The Story of Tanabata: A Kamishibai Play From Japan

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The Story of Tanabata For Pre-K / Kindergarten

Field of Interest/Specialty: Pre-K
Posted On: 01/05/2015

Name: Kimberly Adams
School: Southminster Childcare
Grade: Pre-K
The Story of Tanabata is a a kamishibai play that can be used to show children how story telling once was and still sometimes is done in Japan. According to the teacher’s guide, a kamishibai play is done by placing colorful cards into a wooden stage and dramatically telling a story as each one of the cards is switched to represent a new scene or part of the story. The teacher’s guide also states that kamishibai was most popular from the 1920’s to the 1950’s when there was no television. The storytellers who performed these kamishibai plays would travel from neighborhood to neighborhood where he would announce his presence by banging wooden sticks together and then sell candy and snacks to the audience to make a profit before telling them the story.
The Story of Tanabata starts out talking about a weaver princess named Orihime who lives on the other side of the Milky Way. She appears to be growing a bit tired of her life until she hears a mooing sound. As Orihime contemplates the sound, a heavenly ruler comes to visit her. He compliments her on her beautiful weaving work and then informs her that it is time for her to marry. The heavenly ruler informs her that the mooing is from the cows of a herdsman named Hikoboshi, and he asks her if she wants to marry him. Orihime easily agrees to go off to find Hikoboshi and the two of them are quickly married. They fall madly in love with one another and spend all of their time together. When the heavenly ruler goes to visit them becomes upset that the happy couple has stopped herding and weaving. To punish them, he separates them. The two lovers become heartbroken and beg to be reunited. After a time, the heavenly ruler gives them permission to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month. Today the lovers can be seen in the night sky as the stars Altair and Vega.
This kamishibai tale is one that I would definitely use for my pre-k students, but it would also be good for grades K-3rd grade. My favorite thing about this story is the beautiful artwork that goes along with the words. I also like that the words are written on the back of each card so that it is easy for the story teller to read and yet the children still have a wonderful view of the artwork. The cards are larger than a typical story book as well so the children will have no problem viewing the illustrations no matter where they are sitting. This particular set also comes with a teacher guide which I found to be quite helpful since I have never used this type of storytelling in the classroom. The teacher’s guide provides a summary of the story, a list of comprehension questions for the students, activity ideas, and a brief history on kamishibai.
In my classroom I plan to use this story to introduce kamishibai storytelling to the students. I will have them listened to the story three times over the course of a week so that we can discuss how the story is told and what the story is about. After that I will have them discuss what they would like to write about if they could create their own kamishibai story. After the discussion they will work in small groups to create their own stories using half sheets of poster board. Once the groups finish with their stories, I will have them share their finish products with the class.