Munschtime! Study Guide

This guide was written by Stephanie Long.

As you scroll through the guide, you will find the usual sections included in all our guides: curriculum connections, discussion questions, units of study and more. You will also be able to click on templates, worksheets and graphic organizers. If you wish to create your own lesson plan from the study guide copy, we have created a lesson plan template for your use. We hope you will find this guide to be a useful resource. Should you have any questions or feedback or have inquiries about the use of this guide (which is copyright protected), please feel free to contact Lois Adamson, Interim Artistic Associate, Education at ladamson@youngpeoplestheatre.ca.

 

THEMATIC OVERVIEW

Storytelling itself is a central theme of this play, as five beloved Canadian children’s stories are woven into the depiction of a family’s bedtime routine. The integrated stories naturally explore several connected themes: family, community and group responsibility.

The aim of this study guide is two-fold. In the pre-show unit, the students will focus on storytelling itself; looking at both the components of an effective story and the role that stories play in our daily lives. After seeing the play, students will use the post-show unit to unpack the ways in which the stories in Munschtime! relate to YPT’s 2016/17 season theme of “no one is alone.” Students will reflect on the importance of upholding responsibilities within family and community structures, as well as on the role that routine and stories play in community membership and bonding.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS

  • The Arts (Drama)
  • Kindergarten Curriculum
  • Physical Education (Focus on Kinesthetic Awareness)
  • Storytelling (Focus on Generating Ideas)

CHARACTER EDUCATION CONNECTIONS

  • Kindness and Caring
  • Fairness
  • Responsibility

THEMES

  • The Joy of Play
  • Making and Keeping Promises
  • Celebrating Childhood

CURRICULUM EXPECTATIONS

By participating in the following exercises and discussion questions, students will:

  • Demonstrate an awareness of basic story conventions.
  • Understand that everyone belongs in a group/community.
  • Understand ways in which they contribute to groups and communities.
  • Communicate ideas and understanding in response to a play.
  • Perform a variety of locomotor movements, travelling in different directions and using different body parts.
  • Gather and organize ideas to write for an intended purpose.
  • Listen in order to respond appropriately for a variety of purposes.

SYNOPSIS

The play consists of five Robert Munsch stories – including Love You Forever, Murmel Murmel Murmel, Pigs, A Promise is a Promise, and Too Much Stuff – told within the larger narrative of a family bedtime. While being babysat by grandparents, a child negotiates details of a bedtime routine and is treated to extra stories. These stories are varied in nature but share common themes including promises, responsibility, and community/family membership.

GLOSSARY

Community

A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common

Narrative

A spoken or written account of connected events

Ritual

A ceremony or series of acts that is always performed the same way

Routine

A regular way of doing things in a particular order

Responsibility

A moral obligation to behave correctly

An Interview with YPT Artistic Director Allen MacInnis and Associate Artistic Director & Dramaturg, Stephen Colella on Creating this Adaptation

Why did you choose this project?

Allen: I’ve been a fan of Munsch’s work for a long time and I think that his stories make really engaging adaptations for the stage – quite inventive and playful. I love the story Love You Forever, although I recognize that it’s more of a story for adults than kids because the profound meaning of it is really absorbed by the adults.

How did you choose the five stories included in this production?

Allen: Stephen and I looked at ones that were kind of theatrical and I pushed him on at least one of my favourites, I’m sure – Pigs.

Stephen: Pigs, yes! You did actually. I think we were looking for fun, quite honestly. That’s one of the great things about Munsch’s work – it manages to be fun while having a message that you’re not necessarily noticing until it is done. It’s not a heavy, didactic message. It’s something that is laced so cleverly within the fun.

Allen: The story – A Promise is a Promise – is the one that probably links most closely to the 2016/17 season theme of “no one is alone,” because Allushua has to rely on other people to be saved from the mistake she makes.

Allen, you have talked about how Love You Forever is maybe more of an adult story and Stephen, you’re saying that they are fun and yet you feel something deeper with them. Is that why you think they resonate so strongly with kids?

Allen: I think they resonate with kids because there is something authentic about the way kids behave in the stories that Munsch captures, because he has a great respect and love of kids and likes their unique qualities. And the more unique he is about any particular character the more kids go, “I’m like that,” or “I know somebody like that,” and plus he often picks up on – especially in his earlier stories – common points of conflict with parents, but he can make them fun or even make fun of them.

