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The Value of a Story (Or, When the World Has a Question)

Kaptain and Lightning work with the story dice.

Kaptain and Lightning work with the story dice.

When we work together on collaborative storytelling activities, we not only show what we already know about the world but we also develop vocabulary and practice the rhythm and cadence of our language. Telling a story together allows us to dive deeply into cooperation, negotiation and problem skills. 

Earlier this week, I sit with several students and a few sets of storytelling dice to see if we can work together to tell a story. We spend a while taking turns using the dice and designing ways to use them to inspire our stories. As we play in this way together, we learn from each other (it takes practice to observe peers and apply parts of their ideas that we find interesting to our own work), develop sustained attention to a task (in a classroom of six children between the ages of two and six, there is great potential for interruption and focus can be a challenge), and have the opportunity to work on both speaking our ideas and listening to the ideas of our friends. (In our group, we describe listening as a way to be kind to our friends. 

Lightening tells this story: One time a man had a terrible question. And when he thought of that question, he was lost in the woods. He got out his thing and tried to go how many steps at a time. And then a big lightning bolt came and struck a pyramid and that pyramid turned into a foot print. Light bulb made a dice. The End.

Kaptain tells this story: Once upon a time there was a pirate ship and it won a badge for being the greatest badge for being the greatest pirate ship ever. It could even go through rain. And then this tall building had a flashlight and saw an airplane in the night and the world turned as fast as it could round and round and round. And the pirate ship was the best ever so it got a golden medal and then the castle saw a rainbow and mail told the pyramid and they said, “What?” And then the pyramid saw a shooting star and they said, “Why is there a shooting star in the daytime?” So they mailed the castle. The End.

Using two sets of story dice, we tell the following (genius) story: 

Kaptain, Lightning, and Teacher

Teacher: Once upon a time, there was a giant and he was walking to town and he met the tiniest person he’d ever seen.

Kaptain: The giant got mad at that person for setting a fire on his foot.

Lightning: He made a telescope and then put the end of the telescope on fire to light that man on fire.

Teacher: So, the tiny man was magic so he called a rainstorm and it rained and rained but the sun was still shining and we all know that when it’s raining and sunshining at the same time there will be a rainbow. So a rainbow appeared and the giant looked up at the rainbow

Lightning: For hours and hours.

Kaptain: And then a lightning bolt struck the rainbow and whoever touches could be electrified.

Lightning: Then there was a scary tunnel and it let the giant to a great big monster and the monster ate the great big giant so that he could never be bad again.

Teacher: And then the giant was inside the monster and he said, “help, help!”

Kaptain: And then the monster ate an x-bomb and then the giant was dead and the monster was dead from the explosion.

Lightning: After the explosion, there was a flower.

Teacher: And the sunshine helped the flower to grow taller and taller.

Kaptain: And the world spun round and round and everybody was so dizzy from it.

Lightning: And the world turned into a bug.

Kaptain: And then a snake turned back, it was a magic snake, the snake turned it back into a regular world.

Lightning: Then the world had a question.

Kaptain: The world shared the question with everybody.

Linnea: And the whole world was like, “Hmmm, I wonder what the question was? Hmmm, I don’t know. Hey, I know what it is, it’s the world spinning and no people don’t know what.”

Kaptain: And then the only one thing knows the answer. Only one. A bee. And then it spread the answer to the whole world and even to the animals and to the people.

Lightning: And there’s a treasure box and there’s lots of treasure and gems in it. The End.

The children know that I am recording our stories and they ask to listen to what they’ve just created. We all sit together at the table, the children who were not participating join us and we listen intently to the recording with all of its glorious interruptions and side tangents and negotiations and when we are finished listening to it, everyone is smiling.

I am smiling now. Are you?

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The simplest of tasks

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Over the last year we’ve had excellent opportunities for learning about compromise, making choices, sharing, color recognition, and negotiation…using only the dishes we eat with snack time.

There are some big feelings around which color each one of us uses and a deep desire for the cup, fork, plate and bowl to all be the same color. This is full of teachable moments!

Last week, two friends helped to set the table. The activity lasted a good fifteen minutes as they went to find each friend and find out which color they preferred to use that day. As the two friends worked to arrange a place setting for each person in our sweet group, they were doing math as they matched each object’s color. In the asking of each friend what they preferred, they were practicing communication skills.

When we sat together to eat later that day, we all had an opportunity to talk with our peers and teachers about our thoughts related to the dishes. When we have this chance to talk through what we are feeling, we work on solving social conflict and we develop interpersonal skills.

We made a plan for what we would do next week so that anyone that didn’t get the color they wanted this week would get it next week. As we did this, we practiced asking for what we want and developed the ability to treat our friends with kindness.

The simple task of setting the table was chock full of learning moments related to communication, math concepts, vocabulary and problem-solving and in the process we got to eat a delicious snack (and we only spilled half of the fruit on the floor!)

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