By Matthew Tungate
Drama artist Helen Wheelock’s use of voice animation, mixed with call and response and sprinkled with a touch of silliness, held her students’ rapt attention as she read Ruby in Her Own Time in a Model Laboratory Elementary School (Madison County) classroom last week.
“Flap, flap, flap, fly,” she said, elongating the final letter and raising it in pitch as she thrust her outstretched hand upward. “Let’s all say that.”
Dutifully, the students repeated every word, just as Wheelock had said them. She asked the students to fill in details in the story, like where did the little bird fly, and responded reassuringly to their answers.
After she finished, Wheelock told the students she got the story from a book. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on it.
The audience was not elementary students but teachers – one of whom would later say Wheelock “had us eating out of the palm of her hand” – who were learning how to use storytelling and other art forms to develop early literacy skills in their students. Continue Reading