Monthly Archives: March 2016

Storytelling, updated

It’s spring again, and this year’s chickadees (our youngest class) are immersing themselves in stories, storytelling, and beginning writing. As I began to think about sharing some of the current stories they have created to act out together, I discovered the following post from last spring that describes their processes well. Here are a few samples of first stories:

Once upon a time there was a dragon. It was a dinosaur too. Two more T-rexes! And 2 more dragons. The dragons had fire. There was a volcano. The volcano didn’t have fire. The T-Rex said “Stomp!” He stomped his foot. There was a truck. He threw the truck. He was building a tower. He finished the tower. The End.

Once upon a time, I was a blue princess wearing a pink dress. Rapunzel came. And a dragon came. And he blow fire. “Hi, friendly dragon!” And rain came down. And we had tea. The children had snacks. The End

Once upon a time, there was a princess, a queen, and a prince and a king. And a dragon came. And Andrasandra came too, to watch. The king and the queen were scared. Everybody was scared. They ran away, The dragon said, “I’m a friendly dragon!” They said, “Hi, hi new friend!” The End

Once upon a time there was a princess. One was a knight. There was a dragon. It was a mean one. That one was supposed to be nice but it wasn’t. He blows fire. The princess, the knight and everyone else runs away. The dragon leaves adn he runs away. The princess the knight and the people come back to the castle. They drive to Boston in their car. The End.

Once upon a time there was a big dragon. A baby dragon. And there was a big dragon that blow fire at his dog’s house. It caused fire! And the fireman came in and sprayed water. And then they build a new dog house for them. The dog said, “Hey, that’s a good house!” The End

Once upon a time a princess came. A dragon came. There was a wizard. The wizard was a baby dragon. The a birdie came up. Then a spider was on the wizard’s shoulder. Then a bird went into the tree. Then a pizza box went into the trash. The End

Once upon a time, I was with my dad. And my mom. And my brother. I was bringing my brother in school in the bus. Grandma and Grandpa came. The End

It’s clear from this sample that many children collect ideas and themes from other children and develop them to make them their own.

The original post with more detail about how story acting supports storytelling  among 3 year children at Learning Circle follows:

Throughout our school year, we have been finding a variety of ways to encourage the children to think about story forms and storytelling. We’ve told “dream stories” at meeting, retold favorite folktales with flannel pieces, and enjoyed books together. We’ve sung stories and songs, and used books or song cards to help choose songs and remember them. We’ve used favorite books and stories to create our own props for plays and acted out stories. We’ve encouraged children to “tell about” their work, whether it was at the easel, in journals, or in block or dramatic play. We’ve asked children to talk with parents about favorite stories, and found out that parents often share their favorites from childhood with their children.

Following the model offered by Vivian Paley (loosely) we have also encouraged children to write stories that we can act out as a class. To write such a story, children sit in the “writing chair” to dictate their ideas. Stories must fit on one half page of paper (that way we have had more time to give everyone a turn) and include no illustrations. Children simply tell a teacher the words to write down, and then the teacher reads the story back to its author.

Later in the day, roles are assigned at a story telling meeting. The author chooses a role to act out, and we go around the circle asking for other volunteers. We’ve found that because we offer the next role to the next child (regardless of gender, etc) children have gained an understanding of pretend and acting (Girls can be princes and boys princesses; we can be animals even if we are people, because we are pretending and we need to help tell the story). The actors stand up to act out the story, narrated by a teacher, while other children become the audience.

We have two short videos of this storytelling process in the two day class, and have some sample stories written down. Every child participated in the story acting experience. Some have preferred to act out stories told by friends, and some prefer the audience role right now. Every part in the storytelling process is an important one.

We’ve noticed that children have clear themes that recur in their stories. Some of these themes are related to ideas from friends, so look for similarities between stories written on or near the same date.

Look for the writing patterns in the stories as well. A basic story follows along like a list (And he did it, And she did it, etc.) We often ask children “And then what happened?” to move a story forward.

Those children who have included many characters figured out early in the process that if we have more characters, more children are actually in the story when it is told. It has not been uncommon for teachers to be the only audience.

We hope you enjoy this sampling of our beginning stories.

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For families with children currently at the school, you may log in at this link to see some short videos of children acting out their stories.

Literacy Family “Open Door” Day

Our latest Family “Open Door Day” was focused on literacy and young children. After joining a parent discussion, family members joined their children in the classroom where teachers had set up centers featuring a variety of playful literacy activities. Teachers also posted suggestions for play and the rational behind using these materials. The final element was a documentation wall featuring photos of children engaged in playful literacy activities, along with sample work.

What a terrific turnout we had! We were happy to see so many family members spending the morning with us, and the children were so pleased to have their families participate at school!

There was a lot to talk about, but some highlights from our discussion follow:

  • Foundations ideally focus on reading and writing as communication – children who understand the values of these activities will learn the complex set of inter-related skills associated with reading and writing because they are excited about learning, connecting, remembering, and sharing ideas
  • Spend lots of time reading with children at home and at school
  • Good readers develop strong language skills and knowledge of words:
    o Children need environments in which they experience language in meaningful contexts (children need lots of meaningful experiences to talk about!)
    o Language develops through talking, singing, interacting, and social play
    o Children need to feel they are listened to – the responsiveness of adults in children’s lives to their language is crucial
  • Read high quality literature to children:
    o Children develop language and vocabulary through interactions around reading literature
    o Children become comfortable with the differences between book language and conversational language
    o Children develop an understanding of story structures
  • Support children’s growing phonological awareness:
    o Children develop awareness of the sound structure of language
    o Word play, rhyming, musical activities, use of nursery rhymes all support phonological awareness
  • Support comprehension:
    o Children need context and background knowledge to draw on as they develop comprehension skills
    o Encourage children to talk about book content, share ideas, make connections to their own experience, and ask questions
  • Writing depends on sound physical development, which can be supported in a wide variety of sensory experiences and informal activities that support each child’s use of their fingers and hands
  • It takes time before children understand that writing is recorded speech
  • To write letters, children need to understand that letters are symbols that come together to represent sounds and meaning.
  • Symbolic thinking is supported by pretend play.
  • Writing skills grow out of drawing – encourage children to make a mark!
  • With experience and by noticing more and more details, children discover that lines come together to form letters (how letters look), and then that letters are used to form words

There is a lot going on as children move along the continuum of learning in their own way. We can take cues from the children, support their interests, encourage conversations, questions, and finding out more about interesting topics, make sure there is time for meaningful pretend play, and enjoy a wide variety of books and stories together!

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