Altara Elementary students learn lessons through fablesSep 08, 2022 01:41PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Altara Elementary’s incoming fifth-grade students in teacher Jayne Eckholdt’s class may already be excited for the end of the school year, nine months away.
They know it’s been a tradition—for 22 years—that at the end of the school year, students break into small groups to write their own fables and present them to other classes using homemade puppets.
It’s an opportunity for those fifth-graders to practice their written and oral communication skills in addition to mastering puppetry and a chance for youngsters to listen and learn about fables.
“It’s a fun educational lesson that we can do in the last days of the school year after we’ve had to turn in our books,” Eckholdt said. “During the year, my students have learned about opinion writing and informative writing, but they’re learning how to communicate their message in another aspect of a narrative. We begin by reading fables, so they understand them before they try writing their own. They have so much fun doing it and making the puppets to put on the shows. It’s rewarding when I see the students enjoying learning.”
Eckholdt welcomes a visiting class into her classroom and asks if the youngsters know what a fable is, taking several answers before confirming that “fables teach you the lesson, which is called the moral. So, each one of these puppet plays will have a moral to the story that is going to teach you a lesson.”
She also ensures the young students know that the characters in a fable are animals that talk “so in a fable, we call that personification, and personification means the animals take on human characteristics; they talk and they have clothes. One more thing, these fables or puppet plays, are not very long; they’re short stories.”
During the show, about six groups of fifth-grade students take turns, standing in front of a backdrop they made on a piece of butcher paper as they introduce themselves, their animal puppets they made and the title of their fable before kneeling behind a curtain for the actual performance.
The lessons the visiting students received ranged from being kind to not smoking. There also were fables referring to being idle-free and not to ruin somebody’s surprise.
Fifth-grader Karly Rennemeyer was in a group that created a rap about kindness.
“It was hard writing a rap on our own, but we wanted to make it fun and something that kids can relate to,” she said. “It hurts when people are mean, so we want to let them know that, but it was different talking to these classes using animal puppets.”
Fifth-graders Isabella Roldan and Madison Ong worked together with another group on a kindness fable.
“Many times, people act in mean ways and bully other students because they’re different or they just because they want to be cool,” Isabella said. “We want to inspire others not to be a bully, but to act with kindness and show people you care.”
Madison said that by each small act of kindness, it can spread and grow.
“When you start being kind, others will reciprocate and then everyone will be reaching out, wanting to do nice things for one another,” she said. “It’s like this fable. We’ve been able to come together to be friends, to make puppets, to help one another.”
The girls said their puppets began by creating a newspaper ball, covering it with tape before painting—a quicker and easier way than the traditional papier-mâché.
“I really like foxes, so I was inspired to make one,” Isabella said. “I worked on the puppet’s eyes; I really wanted them to help convey the message of kindness.”
Madison said that they used their own experiences for their moral of the fable.
“We shared stories and made up our fable together, then rewrote it a couple times, making sure it taught the lesson. We made the puppets together and it was a lot of fun,” she said.
Isabella said this last lesson of her fifth-grade year was more than an assignment.
“This is a lesson I’ll remember more than how to write and tell a fable, but how we, as friends, could share a message,” she said.