Flannel Board Stories
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34. Flannel Board Stories

Wonderful Teaching Method

Boy and flannel boardTelling a flannel board story using felt-backed figures can be an excellent teaching method that involves and encourages one's students. Many ready-made flannel board storybooks containing most of the better-known Bible stories are available on the market. Ready-printed felt backgrounds dramatize the effect of an outdoor scene at the lakeside or the Temple or an indoor setting. It would be best to have a flannel board that all can clearly see and appropriately sized figures to go with it. Unlike other display media, the flannel board is not ordinarily appropriate for use out of doors in a breeze! I knew a Church Army sister who was giving a talk to children using a flannel board presentation in the open-air. After a few of the flannel figures had been blown off by the gusty prevailing wind and out of frustration, she just held the flannel board figures in position on the board until she could tuck them back into a safe place out of the wind. Some teachers stumble into another pitfall due to their positioning of the flannel board pieces on the board. A flannel board figure placed above another can confuse a child thinking that one was flying and another crouching below. A better approach is to imagine a horizontal line running across the board and make the flannel board pieces stand or walk on that.

Size of Flannel Figures

Teacher placing figuresFlannelgraph size also has its limitations because of the size of the figures. Most available stories are useful for small groups gathered around a speaker in a room. If you have a large assembly or a children's talk in a church service, be aware that the figures may not be distinguishable from one another on the flannel board at a distance. Think about moving around the flannel board pieces and getting the characters in order before doing the children's story presentation. Flannel board, also called flannelgraph, is a storytelling system that uses a board covered with flannel fabric, usually resting on an easel or sitting on a table stand. Its primary use is as a storytelling medium, rather than as a toy. There is a particular art in getting the presentation of a children's story just right. If some flannel board pieces have to go off to the side and then return later, you can retain them between your third and fourth fingers of your hand until they are needed. Another help is to number the figures' backs to be easily set up for the story again without going back to the instruction booklet. Generally, the pieces themselves help to remind me of the twists and turns in the tale as I am going along. Walk a character across the board when the story calls for it, and make an angel or a bird fly if it fits the context. The children will imagine the rest! Another type of visual medium used extensively with adult groups at conferences and to present a children's story is the flipchart.✞

Attractive and Colorful

Flannel BoardThe previous comments regarding board shape, color, and attractiveness apply to a flannel board as to a chalkboard. Ideally, every board should be the same size to be used one behind the other to follow a story with a quiz or a memory verse. Flannel Board can, however, have its pitfalls. We have maybe seen the person who places a figure on the board and then insists on rubbing it five or six times over to make sure it stays on. An uneasy nervousness with the flannel board medium is evident, a "will it stay or won't it" anxiety. It is best to practice what you are doing until you feel confident with the narrative, the flannel board figures, and the backgrounds. I remember one enthusiastic Church Army Sister who decided to try a beautifully illustrated flannel Bible story in the open-air. It was a warm but overcast day at Lowestoft on the North East coast of England, with a gentle breeze blowing steadily off the sea. Taking account of this, Sister had made some cardboard windshields to place around the flannel board. But that was just the beginning!

Felt-Backed Characters

Flannel Board Story Lady looking into a mirrorLearn how to tell a good flannel board stories with felt-backed characters and background scenes to bring them alive. Prepare the flannel graph board and the felt backed characters carefully so that they are in order of sequence in one's hand. Flannelgraph or flannel board stories are a series of felt backed characters that adhere to a felt board to tell a story or illustrate a talk. It can help to lay the story characters face down on a card folder so that when you turn them over, they are ready to be placed on the board in sequence. We wouldn't want Goliath down and out before David has let fly with the stone! It is wise to rehearse the story thoroughly beforehand and practice it if need be in front of a mirror, placing and removing the pieces from the flannel board stories as you go. Close the door behind you and tell the story out loud to an imaginary audience in the mirror. You may be wise to warn an unsuspecting spouse or parent should he or she overhear and come walking in! If you practice your story well, you will be able to hold your hearers' attention on the day of the talk.

Flannel Board Figures

Arranging the flannel board figures and positioning them on the flannel board for a children's story catches the audience's attention. Someone once said, "Storytelling is among the most ancient of arts. A story touches our heart and mind, our body and spirit. The storyteller gives the tale; the listener receives it, responding out of his or her being. The story comes alive. It flourishes and grows." Flannelboard can be an effective way of telling a good story. A good crowd of youngsters had gathered around the flannel board, many of them in swimming gear, and after singing several rousing choruses settled down to listen to the Bible story from Sister. The flannel board and stand were a prominent position, and the tale began to unfold. The first figure appeared on the board. Whoosh! The flannel figure fluttered across the stony beach to roars of laughing cheers from the children With a gust. The Sister, undaunted, continued while the flannel board figures are retrieved. Hoping to restore matters, she pressed the next flannel figure in place, this time smoothing it over more carefully. The board held the children's riveted attention. Would the piece fly off, or not? Whoosh! Again, pandemonium broke out. Then, yet another glided away! We had an excellent lesson in how to get attention but not communicate a message!

"Flannel Board Stories"
by Ron Meacock © 1982-2019

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