Animated storytelling spices up Hampstead Elementary lunches


Story Soup and Salad is a magical diet of words preceding lunch every month at 10 county schools.

Folk tales, multicultural literature and poetry come alive in the school classroom through the antics of professional storytellers Joanne Hay and Kit Bloom.

The program benefits teachers. While children hear the storytellers, teachers get a half-hour break. The program was developed last spring by Mrs. Hay and Mrs. Bloom.

"We're often asking our staff to do more but aren't able to give them the time to do it," said Monica Smith, vice principal at Hampstead Elementary

Since an entire grade level hears a story together, teachers get a chance to relax, to meet as a group or to catch up on extra work. At Hampstead Elementary, teacher workshops and computer lab time occupy the storyteller break.

Stories, folk tales and poetry are woven into monthly themes. An October visit engendered stories perfect for retelling at camp-outs -- stories of the strange and mysterious.

What are folk tales?

"One word gets changed from generation to generation, and the story gets changed around," said one Hampstead third-grader.

"We're still telling folk tales to each other," said Mrs. Bloom. "They may be cautionary tales. They teach aspects of culture."

Mrs. Bloom's chosen folk tale also taught new vocabulary. The words foal, mare and magistrate were essential for her tale of two Chinese men, a favored horse and a pumpkin vine. It was also a glimpse of what's important to men in a culture half a world away.

There is a big difference between reading aloud and telling a story.

The professional storytellers bring the story to life. Their voices modulate the tone and speed of the story -- and can scream through the scary ending. The storyteller chooses how much description will keep the action alive. That action is illustrated with hand and body movements.

The facts of the story or folk tale are not altered, however, Mrs. Hay said, to ensure that the oral tradition -- the retelling of events -- remains intact.

When literature is taught like this, it becomes a source of pleasure, Mrs. Hay suggested.

"I thought, 'Stories? Oh, yuck!' " said one fifth-grader. "But this was neat."

In the fifth-grade suite, students sat cross-legged on the floor watching the hands of storyteller Joanne Hay as she mimed a heavy wooden bucket upon her shoulder. Bending at the hip, she tottered toward the students. She was "Ol' Man Bucket," supposedly unaware that three boys in the story were spying upon her.

"Shh!" whispered Mrs. Hay, finger to her lips. She was one of the boys now, who have come at night to steal the gold they believe is in the bucket.

As tension mounts in the story, Mrs. Hay's descriptive phrases become shorter. Each idea is illustrated by movement. Her story is more than words. It must be watched.

"They pushed up the window," said Mrs. Hay, pulling up imaginary weight. "They crawled into the closet," she said, bent over and shuffling.

Now the boys, in the closet, must listen for clues.

"They heard the chair scrape against the floor. They heard the bed creak. Heard Ol' Man Bucket blow out the lamp. And heard the bucket clatter to the floor. They hear the old man snore."

The boys venture out with flashlights to find the bucket. What's the ending? It's a screamer.

"Oh, yes, they all love the scream," Mrs. Hay said afterward.

Ask your fifth-grade student what the secret was. Chances are, he or she will remember every detail.

Perhaps your child will even create a new story to tell. Over lunch, of course.

Information: Joanne Hay, (410) 751-1342.


Mary B. Gaines from the Piney Run Preservation Society will speak about watershed areas to members of the Fields Homeowners Association during their monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 19.

The origin of Piney Run is in Roberts Field.

The meeting will be held at the Hampstead Town Office, 1034 S. Carroll St.

3' Information: Mary Landon, 239-1977.

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