Classic Tales classes take their cues from a story and what children might find compelling about that story. We came together at St. Timothy’s to playfully explore the setting, characters, plot, and themes of the story “Frozen”.
What could I do to get the children to dive right in and get actively involved? I started by asking questions about ice, cold, and snow. Elsa’s fear of her power to change things and make them frozen is the heart of this story. The children told me some bad things: you can get frostbite, you can fall through the ice, and ice is slippery so it makes you fall. They said there were good things too: you don’t have to go to school, ice cream cones, snow cones, and cold keeps food from melting or getting moldy.
Once I got the children talking, it was time to move. We experienced some of the good things that snow and ice provide by ice skating on paper plates and dancing to “Vuelie” from the film while holding beautiful plastic snowflakes. Special lighting effects were created in the darkened room as we moved flashlights with colored plastic taped over the lenses. It really seemed like the Northern Lights were overhead! The children laid out chunks of recycled packing cardboard painted to look like ice to represent a frozen fjord. Wooden rhythm sticks and crab hammers were moved rhythmically to chisel and cut the ice into chunks for the people of Arendelle as we sang along to “Frozen Heart.”
Because there were readers in the group, children took turns reading passages from the Disney Golden books. They were curious about the pictures and compared the two versions, looking for differences and similarities. I showed the children how to use poles, stands, fabric, and pieces of painted cardboard to suggest the setting of the story using things that are easily found around the house and in craft stores. I hope they will see that they can use their imaginations to continue the dramatic play at home with family and friends. Quick changes of fabric made it possible to move from the night sky and the frozen fjord to the house where Anna and Elsa live.
“When can we put on the costumes?” they eagerly asked. Children decided whether they wanted to be Elsa or Anna, Kristoff or Olaf, and found something to wear from the collection of costumes I’ve sewn. There was deciding and arguing and negotiating as children found something they liked that fit. “Let’s act out the part where Anna wakes up Elsa and they run downstairs so Elsa can make everything all snowy,” I said. One girl listened and repeated my words pretending to be Anna and the other ones imitated the responses for Elsa. One of the children enjoyed watching as the others acted out the scene.
Scenes with dialogue led to moments of free expression where the children sang along with and moved to the soundtrack from the film. Many children have done this at home. They know the lyrics and have moves all worked out. Others experience the music in a more quiet way, listening and watching what others are doing. I gave a suggestion or two, but primarily stepped back to watch the children enjoy the music.
The coronation of Elsa is more of a set piece. We began with metal tubes dismantled from a wind chime to create the sounds of the cathedral bells chiming.
Children took turns coming down the aisle to be crowned and presented with the title, “Queen Elsa of Arendelle.” The beautiful music reminded the children of church and inspired them to walk with great solemnity.
Creating Elsa’s ice castle was a delightful building activity. The children used cloth to create a tent which they decorated with reflective materials such as plastic snowflakes, crystal garlands, CDs, painted foamboard triangles, and floor tiles. White tulle tied to wooden dowels became Elsa’s magic snow wands as they danced and sang “Let It Go.”
As each day passed the children became more comfortable acting out the parts. They were able to visualize and carry out their ideas for scenes like this one where Elsa strikes out in anger and causes ice to become lodged in Anna’s heart.
Near the end of class there was time for children to choose ways to explore the materials by drawing, building, singing, and dancing.
Family members came to watch a sharing time during the last 15 minutes of class. They watched us act out a few scenes, and then were free to try out the props, explore the scenery, and take pictures before helping to dismantle and pack up everything till the next time. We were sad to end our first Classic Tales session and eagerly look forward to our next story!