Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Brer Rabbit Week and Introduction to the Trickster

(image is not mine)

This week we are highlighting one of the most memorable characters in Critter Country and literature: Brer Rabbit. I know many people shy away from these stories, particularly the Song of the South video, but much can be learned from exploring these old, traditional stories.

To begin our unit, Aidyn and looked at a map of the world. In child-friendly language, I explained our country's ugly past in slave trades from West Africa. This was the first Aidyn had heard of this history so he listened rather attentively. I told him about trickster tales and the use of such as a way of keeping spirits high during dreadful living conditions. I helped him identify by asking him if he ever sad if it helps to think of something funny. We agreed that we use humor and imagination to cope with difficult situations.

Using humor as my guide, I read two trickster stories from West African. One was about Brur Gator and Brur Rabbit and the other was about Brur Wolf and Brur Rabbit. With Aidyn at my side, I read the stories in my best Gullah accent. There are so many ideas to tease out from these readings, but we focused on the happiness that silly, light-hearted stories bring.

Afterward, while playing indoor soccer, we listened to some African music with folktales weaved in through song. Later we visited http://www.knowitall.org/gullahnet/teachers/index.html to learn about the Gullah culture and traced the path of African music from drum music to work (plantation) songs to blues to rap and everything in between. He also listened to some folktales spoken in Gullah.

So far, this was a gentle way to introduce the new unit and delve into the important history of some African Americans.

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