alaskan, author, musician, educator
Our Ancestor’s Stories:
Reader’s Theater Adaptations of Southeast Alaska Native Legends from the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian
How do you increase fluency in students while at the same time kindle an interest in Southeast Alaska Native culture? By reading out-loud the age-old Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian stories in a popular play-acting format called Reader’s Theater.
In a Reader’s Theater, students read from a script, and parts are divided equally among the participants. Readers hold the scripts as they perform. No memorization, costumes, blocking, or special lighting is needed. Presentations can easily be done in a classroom. The focus is on reading with expressive voices and gestures, making the experience meaningful and fun for the student while at the same time developing fluent readers.
As we have known for many years, reading and writing go together. Students who become familiar with Reader’s Theater in the primary grades may begin creating their own stories in the upper grades. The challenge of creating an accurate script that will interest an audience motivates students to use humor, contemporary references and expressions, sarcasm, and other sophisticated forms of language.
For more information please see these links:
Why make Readers Theaters from Southeast Alaska Native Legends?
We’ve come a long way from the old primers about Dick and Jane. As someone who learned to read from those books, I always wondered why they didn’t mention the mountains, the ocean, the children picking berries or fishing with their families, the deep snow, glaciers, eagles and bears? Stories based on my worldview were no where to be found.
We know better now
“The findings are clear: place-based education fosters students' connection to place and creates vibrant partnerships between schools and communities. It boosts student achievement and improves environmental, social, and economic vitality.”
Frog Woman performance at Auke Bay Elementary School
Why work with a Native scholar?
According to Dr Rosita Worl, Sealaska Heritage Institute president, “Most all oral traditions are owned by individual clans, and in some instances owned collectively by clans, and their use require attribution of clan ownership”.
In keeping with this principle, I have collaborated with the Sealaska Heritage Institute, to develop Curriculum-Based Reader’s Theaters that meet specific local, state, and national teaching standards, accommodate large casts, and provide possibilities for all students at all reading levels to participate, and also provide Place-Based education opportunities for Alaskan students and students outside Alaska to learn about Southeast Alaska Native culture.
The object is to make these stories accessible and available to school-age children in a publication that includes Native language, songs, and dances. The end result is better readers who share a deeper understanding and appreciation of Southeast Alaska Native culture.
Each script features a ‘Native Scholar’ as the local contact and advisor on language, story accuracy, proper permission protocol, and traditional song and dance from each of the three major Southeast Alaska Native groups. Our Ancestor’s Stories: Reader’s Theater Adaptations of Southeast Alaska Native Legends from the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian is expected to be available in May, 2014. Please contact Sealaska Heritage Institute for more information.
Frog Woman: A Tlingit Legend
Ethel Lund, Native Scholar
A group of boys learn a hard lesson when they throw a frog into a fire. Frog Woman, sometimes known as Volcano Woman, wants her child back, and she means business!
The Woman Carried Away by The Killer Whale: A Haida Legend
Native Scholar: Ishmael Hope
A young hunter asks his wife to clean the silver skin of a sea otter in the ocean. Much to his horror, the Killer Whales carry her and the skin away. He has no choice but to follow the Whales into their underwater kingdom to try to get her back.
Asdiwal: A Tsimshian Legend
David Boxley, Native Artist and Scholar
The famed hunter Asdiwal learns about jealousy and revenge on a journey from Sea Lion Rock to the world of The Sea Lion King and back to his own village.