Ways to Work with Children in Groups By Sue
from editor: in this wonderful article by Sue Godsey, you will learn a
plethora of ways to work with youngsters in group situations, getting
them to loosen up.
vital that kids feel they can freely talk, perform, etc. in groups without
being ridiculed or teased. I do this in my classroom and groups by
giving specific instructions about what is expected of them when someone
is performing, modeling those instructions, then playing group-building
games to get them to feel comfortable with one another. I also like to
use certain cues: perhaps a sound effect, such as a train whistle or chimes
to signal that someone is about to perform and it is time for quietness,
or possibly a light cue, like blinking the lights off and on once.
great pains to let young people know that their stories are as valuable
as anything I have to tell, and teach the group that they must show good
audience etiquette. They do this by quieting down when someone gets
into the performance space, by being attentive listeners, and by always
applauding after a story is told. The simple act of applause signifies
acceptance, and I actually practice it with groups if they are hesitant.
I side-coach them sometimes -"Wonderful! Now-thunderous applause!
THUNDEROUS!" They do catch on after a while and enjoy being able
to make a lot of noise.
I also get
them to warm up to one another through active games like these two:
Atom One: Everyone
mills around in a circle to music (Motown works with any age), then you
stop and call out ATOM - four (or other number) They must then form groups
of whatever number you call out by touching each other (hand to shoulder,
knee to knee, however) In this way, they become connected like an atom.
As soon as every group has been counted, you start the music again,let
them move around, mill, dance etc., then go through the atom thing again
with a different number. This may be played as an elimination game, or
those who don't have a group can squat so that they aren't out. This silly
game is very effective with kids, as they begin to become more concerned
with their number than who is in their groups. Some directions about gentleness
in getting people in their group may be helpful.
Group Juggling: Each
group of 6-8 students receive 4 tennis balls. They are to sit in a circle
and GENTLY toss the ball in the same pattern - always to the same person,
but it cannot be a person sitting directly next to them. Their object
is to never drop the ball. After doing this successfully several times
with one ball, they add another, then another etc. In order to be successful
at this game, they must keep their eye on the person that is throwing
to them. The more balls they can continue to juggle, the better the teamwork.
If a person has trouble catching, it is sometimes helpful to give them
a bucket or a way to drape cloth in their laps to help them catch. It
is the group's responsibility to create a way for each person to be able
to catch and to throw the ball so that they can be successful as a group.
When working with children in a storytelling group/club I recommend choosing
a story with a particular theme as their group story. I like to tell
my high schoolers a version of "Harrambee" and teach them that
it means "pull together" and the word "Imani" in the
story, which means "have faith." Lots of days we have problems
between students - I teach drama and coach the speech and debate team
at my high school. On some occasions I say "Harrambee" and they
will say back to me "pull together!" and then they try harder
to work out their differences. It does seem to help to have that expectation
stated, told in story, then repeated as a motto. They ask me to tell them
that story from time to time.
it takes a while to get the kids to participate in story and also learn
how to listen to each other, but I find that it helps to pave the way
a little with activity. There are improvisation exercises that work for
this one sometimes: One
student is told they MUST give a message to the other student and that
they are responsible for being sure the other student understands the
message. They need to get the other student to say "I understand."
They must do so without touching the other student in any way, but may
do anything else to get their attention. The other student (they are instructed
separately) is told under no circumstances to pay attention to the other
student, unless it is impossible for them not to. They are to "hold
out" as long as possible, then when they cannot bear for the person
to hound them any longer, they may say "I understand," but that
is all they may say during the exercise.
who is to ignore may sit on a stool, take a magazine with them or
one other prop if they choose. They may not leave the stool, but may turn
around on the stool and face any direction they want.
who is to give the message should be free to sit or walk around to
get the person's attention. They may say no other words except the line
they are given.
be an urgent message like:
"Your parents called. They said for you to take the green street
bus to Main Street, then meet them on Main and 2nd. Do you understand?"
Be sure the
students know the rules, then see what happens. After the exercise, ask
questions like these:
ever feel frustrated? When?
it feel to be ignored?
hard to ignore the person trying to talk to you?
got your attention?
usually are very clear about their frustration during the exercise and
it makes a bigger impact than me telling them. Then I say "this
how it feels sometimes when I have something
wonderful to tell you but cannot get your attention. This signal (bell,
lights, hand raised,) will tell you when someone is about to speak. Give
them all your attention, when you see that signal.
from Joplin, Missouri, is a storyteller along with being a speech and
drama coach. She works with children of all ages and has more games and
activities than you can imagine. You may contact her at: godsey@HOTMAIL.COM
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Seeger's Storytelling Book
You can almost hear the banjo plucking away in the background
as veteran singer-songwriter Pete Seeger tells his folksy
tales and shares his useful tips on storytelling.