Stephen: And I think he continuously interacts with young people through his readings and continues to draw from his experience of working with them. I think there are notes in the back of some of his books – Too Much Stuff or another one – about meeting kids who had similar stories or who wanted stories told about them. He incorporates not only that subject matter, but the energy of the young people as well.

Allen: There might have been some of his earlier stories that reflected the time period they were written in and don’t have quite the same currency. Other stories, there’s something about them that are timeless.

What were the challenges that you faced trying to weave the five stories together?

Allen: Some of it is sequence. What story flows well into another? But also then, what is a good compositional balance? Is that too many funny stories? Where’s the right placement for the weightier, more serious stories? That’s the kind of thing you evaluate.

Stephen: The other thing we were looking at was how many characters were in each story, because we were working with a three-person cast. Often Munsch’s stories get populated by tons and tons of other characters. So, how do you make that work with a limited number of people? We needed to figure out who was playing what role in each story. We didn’t want one actor playing every main character in each story, but so instead ensure that every actor receives the opportunity to do something different and new for the audience.

Allen: We did impose the idea that the story was being told by two adults – maybe grandparents – and a child as opposed to three kids or three adults.

You have mentioned that Love You Forever and Pigs are two of your favourites. What are some of your other favourite Munsch books?

Allen: Murmel, Murmel, Murmel. I love it. So much.

Stephen: Me too.

Allen: That line just makes me laugh and touches my heart: “I already have 17 trucks! What I need is a baby!” Love it.

PRE-SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • What makes a good story?
  • What are some of your favourite stories? Why?
  • Where and when do we tell stories?
  • When or where are stories most useful?
  • Have you ever seen a movie or play that was based on a book? What differences did you notice between them?

Teacher prompt

See Appendix A: Stellar Stories for guidance in discussion of “good stories.”

PRE-SHOW UNIT OF STUDY

Pre-Show Warm Up: Moving Through Munsch

Objective: Through this exercise, students will use movement to explore several of the settings described in the play.

Materials: Space in which to move, minimal distraction

Directions:

  1. Ask students to form a line and to slowly begin walking around the classroom on an appointed route (a circle may be the easiest formation, at least as a start).
  2. Ask students to imagine the locations listed below, one at a time, and to explore the environments in silence. Encourage slow and deliberate movements.
  3. After each location has been introduced and explored, ask students how they feel physically and what sorts of things they see.

Locations: a farm, Northern Canada, an airplane up in the sky, a house at bedtime

Debriefing Questions:

  • What helped you to imagine the spaces?
  • Can you compare the different ways you moved in each space?
  • Have you ever read stories set in those environments? Which stories?

Extension

JK/SK
In pairs, have students discuss their favourite parts of the story; then invite them to share their ideas with the class. Make note of common favourite parts and the possible reasons why they like these parts so much.

Grade 1-3
Have students talk in pairs about what might happen to the characters the next day. Have them share their ideas with the class; then invite them to further explore what might happen next using Appendix A: Stellar Stories as a guideline. Have them create a two-minute scene to perform for the rest of the class.

Pre-Show Exercise: Exploring the Sources

Objective: Students will (re)familiarize themselves with at least one of the texts explored in the play.

Materials: Copies of one or more of the following Robert Munsch stories: Love You Forever, Murmel Murmel Murmel, Pigs, A Promise is a Promise, Too Much Stuff

Directions:

  1. Ask students if they have read the book before.
  2. Discuss when they read books like this (bedtime, on the bus, in the mornings etc.)
  3. Read the story aloud.

Debriefing Questions:

  • What did you like about the story?
  • Did it seem like a “good story” (refer to earlier discussion from Pre-Show questions). Why or why not?
  • How do you think the characters would speak/behave if you met them in our classroom?

Pre-Show Culminating Exercise: Storytelling in Action

Objective: Students will construct a story as a class, reflecting on the elements of effective storytelling.

Materials: Space for a circle of students on the floor, chart paper or white board if desired to record ideas, Appendix B: Story Prompts

Extension

JK/SK
Using Appendix C: Story Outline, co-construct a story with the students. The story can be compared to the less structured one from the group. What helped the more structured one to make sense and become engaging?

Grade 1-3
Have students work in small groups to construct stories (told orally) that use Appendix B: Story Prompts as inspiration.

