Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nursery Rhymes for Learning Times Part I

This month I was part of program:  “Heart and Soul for Reading” that is being done at 3 schools in Porstmouth, VA, who were having low scores on reading comprehension on the 3rd grade benchmark tests.  I presented my program, “Ole Skool Classics” Storytelling, which focuses on older, classical stories without the Disney twist, along with nursery rhymes and other poetry, and encourages kids to want to read old stories, and create their new versions.  One of the poems I did was “Old Mother Hubbard”.  Who woulda thunk that poem would have so much to offer?  I decided to invite 2 boys and 2 girls to come and act out the things the “dog” does at the end of the verses, and I, along with the 3rd graders, learned a lot about words along the way.  I thought you’d enjoy a time with me and the 3rd graders at Douglass Park Elementary, as we explored this poem.

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone;
When she came there, The cupboard was

      [I asked them to complete the sentence.  Their answers:  “full of dog bones”, “closed”.  Finally, “empty”.  Yes, and another word for that is…]
And so the poor dog had none.

 She went to the baker's to buy him some bread;
When she came back the dog was dead!
      [The children loved playing a death scene]
She went to the undertaker's
     [Q from me:  What’s an undertaker?  Every hand goes up and their answer, emphatically and with smiles of knowing:  A Wrestler with WWE.  Teachers laugh.  I chuckle and then absolutely agree with them and ask:  Why is he called the undertaker?  Answers:  Uh, because he’s big.  My Answer:  Undertaker is a funeral director, he buries people.  They call him the undertaker because……and they all scream out:  He buries people!  They are super excited and one kid remarks, “I’m gonna tell my brother.”]

To buy him a coffin;
When she came back the dog was laughing.

She took a clean dish to get him some tripe;

      [Yeah, that’s some food, you can still get it in the store, I don’t like it.]
When she came back he was smoking his pipe.
      [This was going to interesting territory.  The kids acted like they were smoking cigarettes and I had to tell them no.  Then Teachers and I tried to explain pipe.  One kid said yeah, I know a pipe and started to talk about the pipe used with drugs…..uh, moving on to the next verse.]

She went to the alehouse to get him some beer
     [lots of laughter  they are 3rd graders];
When she came back the dog sat in a chair.

She went to the tavern for white wine and red;
When she came back the dog stood on his head.
     [no child stood on their head; but we all had fun imaging it]

She went to the fruiterer's to buy him some fruit;
When she came back he was playing the flute.
     [Each child held the flute like a trumpet or trombone.  I showed them how a flute was played, and EVERY STUDENT played a flute.  It was a wonderful sight.]

 Afterwards the kids were talking about all the new words and new interpretations of words they had.  They particularly were pleased by “undertaker” and “flute”  Who knows what they’ll tell their parents, but for right now, they are excited about learning.  Gotta love nursery rhymes and how much learning there is to done through them.

See Part II next week

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Quick Performance Update – next week: 11/6 at Douglass Elementary School, Portsmouth, VA; 11/7 at Brighton Elementary School, Portsmouth, VA; 11/8 performing with Sarah Brady in A.C.T.S. (Anointed Chaos through Theatre and Storytelling) at First Baptist Norfolk, 312 Kempsville Rd., Norfolk, VA, 7 to 8:30 pm, OPEN to PUBLIC 
Other Nov. performances:  OK  (Tulsa, Edmond, Moore City, Oklahoma City); Virginia (Aldie, Middleburg, Norfolk)
Upcoming Dec. performances:  VA (Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg

So lately I have felt overwhelmed with….well….with everything. Ever been there?   But I am learning that “overwhelmed” is not a bad place to be sometimes.  So in case some of you are there, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the subject. 

1.       The greatest way I have of dealing with being “overwhelmed” is to stop trying to do it all.  There are only 24 hours in a day and 8 of them I am sleeping through.  Then I have to eat and go to the bathroom (more often than I’d like sometimes).  When I make that infamous “to do” list, I invariably have more on it than I can do in one day.  I know some time management people say only put on what you can accomplish in a day.  The truth is I don’t know what I can accomplish in a day because my days vary so much.  So, I have learned if I have done anything on the list – I have succeeded.  The other things, well, they’ll get done….or they won’t get done and the time to do them will run out – so be it.

2.       God can use, and does, when I am “overwhelmed.”  Just because I think nothing else can fit on my plate, doesn’t mean that God thinks my plate is too full.  I have been learning to entrust Him with my schedule, verbally giving Him my schedule each day.  Then when things change – and they do – I know God put that change there, because He knows what I need and don’t need better than I do. 

3.       A Sabbath is important.  Yes, in the middle of all the things to do I must have a Sabbath day.  No, not just a Sunday (or a Saturday, or a Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) in the strictest since of a day – sometimes my travel and performance schedule don’t allow that.  However, I must find a day within my seven days where I need to rest, rejuvenate, review and revive.  That’s the time I spend in reflection and in relationships.  I have to step away from it all.  We all need to step away and remember why we are doing any of this in the first place. 

4.       Marketing is best done when you are the busiest.  If you are in the world of marketing, you know this is a truth.  However, sometimes as Storytellers we think, “I’m so busy I can’t market right now.”  Throw that thinking away.  You see when you are the busiest you are the most attractive to people who want to hire you.  When I am booked solid (and early), then when others call I have to say, “Sorry, too late” [not quite like that], and inevitably that gives me 2 opportunities: 

a.       Can I suggest someone else for that program?  (networking always brings more business – “you reap what you sow”)

b.      Why don’t we schedule for next year now?  So get with some of our great marketers in the business:  Stephen Hollen (www.stephenhollen.com), Kim Weitkamp (www.kimweitkamp.com) , Slash Coleman (the Twitter man, www.slashcoleman.com) and Doug Lipman (www.storydynamics.com) and maybe even me (sheilaarnold39@aol.com).  Learn from them and in the midst of your crazy – market yourself.  Remember, when grants end, when schools/organizations are on to the next “new” thing, when it seems to dry up, if you have been actively marketing, you will have the next gigs already coming to  you.

5.       I should have a #5 because most people have 3, 5 or 10 points to make.  I don’t have a #5 – so I will let you share your #5 with me in the comment area.  What do you do when “overwhelmed” and what have you learned while being “overwhelmed”?

 Well, it’s time for me to stop writing this blog and get some of that other work completed.  One last note for you:  “You are not alone.”  We entertainers, performers, artsy-fartsy kinda folk seem to live in a realm of “appointed chaos”, but then that’s what makes us take the stage, act like a character from a fairy tale, charm our way into the doors of schools, libraries and organizations; and, what makes us dare to be different.