Stacked in Our Favor

Thoughts about libraries, education, children's literature, writing, art and being connected

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sharp Scissors

I cut my hand last week. How, you may ask? Well, I was doing a librarian thing. I was telling a story. You see, I find that kids love those fold and cut stories. I devised, quite cleverly if I do say so myself a series of folds and cuts which would tell the story of Cinderella, show her dress in beautiful detail and then fold out to be a crown which could be worn on a child’s head. How clever I thought myself! The paper had to be folded multiple times. Well, just when I was about to unveil the beautiful dress I cut through the paper and into my hand. Having elected to use the “big girl scissors” the slice was clean and swift. I was able to finish off the item before my hand bled too much. Lucky for me, the school nurse is a gem. She showed no hesitation in bandaging me up multiple times that day. The cut was positioned in such a way as to make it near impossible to keep a bandage interested in staying put.

For the rest of the week I had to explain the large bandage or the rubber glove I wore over my liquid bandaid. It kept my wound safe from the inevitable germs which must be braved if you work with little ones who still put their hands in their mouths. So I turned my lesson to one of safety. Worried that the students be afraid of the glove or the wound, we discussed both and took the opportunity to discuss safety issues. I showed them the “big girl scissors” I had used on that fateful day alongside a pair of children’s safety scissors. We compared and contrasted their features. We discussed their safety features. And we voted. Guess which pair they wanted me to use?

Needless to say, I gave up the crown - at least for this week. I also gave up trying to be neat. Now I let the paper fall to the floor and pick it up later. Trying to hold, cut and catch simultaneously is what gave me this wound. So I dreamed up another fold and cut which requires me to cut through just the two layers of paper. As I wanted to read variations on the Cinderella theme, I chose to recreate the slippers. Students identified elements of the original story through prompts. The paper was then cut to produce a shape to represent each element. Finally I asked what Cinderella left behind to help the prince find her. They were delighted to see the paper cut into the glass slipper.

They were even more delighted to see me open the paper to unite the two slippers so that the prince could realize he had found the girl of his dreams. Watching the amazement on their faces was a joy. Even boys who had groaned when they heard we would be reading a variation on the Cinderella theme were jumping up to participate.

Ways to add value to your fold and cut story

1. Don’t worry if each cut doesn’t really graphically represent the story element. The kids don’t really care. If I want to cut a triangular shape I do think about ways I can reflect that in the story or visa versa. Still, students will be anxiously trying to guess what you are cutting. They will be too busy to critique your matching skills.

2. DO NOT try to hold the paper and catch it with one hand. That is how I got my wound. Let it fall to the floor and pick it up later. Better yet, don’t stop the child who is picking it up for you. You can also position a recycling container near your seat if it doesn’t get in the way of the visuals of your storytelling.

3. Tell the children that you will be folding the paper in half. Ask how many times you have to fold to do so. Ask how many sections you will have if you fold in half. Ask what will happen if you cut one side. Introduce/reinforce the word symmetrical. By doing this you will be working on geometry skills. Our kindergarten students know the word symmetrical. Yours can too.

4. Be creative. Sometimes I tell the story. Sometimes I ask questions and make a cut for each answer. In the case of Cinderella, I asked leading questions about the storyline. “Who was the person who helped Cinderella?” We then went on to read other variations on the Cinderella theme. Comparing and contrasting the versions made this more than a simple reading session, though that would have been just fine with me.

5. Use safety scissors. Really do try to avoid bleeding on the prize.

6. If you feel so compelled, you can double up the paper to make two prizes at once. I don’t recommend this for several reasons, but you can if you need to. If there are too many layers you are more likely to cut yourself. I stand as proof. Also, the paper tends to slip a bit and the figures don’t always come out the symmetrical works of art you are looking for. Also, there is magic in winning the prize which is unique and made just for you.

7. Vary your paper color for some fun.

8. Use books to get ideas, but once you have run through the ideas you CAN start to make your own patterns. Really. You can.

9. Do not think that you are wasting time. Children really enjoy these stories. I used them successfully one year. The next year I was so worried about covering other things that I let them go. Students who had them the year before were constantly asking for them. One day I decided to do one and I realized how much they got from them and how to make them value added. In addition when I started doing them after the hiatus, the adults clapped their hands and told me it was their favorite part of library. Anything which makes people really want to come see you adds value.

10. Make it enjoyable.

What was the magic for me? Spring fever has hit. Yet students were on their best behavior hoping to win that piece of paper. That’s the best thing I could ask from any fairy godmother.


Dana said...

Sorry about your cut! This sounds like a great way to tell a story and keep the kids involved and interested. And I also like the idea of including new vocabulary. I would love to hear your kindergartners saying 'symmetrical'!

purple glasses club said...

Thanks, Dana! My hand is healed quite nicely. I always treasure when children ask me if my hand is ok now. It means they have compassion.

Thanks, also, for your kind words about my activity. I felt humbled the other day when a boy told me that the pair of Cinderella slippers looked like a moustache with two front teeth. (He is missing those teeth at the moment.) He wanted to win the prize so he could play bandit! Part of me laughed heartily.

Cindi said...

I'm dying to know what the gown/crown looked like. Sorry about your wound, but glad your little guys have compassion!