The story for this week and last has been “The Wolf and the Eight Kid Goats”. Last week I told the story and introduced a math game; this week we acted out the story and continued with our game.
Today I asked, “When we come to each new part of the story, if you know a character we’ll need to act our story out, please raise your hand to tell us.” I received all manner of answers. Two girls volunteered to be the door that is locked until mistakenly opened for the Wolf.. The largest boy in class wanted very much to be the littlest baby goat that hides in the grandfather clock and escapes being eaten, and I trust that the role is good and needed for him. Who could know what motivated the boy and girl who wanted to be the bush that the Wolf and the Goats hide behind, but with arms outstretched they made a very noble and chivalrous bush. Some others wanted to be the furniture that gets tossed every which way when the house is invaded by the Wolf, and I was reminded that when The Cat in the Hat was first published, it was deemed scandalously inappropriate for children. Like our story, it has a motif of a house getting wrecked while the mother is away, but there the house-wrecker is the hero, here, the villain.
The children take the story very seriously. I was touched watching the mother, who began the story by leaving the house after warning her children. She then waited away from us in silence as events unfolded on the other side of the classroom, as the Wolf tried and tried and finally succeeded in entering the house and then eating the Kid Goats. Only one child wanted the part of the Wolf, but he played it with enthusiasm, and I sensed that was the right part for him that afternoon. Even when we switched from acting to playing our game, no one else would help him make moves for the Wolf, so he played alone vs. all, which he relished.
Today’s game was a very simple version of chess, Black Queen (the Wolf) vs. eight White Pawns (the Goats). The Wolf wins if it can gobble up all the Goats. The Goats win if just one of them can advance to the other side of the board and run to their Mother for help. I taught them how the pieces move plus one simple tactic for each side: how to move the Wolf to a square that threatens two Goats at a time — essentially seeing the intersection of lines on the board; and how one Goat can befriend another and protect it. We played, all against the Wolf. When two children initially declared that they didn’t want to play, and I let them sit out, but each was soon drawn into the excitement of the game. All the children advised each other with great enthusiasm on what the best move might be. There were cries of shock and despair each time the Wolf ate up a Goat. One child cried briefly when she couldn’t figure out what would be the best move to do; by that point, the Wolf would eat a Goat no matter what.
A couple moves before the end, I asked them to stop and study the game to predict the future, who would win: if each side moved the very best moves it could, who would have to win? They discussed this as they had discussed everything else, and arrived at the correct answer. The children take their story very seriously.