have a large tarpaulin that we take out. The children take the edges and stretch it out and then sit on the edges while I peg it down. If you have a nice spot under a tree or maybe a stage on the playground it again adds to the feeling of the story being more of an event than just home time story.

I like telling stories orally, but that requires an element of performance and acting some teachers may not be comfortable with. For stories I don’t know as well I generally stand to read the story with the children sat on the tarp. When it’s a story I know well it can be told orally acting the story out. This allows more fluidity and movement, moving amongst the children keeping their attention better. It’s a good way to engage the children in their topic. By reading the story outside it encourages the children to continue the story during their break time as they connect their story with outside. So I find stories read or performed outside will be re-enacted during break and dinner time extending their learning into these times. Becoming familiar with stories and having the opportunity to act them out is a vital element in children becoming story writers. Pie Corbett refers to this as imitation. Through this stage of imitating stories they then come to innovate and change the stories to make their own versions. By reading and performing stories outside it widens the possibilities of a story. For example a chase between the wolf and woodcutter in Little Red Riding Hood can stretch over the field rather than being squashed in the classroom.

For parents just taking the picnic blanket to the park with a story again has an added element of excitement, taking the story beyond just reading it for bedtime.

So key reasons for reading outside:

  • Create excitement and engagement.
  • Extend the learning beyond the classroom, children will often continue their story games into break and dinner time.
  • Time outside benefits health and mental health.
  • Space to roleplay stories with no limits on running, jumping, etc that you would have in the classroom.
  • Boy engagement. It always makes up an element of school improvement plans now. The boys in my class like getting out and generally end up following close behind for outdoor stories so they can spread the tarp. This then ends up with many of them sat at the front for story rather than trying to hide at the back not listening.
  • Creating a love of literature and the outside.

 

I will be following this blog up with several examples of stories I like to use outside and what additional activities I do alongside reading the story. If you use any stories outside currently or decide to take your class or children out please comment below. I’d love to hear others experiences.

 

A bigger moth for Amy

Earlier in the week I set up my moths for my classes work on Amy Johnson. However the classroom next door has decided to go with a larger variety. They have taken possession of 3 atlas moths cocoons. These beasts are a couple of inches long each.

The teacher ordering wasn’t aware how big the moths emerged as. She’s now a bit scared.

 

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My garden moths has one caterpillar growing massive while the others are remaining small.

Tiger Moths

My classroom has had a new addition to go alongside my beetles.

As we are taking part in Hull City of Culture we are spending the year studying different aspects of Hull. This term we are looking at the history and will be covering Amy Johnson. Across the city giant moths have sprung up to celebrate Amy Johnson’s amazing life.

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In order to add to the celebrations and indulge my love of the natural world we know have 10 tiger moth caterpillars. The caterpillars known as fuzzy bear caterpillars are supposed to be easy to rear eating most low lying green leaves: dandelions, nettles, brambles, etc. So hopefully over the year we will get to see them grow and eventually pupate.

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So hopefully by next Summer we will of had some of these beauties.

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Snail races

Today we set up snail races in the class. At the beginning of the half term we had a number of the boys viscously killing snails. While I have no issue removing the things from the garden I don’t like killing them by slowly torturing them. So over the term we have looked at creating more respect for them keeping a few at a time in a tank in the class.

Today we captured a whole snail swarm for us to do snail races. A tray was used, sprayed with water and the snails released into the middle. The winner was the snail who got to the edge of the tray first. About half the kids sat for the better part of twenty minutes watching snails crawl over each other to the edges.

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Invite a tree to tea

Yesterday my Woodland Trust-invite a tree to tea pack arrived in the post. The Woodland Trust is encouraging people to get out and whether it’s having a picnic or a garden party invite a tree along. They have put together a delightful pack of activities available for free from the link. A lovely way to spend a day with kids or enjoy a glass of wine amongst the woods. The woodland trust recognises the need to connect children to nature if they want their work to continue to get support.

In the UK only 13% is covered by tress. This is rather pathetic compared with the average of 37 % in Europe. For a country once covered largely in woods this is devastating in terms of its effects on nature. As a result 60% of animal and plant species have declined in the last 50 years. Theresa May has closed the climate change department, along with the appointment of Andrea (foxes must die) Leadsome to Environment Secretary, shows clearly the environment and conservation is not going to be a priority for the new conservative government. Andrea Leadsome has previously suggested selling off forests. A little ironic from a woman who said she was better to lead as she had a stake in the world for her children. A refusal to accept climate change and looking at how we tackle our fossil fuel reliance will eventually crash our economy. It is incredibly short sighted from Theresa May, but then she possibly isn’t expecting to be re-elected. So more than ever is a time to support the Woodland Trust in their work encouraging people to enjoy trees and wooded areas and protect the little we have.

EDIT: I took action.

I plan to use the Woodland Trusts tree party set with my class to encourage their love of nature and to take care of the trees we have on our school site. We have our end of term reward next week and weather permitting we will get out and have our picnic under one of the trees on the school playing field. Then we can indulge in some of the the games from the pack and maybe go find it.

The set contains a few games to do. There is a leaf ID sheet for the kids to look for the different leaf patterns. There is a nice scavenger hunt with a list of wild objects the children might find (leaves, feathers, dandelion clock etc). Some stickers to show which trees they found. Then some lovely cards to use for photos to change the kids faces to animals.

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Mandela Gardens

On Wednesday I spent an afternoon at Hull Heritage Learning finding out more about their proposed Hull Curriculum. They have put together a set of resources on 20 Hull histories ready for Hulls year as the city of culture. Some wonderfully enthusiastic people leading the way.

The day was hosted in the cities museum quarter with a marque set up in the Mandela gardens. While only a small walled garden they are looking beautiful at this time of year. For those who haven’t ever been it’s a lovely secluded area in the old historic part of the city. You have the museum for William Wilberforce (top rate slave abolisher), the street-life museum (many old vehicles for the young uns to rampage on) and the history museum (giant woolly mammoth and super Roman Mosaics). Best of all it’s all free and I think we have a better collection than the York museum which charges a small fortune for a family day out.

We still have one of the Phillip Larkin toads on display.

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A lovely collection of roses.

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The pond is full of mighty beasts in the depths.

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Gandhi adds an element of calm to the garden.

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Two of the residents at the museum.

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A few of the vehicles on offer in the streetlife museum.

Some more pollen beetles.

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On the way home I tracked down another moth for Amy.

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Beetle update

The darkling beetles started back at day 15 are now reaching maturity and changing from the light brown to black. The children have enjoyed having them in the class immensely.

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On a side note we managed to capture our first photo with Alice smiling. She has been starting to smile the last few weeks, but changes to serious face when the camera is on her.

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And a less cheerful message, but worth watching, from Chris Packham.