drama, students will have an opportunity to experience traditional story telling
of the Mi’kmaq people and to enhance their understanding of the Mi’kmaq
nation. Through active engagement with the story, the students will gather
information about the roles of men and women, cultural beliefs of the Mi’kmaq
and the role of story telling in the culture.
Social Studies, English/Languages Arts
Learning Levels: Grades 4-9Author(s): Susan Spence-Campbell
can story telling teach us about the culture of others?
Language Arts - Listening and Speaking
Social Studies -
set of experiences is the beginning of a Mi’kmaq study unit. It can be done
daily or every second day depending on the time available to the teacher.
Initially, there are eight classes of one hour each. The extended lesson is
adaptable enough to fit many timetables. For the dramatic activities, one needs
an empty classroom or gymnasium.
activities can be done in a classroom during Language Arts periods. For access
to the actual story telling by the Mi’kmaq, one computer with internet access
is helpful but not necessary as the story and audio tape are available through
the NS Museum First Peoples kit.
students are seated in a circle on the floor. To add mood, have background
music playing from “Traditional Voices of the Eastern Door”.
teacher speaks the phrase “in the very earliest of times”.
the students close their eyes and repeat the phrase, “in the very earliest
the modified magic words from “The Enchanted Caribou”.
teacher creates a rainstorm by rubbing of hands, snapping fingers, slapping
knees, and then stamping of feet. These sounds are sent around the circle in
the form of a wave. Students continue making their sound until another is
passed to them. Reverse the sounds.
groups of 4-5 students to create a moving image (no dialogue) and a sound scape
of their concept of the very earliest of times. This will be presented as a
performance for the class. Emphasize that there are no wrong answers.
the school’s stage if it is available. Assign one or two students to
control the stage curtain.
the audience close its eyes while the performers position themselves.
The teacher or an assigned student then says “Curtain” when the students are ready to perform.
the audience what it saw, thought, felt and experienced after each
that this is not a guessing game but a careful attention to the movement and
sounds created by the group to communicate to them as an audience.
that there can be different, reasonable interpretations of what is
presented. Themes that tend to arise include: gathering or hunting food,
survival from enemies, creating fire, natural forces, and danger.
the presenters to describe how closely the audience understood what the
group was trying to communicate.
come in and sit in a circle on the floor.
mood music, the “Feast Song” from Traditional
Voices from the Eastern Door.
eyes closed, read again the modified Magic Words from the Enchanted Caribou.
teacher, in role as a Mi’kmaq story teller, greets the students and
presents a creative visualization to take the students back in time.
the visitors to the wikuom and tell the story “Jenu” from Six Mi’kmaq
Stories by Ruth Holmes Whitehead to entertain the guests.
finished, thank the guests for their attentiveness and invite them to rest
for the evening. Present another creative visualization to bring the
students back to the school.
the events of the third day in the story “Jenu” as a catalyst, ask the
students to write a poem or story about the vomit of Jenu. This poem or story
should detail another situation in which Jenu finds himself but which does not
have the same positive results as the one the students have heard.
teacher should reread or play a recording of the story of Jenu. A recording of
the story is available through the First Peoples kit from the NS Museum as well
as being listed on the Nova Scotia School Book Bureau. While rereading the
story, ask the students to make notes about details of the story, paying
particular attention to the arrival of Jenu, the return of the husband, the
third day, the visit to the spring, the battle of the Jenua and the return to
the class into 6 groups.
group of students is given a scene from the story:
Arrival of Jenu - woman, child, Jenu (characters needed)
The husband arrives home- woman, child, Jenu, husband
The third day - woman, child, Jenu, husband
Visit to the Spring - husband, Jenu, two monsters from the spring
Fight with the enemy Jenu - woman, child, Jenu, husband, enemy Jenu
Return to the summer encampment - woman, child, Jenu, husband,
enemy Jenu, members of the encampment, priest.
the importance of sound, dialogue and movement to the audience’s developing
understanding of the scene from the story. In chronological order (around the
room), have all groups, except the last, present their scenes. Do not stop
within the scenes but go from one to the next. Students should freeze to
indicate when their scene is finished. Do not worry if minor details are not
the presentation of the scenes, have each group create the scene again.
teacher asks the students to thought track themselves as characters to consider
how they have revealed their inner thoughts and feelings through the sounds,
dialogue and movement they have developed. For more information on this
technique called Thought Tracking see [Neelands, 1990 #2].
Many applications of thought tracking in drama and other contexts can be
found on the Internet using a search engine and the key phrase “thought
are their inner thoughts or feelings?
is their motivation for their actions?
scene 3, ask Jenu to identify his motivation for asking for the boiling fat?
students may have difficulty describing these inner thoughts as they are not
deeply in character. However, with added description from the teacher about the
situation, they are able to come up with ideas. As a last resort, other students
may offer suggestions but I tend not to allow this because I want each student
to develop a greater sense of character him or herself.
the last group presentation, the return to summer encampment, until the
beginning of the next day. Explain to the students that it will be a perfect
segue to the final activity.
the reaction of the encampment to the return of the man, woman and child
everyone think this is a good idea, bringing a Jenu into the camp?
there any dangers?
a list of pros and cons.
should come to class ready to describe how they would think and feel if they
were a member of the camp.
the class with the thought tracking of the return to the summer encampment.
Bring out the conflict that could arise because of what Jenu represents.
a member of the community, each student then must decide which side they are on.
Do they agree with Jenu being brought back to camp or do they feel the whole
camp is in danger?
who played Jenu, the man, woman and child in the final scene will continue in
those roles. Other students will play member of the community.
sweetgrass is available, it could be used as a traditional talking stick. This
too is available in the First Peoples kit. The argument should continue as long
as is reasonable and productive
A discussion should then take place about the role of consensus within the Mi’kmaq community and how each person had an opportunity to express his or her opinion. The chief had no more power than the others but was often the most persuasive member and was able to convince others to agree with him.
Cleaver.The Enchanted Caribou,Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1985.
30pp., paperbound boards, $8.95.
Museum First Peoples kit
story “Jenu” is from Six Mi’kmaq Stories by Ruth Holmes Whitehead.