Directions:

  1. Have students sit in a circle on the floor.
  2. Using the prompts and ideas from Appendix B: Story Prompts, or using another favourite story starter, begin creating a story together.
  3. Each student in turn will provide one sentence or phrase of the story.
  4. You may want to interject to keep the story on track with prompts such as “but suddenly” and “and then something surprising happened.”

Debriefing Questions:

  • Was our story a “good story”? Would you want to read it in a book? Why or why not?
  • What was the main setting of our story?
  • Who was the main character?
  • How could we make the story more interesting?
  • Were you pleased with the ending? What would you change?

POST-SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • How were the five Munsch stories different on stage than in the books?
  • Did the scenario in the play remind you of your own family at bedtime?
  • What other evening traditions and rituals do you have in your family?
  • The child made agreements with the grandparents at bedtime. What agreements or promises do you make at bedtime?
  • Why is it sometimes difficult to keep these promises?

Extension

JK/SK
Lead a discussion of classroom agreements and promises, writing these down on a “class agreements sheet” that all students can sign, empowering them to take ownership over their own role in the classroom community.

Grade 1-3
Have students work in partners to make outlines of their own bodies (or profiles of their faces), in which they can list their own important people and group memberships.

POST-SHOW UNIT OF STUDY

Post-Show Warm Up: Choices for Me, Choices for my Community

Objective: Through this movement exercise, students will put themselves in role as the characters of the play in order to explore decision-making.

Materials: Space in which to move, minimal distraction

Directions:

  1. Ask students to form a line, side by side, and to slowly begin walking around the classroom, practicing slow and silent walking.
  2. Now ask them to imagine that they are the central characters in each of the following scenarios:
    • Megan walking up to the gate and looking at the pigs
    • Allushua hurrying back home after meeting the Qallupilluit
    • Robin walking down the street with a heavy baby
  3. When the students are walking as the characters, ask them to freeze or pause. Invite students to imagine what each character might be thinking. You may want to provide examples.
  4. Then, let students know that when their shoulder is tapped, they can share their thoughts out loud.

Debriefing Questions:

  • How did these characters feel when they had big decisions to make?
  • When we have big decisions to make, how do we feel?
  • What other major decisions did these three characters make in the play?
  • How were other characters in the stories affected by their decisions?
  • Why is it important to think about other people when we have important choices to make?

Extension

JK/SK
Lead a discussion of classroom agreements and promises, writing these down on a “class agreements sheet” that all students can sign, empowering them to take ownership over their own role in the classroom community.

Grade 1-3
Have students work in partners to make outlines of their own bodies (or profiles of their faces), in which they can list their own important people and group memberships.

Post-Show Exercise: Characters in Community

Objective: Students will use a graphic organizer to explore ideas of community membership and responsibility.

Materials: Chart paper, markers

Directions:

  1. Three student volunteers will have their bodies traced on whiteboard paper
  2. The outlines will be labelled with names of three characters from the play: Megan, Allushua, Robin
  3. As a class or in three small groups, students will write the following information on the outlines
    • Inside the body outline: People who might be important to this character
    • Outside the outline: Groups in which this character might belong (eg. school, family, girl guides, clubs)

Debriefing Questions:

  • What responsibilities does each character have to these people/groups?
  • What promises might they make to these people/groups?
  • What consequences might be in place for not keeping those promises?
  • Why are promises and group agreements important?
  • Where else do we have rules, promises and agreements?
Extension
Have students work in their same groups to consider a bedtime story that could be incorporated into the routine.JK/SK
Invite students to discuss their favourite bedtime stories and choose one or two of these to describe to the class.

Grade 1-3
Have students create their own bedtime story as a group (reflecting on the class’ discussion of “good stories”) and relay it to the class in a variety of dramatic ways.

Post-Show Culminating Exercise: It’s Bedtime!

Objective: Students will work in small groups to create bedtime routines and will reflect as a class on the importance of group routine and ritual.

Materials: Appendix D: Evening Routines, space for group movement

Directions:

  1. Working in groups of 2-4, have students use ideas from Appendix D: Evening Routines (these can be described by the teacher, assuming not all students may be able to read) to construct bedtime routines of at least four steps.
  2. Groups will create one gesture to represent each step of their chosen routine.
  3. Give students time to practice their routine several times.
  4. Invite each group to perform their routines for the class.
  5. After each routine, you may discuss which elements of the routine you witnessed.

