Sunday, March 1, 2015

Book Journeys are Trickster-business!

The "Book Journey's-Author/Illustrator" theme tends to be one of the most popular and exciting times in Kindergarten literature Circle Times.  There is nothing like a good story and especially if it has the right elements-adventure, humor, intrigue, and a satisfactory ending.   Beautiful illustrations are icing on the literary "cake."  The fact that we are able to explore a collection of stories that all contain these elements is even better still.  Kindergartners experienced just that while listening to several books by author/illustrator, Gerald McDermott.  Mr. McDermott hailed from Detroit, Michigan and studied at both my Alma mater, Cass Tech High School and (at only the age of four) the Detroit Institute of Arts -better known as The DIA.  He had a gift and a passion for the genres of the folk tale and mythology and spent his career searching for and masterfully retelling and illustrating these stories from all over the world.
Our book journey, however,  oddly began with a different author/illustrator Eric Kimmel, a master author and illustrator in his own right.  We listened to the antics of Anansi the Spider and described the "trickster" as 'one who plays tricks or pranks on others.'  We found, however, that sometimes the joke was ultimately on him instead!   The lazy arachnid often attempted to avoid work as much as possible, took things that did not belong to him, and created a lot of trouble in general.  The Ks were not happy at his flawed character traits and often and eagerly expressed this during many readings.  (Five year olds have a strong sense of justice!)   We began our readings with  Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock, Anansi and the Magic Stick, and Anansi Goes Fishing all adapted by Mr. Kimmel. The children cheered when Anansi received his come-upance  and thought his punishments to be fair and deserving.   This was a perfect opportunity to discuss how we desire to be treated as well and how each of us has a part to play in a community and that it is necessary for everyone to do their part.  We also talked about which of us likes practical jokes.  The class was split on this.  Prankster status was desired above "prankee." 

Anansi the Spider:  A Tale of the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott gave us insights into one of the spider's  more endearing character traits, one as a dad.  Kindergartners listened attentively to a tale that expressed Anansi's need for assistance from each of his talented sons.  Each of his offspring collectively used their particular "gift" and ability to rescue their dad who had once again fallen into certain peril.  Ks seemed to identify with Anansi's son "Cushion" the most (and who wouldn't want a safe place to land.)  During Art class, the children also used scraps of brightly colored paper to create their own "spider" son or daughter and gave them a unique character trait and ability.

Kindergartners explored the globe and maps to determine the home of the Ashanti people and discovered that they reside in West Africa (although tales of Anansi the Spider are told throughout the entire continent.) This investigation proved to be a perfect lead in to our Global Experiences lessons and discoveries about several of our stories' content.  We discovered that the "Anansi" character can take many forms (a man, a coyote, a rabbit -Brier or Bugs Bunny, for examples) depending on where he weaves his tales throughout the world.  We later began a series of stories by Gerald McDermott and found that various cultures of the world were depicted.  We also learned details of each culture's terrain and climate (e.g. rain forests, pacific northwest, southern plains), its indigenous animals, and local customs. We also learned that a book can be a cheap vacation!

After a series of tricksters, however, we listened to The Voyage of Osiris:  A Myth of Ancient Egypt also by McDermott that told of Egyptian mythology and history in a kid friendly way. We noted the unique graphics and watercolor-papered style of the illustrations of this book versus the others in the series and the similar use of ancient gods and deities like in the other stories.  This story was also a great introduction for our trip to the Kelsey Museum.

(Left) A mummified bird sets right next to a revered household companion, the cat.  (Center) Our wonderful and knowledgeable docent Jean explained the craftsmanship and symbolism in the interior of a sarcophagus.  (Right) A mummified child is a unique addition to the exhibit.   (Top) Jean also explained that the acquisitions by Mr. Kelsey's excavation team revealed a whole village and it's wares-pottery, sandals, household furniture and even intact vases made of glass.

During an Art activity, Kindergartners used various types of charcoal to create stunning pieces of artwork inspired by McDermott's other story, Musicians of the Sun.  We discussed the terms "tone", "value", "highlights" and "shadow" during our lessons.  As and idea for subject matter, Kindergartners were challenged to draw "a creation story" of their choosing that was "monochromatic" and used only shades of grey. They were afterward asked to create a second piece of artwork using the charcoal but also introduced a hint color into their world for the first time like in the story.  
Our inspiration piece- A detail of McDermott's illustration from Musicians of the Sun.

Kindergartners discovered that shaving cream is the perfect activity after creating charcoal drawings.  It cleans both hands and tables at the same time!

"Spider" stories and trickster tales even surfaced on our field trip to Wild Swan Theater! 
The bird puppet and Actors even sang a Happy Birthday to Isaya!

A perfect beginning to Winter Break-an all school SK Ice Skating party at Buhr Park!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Val for giving us great insight into what our busy kindergartners are doing. And for the great photos!