If you’re just stepping into this blog, you may want to start by reading Where did PictureBook Plays come from? Part I.
Every week at Chicago Children’s Museum, I had a willing group of children ready to play pretend, act out a story, and just have fun.Â They ranged in age from pre-language toddlers through 12 year olds.Â So, every week, I faced new challenges, tried new answers, and perfected PictureBook Plays.Â Here’s how it went:
- I tackled the picture book The Mitten by Jan Brett.Â We read it together, we identified the places, the characters, and the beginning middle and end.Â Each child chose his or her role (with creative rights of course!).Â We rehearsed the play by working our way through the story from start to finish.Â I guided the children through choosing how to set the stage, acting out their roles, and speaking lines.Â Then, we performed it again from start to finish.Â The challenge: The rehearsal was very different from the performance.Â Children under six did not understand the difference between practicing and performing.Â The children wanted to do it again and again, but I hadn’t brought more book choices with me.
- I tried the same “rehearse” then “perform” sequence a few more times.Â With children over six, it was brilliant. It gave them extra time to be creative and make choices.Â They made more discoveries about the place, time, and characters.Â But it continued to be a challenge for children under six.
- Around this time, I was also doing my own acting with an improv troupe.Â So, one day after doing a picture book first, I asked the children if they’d like to make up their own story instead.Â Â We wrote down several characters, place, and the beginning, middle and end.Â Plus I asked them to name our play.Â They put on costumes, went off-stage, and I introduced and narrated.Â It was so much fun.Â I had a great time inventing the story based on what the children gave me, and they had a great time acting out what I was saying without knowing what was going to come next.Â Eventually I started shouting out, “What happened next?” and they would prompt me.Â I think we could have performed a full two-hour play if we’d had the time and parents who would sit through it.Â The Challenge:Â It was extra hard to contain the most energetic of children.Â It was also extra hard to make sure the shyest of children didn’t get worried by the energy level and drop out to become part of the audience.Â Parents seemed to think their children were having fun, but not actually learning anything.Â They were more likely to tire of the activity and make their child leave right in the middle of the story.
Stay-tuned for Part III…