Debriefing Questions:

  • What routine was most similar to what you do at bedtime?
  • Was there any routine that surprised you?
  • Which routine do you think would work best?
  • Why are routines important in families?
  • What other groups use routines? Are these helpful? Why or why not?

SOURCES

Ontario Elementary Curriculum (Kindergarten, The Arts, Physical Education, Storytelling)

Oxford Dictionary Online

Story Elements
msu.edu/course/tc/842/SevenElements%20Story.htm
thewritepractice.com/show-more/

Story Outline (adapted from)
supereasystorytelling.com/fill_in_the_blank_stories_pirate.html

Story Prompts (adapted from)
scribd.com/document/181400259/tell-me-a-story-storytelling-prompt-doc
journalbuddies.com/journal_prompts__journal_topics/story-writing-prompts-for-kids/

APPENDICES

Appendix A: Stellar Stories

What makes a good story? According to writer Ken Ramsley, there are seven elements present in every good story. For details and an explanation of each element, see: msu.edu/course/tc/842/SevenElements%20Story.htm

  1. A central premise.
  2. Strong three-dimensional characters who change over time.
  3. A confined space or clearly-defined central setting.
  4. A protagonist who is on some sort of quest.
  5. An antagonist wanting to stop the hero.
  6. An arch in everything — everything is getting better or worse.
  7. And perhaps most important — Conflict.

How do I tell the story?
Stories are told through different ways to focus on different aspects of the plot, setting or characters. The following list from thewritepractice.com/show-more/ outlines the main “building blocks” in every narrative.

  1. Action: What are your characters doing?
  2. Dialogue: What are they saying?
  3. Description: What are they seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling?
  4. Inner Monologue: What are they thinking?
  5. Exposition / Narrative: What other information does the narrator (ie. you) want us to know?

Appendix B: Story Prompts

JK/SK Story Prompts
What might happen next?

  1. One day, the class came to school to find that their teacher had been replaced by a friendly dragon.
  2. One day, Santa Claus met the Easter Bunny and they decided to go on vacation.
  3. One day, the Three Little Pigs had a great idea for a new house.
  4. One day, a brother and a sister found a treasure chest in their backyard.
  5. One day, just as students were arriving at school, three superheroes appeared in the playground.

Grades 1-3 Story Starters
What kind of story can you imagine based on the premises below?

  1. a dog with magic powers
  2. a boy who dreams of becoming a chef
  3. a cat that stows away on a spaceship
  4. finding a chest of buried treasure in the backyard
  5. a magic cell phone that turns into a robot
  6. a summer camp for superheroes’ kids
  7. a trick-or-treating trip that starts getting scary
  8. a man who receives $1 million in the mail
  9. a city where everyone only eats dessert
  10. a brother and sister who accidentally get on the wrong airplane

Appendix C: Story Outline

Have students pick one word from each word group to make their own story. Another option would be to try reading the story with the first word in each group, then with the second word from each group, and so on.

The Singing Pirate
There once was a pirate who discovered how beautiful music could be and wanted to sing. This pirate felt happy/funny/excited. He finally discovered the joy of singing and nothing was going to stop him from getting out and finding a group to sing with. But how? He was a silly/old/baby/curious pirate, but he was brave/stubborn/goofy. So, the pirate set off on a roadtrip to find a band.

First, he put on his travelling clothes. As all good/silly/foolish singing pirates would, he wore a baseball/sailor/top hat and enormous/pink/tight pants. He joyfully/quickly/slowly threw his backpack on his back and started humming/dancing/running.

Soon, the day became chilly/hot/grey. The sky was dark/scary/purple and pirate felt nervous/frustrated/angry. He took a deep breath and carried on.

Before long, he heard it again– that sound. It was rock/lullaby/loud/silly music. He started dancing/humming/toe-tapping along. Suddenly, he saw it: a musical pirate’s oasis, full of other young/baby/big pirates who all loved music. He lived happily ever after, performing in several pirate music groups and even performing at Young People’s Theatre in Toronto.

Appendix D: Evening Routines

Construct your group’s routine using at least two ideas from each of the following lists:

Actions:

  • Teeth brushing
  • Reading stories
  • Putting on pajamas
  • Eating a snack
  • Writing
  • Drawing

Phrases:

  • Good night!
  • Time for a story!
  • Brush your teeth!
  • Don’t forget ______!
  • Can I have a ________?