Sunday, December 18, 2011
My favorite stories are not found in films or novels. They aren't found on talk radio. My favorite stories? I find them in the preschool classroom and let me tell you, stories are in abundance at TPH. Lately, Bee and I have focused many provocations around literacy. This involves setting out letters, paper with lines for penmanship and one on one time for phonics with the children. However, what has naturally surfaced from our fascination with letters and words is a rekindled love for storytelling.
One evening during a staff meeting I mentioned that we had been reading A TON of books at TPH and that I love this activity but found that it was difficult to remain available for multiple children if I was engulfed in a book. Amy suggested that I take a step back and let the children create their own stories for the pictures on each page. This not only allowed me to observe the children more closely, it put the power of storytelling back in their hands.
As the week progressed I began to ponder how the preschoolers weave stories through every activity we perform at TPH. Painting, building, drawing, free play: whenever I inquire about these creations I am met with an elaborate narrative. A few weeks ago IR, EB and IO painted a this scene on a canvas outside:
When I asked about the house in the center, EB explained, "that is where IR lives" and IO pointed out the blue square beneath the house, "and that is where IR's cat Itchy lives." EB continued, "the blue spot is the sun. It is hot. This house has windows and a door for IR to get out but Itchy doesn't need windows." Thus, the girls had worked together to create an entire world with their paint.
Teachers can be presumptuous. I often set out elaborate provocations and find the PSers simply want to draw and by "simply draw" I do not mean they make simple drawings. In contrast, the drawings are elaborate illustrations. Large pieces of paper work great for this because it gives the PSers lots of space to utilize. The drawings often start small, with a truck for example, and branch out into complex scenes. One day I set out some x rays of insects on white paper for examination. KO asked for crayons and intently focused for a half hour:
He explained as he drew, "this is a fire truck and this is a fire. These are the sirens and the truck is putting out this fire." The scene included a fire that covered the upper 1/4 of the paper, firefighters, a firetruck, a hose and lots of blue water pouring from the hose into the fire. G assisted and KO explained, "he is drawing the ladder." I am amazed by the collaborative nature of storytelling between the PSers. As an adult writer I often become entrenched with the idea of MY story or idea and how to convey it. However, the PSers often see storytelling as a community activity. They enthusiastically add to each others' narratives and we all become excited by the process of creating something together.
Our wonderful sub Lis brought in a collection of images and introduced them to the PSers on day. Now, the organization of these images into narratives has become a favorite morning activity.
The first day I did this activity with the children they would choose a card and explain what the animals were doing in that image. However, the second and third times we used the cards the PSers I noticed that the PSers carefully chose a collection of images. They would then explain these images sequentially. WOW I thought. The kids were actually creating relationships between the images and stringing narratives through them. This influenced how I thought about literacy and phonics. Yes, letters are important but so is storytelling! It allows us to connect images and explain the world around us. Perhaps the PSers aren't transcribing novels but that doesn't stop them from writing some of the most inventive and entertaining stories I have ever heard.
For now, I will continue to listen and encourage. I would love to provide sketchbooks to create cohesive storybooks if the PSers are interested!