Fighting Bullies, Welcoming the Araboolies!

You wouldn’t have heard of Boolanoola unless you’ve read The Araboolies of Liberty Street.

This is the rambunctious ball game that caused General Pinch, the mean bully and dictator of Liberty Street to call in the army. The story, a 1989 picture book written by Sam Swope and illustrated by Barry Root, has been made into a children’s opera and stage musical.

And in a small elementary school in Silver Spring, Maryland, ESOL teacher Madeline Taylor engaged her students in turning the book into their own musical, retelling the story by adapting well known tunes. For most of her 13 third graders, struggling English learners, mostly born in the US to foreign-born parents, this was their first time in a play.

General Pinch and his wife rule Liberty Street. They prohibit fun and mandate uniformity.  All houses are painted white. The streets are quiet as no one can play outside. There are no pets or plants. Then the Araboolies move in—people with changing skin colors, multitudes of exotic pets, and habits, like playing games and sleeping outside.  The Pinches summon the army to remove the Araboolie’s red and white zigzag painted house.

Joy, a Liberty Street child, conceives a way to foil the Pinches. She enlists the help of the other neighborhood children.  At night, they paint all the houses bright colors and crazy patterns.  They decorate the lawns and streets and paint each other’s faces. When the army arrives, under orders to remove the “weird” house, the one that stands out, they upend the Pinches’ white house, taking the home and the Pinches far away. Peace—and fun—are restored to Liberty Street.

Using songs like “Jingle Bells,”  “The Wheels on the Bus”, “Oh My Darling Clementine,” the class rewrote the story and learned the words by singing. “They knew these tunes from songs in their own languages, “ said Taylor.  “Learning the words by singing them came easy to them.”  The class practiced about a month before performing the play this week at least six times for different classes in the school, parents and administrators.  Colored bandanas provided the costumes and the students created the set: cardboard houses painted white on one side and a variety of colors on the other. Both costumes and props were easy to switch as the story unfolded through songs.  

Here’s an excerpt from “BoolaNoola Ball”
(Sung by the ensemble to the tune of Oh My Darling Clementine)

BoolaNoola BoolaNoola BoolaNoola ball you flew 
Through the window of the General with such force we never knew
Hit his stomach hit his stomach hit his stomach good and hard  
BoolaNoola in the stomach in the stomach full of lard  
That BoolaNoola was the last straw was the last straw for the Pinch  …      

After the performance, the audience—other 3rd graders and their teachers- asked questions. It was obvious how the students had absorbed the book’s messages: freedom and diversity vs. uniformity and bullying.  Thanks to their memorable engagement with this story, I bet they’d recognize these themes in other literature. It’s experiences like these that help students pass tests, not rote memorization and drills.

Advertisements

About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
This entry was posted in Books, Education, Reading, teaching, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Fighting Bullies, Welcoming the Araboolies!

  1. Patti Winker says:

    Thank you for sharing this heart warming story. Isn’t it incredible how easy it is to teach kids about diversity? I hope more schools and groups will pick up this story and run with it, creating little stage productions or even big stage productions. 😉 Thanks again for sharing this.

    Like

  2. What a beautiful day you must have had. Just reading this put a smile on my face. This is such a wonderful way to teach children.

    Like

  3. I love it…and if our library doesn’t own a copy, I hope to change that.

    Like

  4. Pingback: A Day Out: Philadelphia | cyclingrandma

  5. Pingback: Seven Myths about Teachers | cyclingrandma

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s