Story and Libretto Creation for Kindergarten and other Lower Grades

K-2 Story and Libretto Creation Tips

Kindergarten Note: There is flexibility in the story sentence structure for the Kindergarten class to create a 3 sentence story structure if the class needs it to be VERY simple!!

All younger grades:

Story:
Setting, Character, Plot:
·         Always begin with setting!!!!!!!
·         Characters may associate with the setting, or not, depending on if this is a historic based opera
o    (Then, usually they must coincide with the topic unless there is flexibility regarding the use of nonfiction character mingled with fictional characters. If the later route is taken then care must be taken to ensure the audience as well as the students know what things are realistic and which are not.)
o    For Kindergarten or lower performing 1st graders state the categories you see and have the students place the characters that they have listed under those categories.
o    Older students should discover the categories themselves.
·         Plot/Problem: characters in OBC operas should work toward a common goal and in doing so should make discoveries about themselves along the way!
·         Solution: the resolve should take the characters to a new way of thinking…a Moral is learned.
·         Refer to the “S” guidelines of Story creation (another post):
o    Simplicity
o    Striving together
o    Sandwich

[Kindergarten NOTE: Once Kinders have an idea…set it in stone!]

Libretto:
Be excited about this part of the opera creation process!!!!  It is the greatest moment of discovery when the characters come to life and it is discovered what they “say” and what they do!!!
·         This is the meat of the opera and everything that develops here decides action music, melody and movement…we really see the opera for the first time!
o    What do the characters think….how do they feel…what they do…., ETC.

ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS:
·         Using the story as the guide, ask for the students to think of a specific elements that should happen next…
Repeats are great and essential for success!!!
·         Don’t force a repeat. That can come as they work on the music.
·         If students suggest sentences that are very similar on the same topic, have them decide which one they would like to use and repeat.
·         Repeat whole songs
o    Kinders should keep repeated songs exactly same!
o    Older grades may change the words to match a new attempt!!
o    Repeat the beginning song in the end…a great ‘end of bread’ for the sandwich if they have returned to what they knew and did before while learning their lesson!
·         Repeats are desirable because:
o    It is easier to memorize
o    Easier to understand
o    Easier to stage
·         What is important is that the song is simple and follows the libretto “S” guidelines:
o    Is it singable?  Meaning: Is it simple enough to put a tune to it?
o    Is it showing instead of singing about it? Meaning: Is there lots of action? And we don’t need to sing about what can be shown.
o    Did we use short simple sentences? Meaning: Are these sentences singable?

KISS: Keep it Simple Sweeties!!!!
·         You may have heard this before… and we will share that tip again and again!
o    A libretto for Kindergarten is best at 500 words or less (this includes action sentences)
o    A libretto for 1-2 grades is best at 500-700 words or less (this includes action sentences)
o    We do not allow a libretto to be over 1,000 words (this includes action sentences)
·         Action sentences should be concise. Keep it simple enough that the sentence may be included in the score.
·         Simple scores translate into easy operas to learn!!!!

Use shorter sessions to create libretto:
·         Be creative in how you do this! You can accomplish a lot in one day and use small increments of time.  See OBC micro-bites on www.operabychildren.org!

Use groups!!
·         Again be creative in how you do groups in young classes:
·         Have a parent helper cover stations doing other core activities and rotate while you man the opera station and have students create the libretto in sections rotating the groups through
·         Train an aide, parent or another teacher in your school in the facilitation techniques and do several groups.
·         Older grades students may rotate three leadership roles: 1-Facilitator: asks questions of the group, 2- Scribe: writes a written record of the groups decisions, 3- Moderator: ensures everyone is participating.

Pay attention to what the students say:
·         They may say “The wolf is going”….when they actually mean “The wolf is coming!”  Kinders especially will do this as they are young and learning, but they know what they want to say.  It is like a baby waving. They wave backwards, but we know they are waving at us! Just repeat it in a neutral tone in proper context to ensure that is what they wish to say.

Be Flexible:
·         Try different methods to help the students discover their libretto:
·         Act it out!
·         Take a break and sing a song and then get back to the action!
·         Can’t agree….pull ideas from a hat!
·         Break into groups!

Use “mind’s eye” to paint a picture:
·         If we say “When this happens (state situation) imagine what the reaction will be!” then ask: “What happens next?”
               [Kindergarten NOTE: Once Kinders have an idea…*set it in stone!] 
·       
  (*However,) Emphasize editing and improving their work!! Our best ideas don’t reveal themselves the first time….it takes discovery and work!!
·         Do not edit and revise the same session as brain storming.
·         They may identify places that need attention, but leave that to another day.
·         Their brains need to remain in the creative mode not the analytical mode during the initial writing session.
·         Never create, edit or revise at the same time. These are three separate activities:
1.       The class creates the libretto: brain storm and get ideas on paper for character’s words they sing and the action the do!
2.       The class revises the libretto: by shaping the ideas in a clearer more concise way by deleting unnecessary information/action or adding needed action/information.
3.       The class edits the libretto: ensure that the libretto is in the correct format and that the spelling and grammar is correct.

Using the USOE Song book, which is downloadable on the USOE website, with specific activities to prepare them to be ready for creating story and libretto:
·         Down by the Bay: Use activity for brain storming.
·         My Aunt Came Back: Activity for brain storming action and emotion!
·         Old Brass Wagon: Different ways to create repeats!
·         Pizza, Pizza: A replace words activity.
·         Rocky Mountain: Libretto rhythm activity and repeat activity

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