I’m thrilled to announce guest bloggers Molly DeGesero and Richard Jenkins, the teaching team of Kindergarten B. At Blue School, we think a great deal about how children develop not only the skills but also the agency to become active and purposeful readers and writers. In the post below, Molly and Rich show how literacy (as well as so much else) begins with children's natural inclination to tell stories.
From Molly and Rich
“The children themselves continually reminded us that play [is] still their most usable context.” Vivian Gussin Paley 2004
Every day in Kindergarten, children walk into the classroom filled with ideas, excitement and energy. It is our job as educators to watch the children at their work: play. When children play, they tell a story. They tell stories based on their lives, their experiences, their hopes and their dreams. A play theme of family might tell the story of a little girl lost in the woods found by her faithful puppy and returned to the safety of her home. Another story might begin with Ninjas conquering the bad guys of the world and transform into a peaceful meal around a common table. As we observe, we think about ways for children to document and record the stories they create through play.
This year, Kindergarten B had the opportunity to visit ConstructionKids, a child centered woodworking lab in Brooklyn, where we created wooden vehicles. When we returned to Blue School holding our vehicles proudly, we naturally went back to the work of children: we needed to play with them! After painting them with Glow Paint and playing with them in various environments from the Glow Hall to our own classroom, we elevated elements of story embedded in their play with these vehicles. We asked the children to create story maps: Who drives your vehicle (character)? Where does your vehicle drive (setting) and what does your vehicle do (action)?
With our story maps and vehicles in hand, small groups of children ventured out into our Construction Lab to “play the story of our vehicles.” Children first sat in a circle and looked through their story maps, but like any good author plans change once you begin writing! A story map including an adventure in the forest changed when the vehicle met another vehicle that took them into an elaborate city dwelling. Children's social interactions influenced the kind of stories they were telling! At this moment, we supported the children in documenting and saving their stories. Once they had finished playing, they sat around the computer and dictated their “vehicle story” to a teacher. Children listened to one another’s stories with care and intention. They were excited at the twists and turns taken and even remarked that what they played wasn’t necessarily the story that ended up being told. Below are two sample stories from this experience.
Story A: Told in the Construction Lab with Glow Vehicle
Once upon a time, there was a car that had lots of friends. She was thinking, “Why can’t I go somewhere else?” Finally, she wanted to go somewhere and that included the places she was close to. Then she remembered that the closest places were where there was nature. Then she thought, “Why can’t I build a road there so I can go whenever I want to?” “I’m going to build a road so I can get there.” She made friends with animals. Then the animals needed to get to places. She brought them there.
Story B: Told in the Construction Lab with Glow Vehicle
I am a car, which lives in a house. I am a normal car but I fly and swim in rivers. I have three friends, one is named Orion, one is named Dino and one is named India. I can do most anything. But I can get stuck in rain. I have the power to travel anyway but I cannot die. I stick with what I know. I believe in what I see. I made my life about recycling and keeping planet earth clean. I live in a recycling plant made for cars with an area with really nice beds and jumps and everything. I love to go visit my friends India and Orion. Dino comes to visit me. Not the other way around. I have one more question. Think up some more please.