Not long ago I became a preschool teacher to fifty of the most beautiful, caring, and humorous bunch of preschoolers. I directed plays and skits with a combination of personalities that displayed high energy from the word “go.” Under my direction, the dramatic performances enabled us to express our emotions and to act out.
To warm up, we tuned into how each other was feeling that day. By using an interpretation of the song “Frere Jacques” which claims the right to have feelings, we made expressions of being angry, happy, and sad on our faces. Sometimes we would stomp or clap depending on our mood. Perhaps, we would sing the “If You are Happy And You Know it” song.
To bring to life to the characters in our school’s play created from the book, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, the children painted faces on brown grocery bags with a variety of tempera paints. I proceeded to cut medium sized holes in their masks to help the children to see and breathe. A jeweled Tierra was given to the lead of “the Wild Thing.” His role was to put the Tierra on Max (the main character’s), head and crown him “King” of the “wild things.” The children made a boat from a cardboard box and painted it white with “Max” written on the side of it for Max to sail. The sail of the boat was white butcher paper cut into a triangle and glued to the sides of the boat. Placed on a chair beside Max was a speckled blue enamel bowl.
The child who played the character of Max made a “Wild Thing” mask and painted it as a prop to tame the wild things by staring into “their yellow eyes without blinking once.” As I read the play, the children pulled their masks over their heads and acted the character of the “Wild Things”, roaring their “terrible roars,” rolling their “terrible eyes,” showing their “terrible claws,” jumping up and down, spinning and dancing.
Portraying different characters became an adventure for the preschool kids and a healthy way of letting go and bonding socially. I remember how they loved to put on skits from the Brown Bear and Polar Bear books by Bill Martin Jr. illustrated by Eric Carle. Standing in a half circle they would take their stuffed animals from behind their backs and would make creature noises as they presented them to the main character.
Throughout the years the children and I had acted out skits from- The Lady with the Alligator Purse, adapted and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Wescott, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond, Poppy the Panda by Dick Gackenbach, This Old Man, illustrated by Pam Adams, The Mitten, by Jan Brett, Hush, Little Baby, by Sylvia Long, and There was an Old Lady who swallowed a fly, by Simms Tiback. It gave them a treat to see me puttering about in an old wired grey wig and red bandana as I lined up the toy animals for the skit “Mrs. Wishy Washy,” book by Joy Cowly.
Entertaining and learning at preschool was taken to another level. The love devotion and time we spent in working together helped us play the roles of our lives with confidence and comradeship.