On December 14, the auditorium at Smith Elementary was filled to the brim with mothers, and fathers, and sisters and brothers who were there to see Smith’s Holiday Performance. Smith’s ACE Program featured the 1st grade students of Teaching Artist Lillie Hollingsworth and their moving adaptation of Munro Leaf’s popular story Ferdinand the Bull. Describing the story the class adapted and the student’s experience with their play, Lillie shared, “The Story of Ferdinand is a wonderful tale about a bull that doesn’t like to fight. Ferdinand is different than all the other bulls; he loves to smell the flowers and to sit by his favorite tree. But why?”
My first graders spent 6 weeks asking that question. Why doesn’t Ferdinand like to fight? Quite simply, Ferdinand doesn’t like to fight because he gets dizzy. They developed great dialogues through improvisation and games. The game we play the most to develop these characters was hot-seating. We interviewed characters from the story and they told us why they made certain choices. It allowed students to explore deeper character traits, and they were able to see them as more than just good guy or bad guy. My students were particularly interested in talking to the mother cow about why she was mad that her son would smell flowers. We found that the mother was worried about her son fitting in, and in her own way, wanted the best for him. It was clear that the talent of these first graders went beyond their age limits. At the Tuesday night performance, they shined, even though two of them had been sick all day, they refused to abandon their show. We were even asked to perform again on Thursday morning in front of the whole school. They were elated to tell everyone to not be a bully bull, and to respect others even if they are different from the norm.
-TAP Teaching Artist, Lillie Hollingsworth