Thursday, June 16, 2011

That's What Friends Do Together

At the core of teaching for me is narration. I spend my days at Woodland Park telling the children's stories as they happen, loudly enough that those nearby can hear me. I try to not tell children what to do, but rather describe what they are doing. Narration helps provide context, expand vocabulary, and encourage cooperative behavior. Over time, with practice, you can even learn to guide behavior not through commanding it, but rather simply through what you chose to narrate about a story as it happens and what you choose to leave out. 

R had already loaded the wagon once with rocks, pulled them to the top of the hill, then unloaded them onto some green boxes. He had returned for a second "run" when I started narrating his process. I used a lot more words than I've written here, hence the use of ellipses. As long as the children themselves aren't talking, I keep up the chatter, often repeating myself, stopping only when one of the kids have something to say.

"R is putting a rock into the wagon. Now he's putting a big rock into the wagon. Now he's putting a smooth rock into the wagon . . . "

"He's bending down and picking up rocks and putting them into the wagon . . . "

"Now the wagon is heavy. It's harder to move. R's turning the wagon around using two hands . . . He is pulling the heavy wagon to the top of the hill. He's working hard . . ."

L had been listening and decided he wanted to be part of the story. "L is helping unload the rocks onto the green boxes. R. and L. are moving all the rocks out of the wagon and onto the box . . ."

"L and Re are helping unload the rocks too. They are picking up rocks from the wagon and putting them on the green box. Re is holding the wagon so it doesn't roll back down the hill. Everyone is working together unloading the rocks and putting them on the green box. Friends help each other. The wagon is almost empty . . ."

"R is turning the wagon around. It is heavier with Re in it. He is pulling very hard to turn the wagon around. Re is holding on tightly so he doesn't fall out . . . "

"R is pulling the wagon down the hill. It's easier going downhill than uphill. L is helping push the wagon. Re is holding on tightly. Everyone is going to get more rocks to bring to the top of the hill and put on the green boxes . . . "

By now, there were lots of kids following the story I was narrating, many of whom wanted a part in the play. "R is holding the wagon so it doesn't roll. Re and La are helping pick up rocks and put them in the wagon. L and L and M are putting rocks in the wagon too. Everyone is working together. Friends work together . . . "

"Now we are taking the wagon to the top of the hill. R is pulling the handle. Re and M and L are pushing the wagon. The wagon is heavy. Everyone is working together to move it up the hill to the green boxes . . . "

"R is pulling the wagon and S and L and Re and La and M are all helping. Everyone is pushing the heavy wagon up the hill. We are taking the rocks to the top of the hill. We are going to put the rocks on the green boxes. Everyone is working hard . . . "

"Everybody is working together, helping R move those rocks to the top of the hill. We're doing it! We're moving the wagon together. We're a team. S and L are waiting at the top of the hill to help us unload the rocks. We're all friends. Friends work together . . . "

"We did it! We're at the top of the hill. I see M unloading rocks, I see Re unloading rocks. I see R holding the wagon so it doesn't roll down the hill. We're putting all the rocks on the green boxes. We're doing it together. We're a good friend team. We're all helping. That's what friends do together . . . "

The End.

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Carrie said...

Narration is a great tool. I use it a school and home. If you start doing it at home first it helps you to feel more comfortable doing narrations.

Kelly said...

Such great advice. I always recommend narration to parents of my early intervention speech kiddos. It is amazing the vocabulary they pick up, even when you think they aren't listening :)

Aunt Annie said...

Narration is really just an extension of reflective listening- a technique I learnt in marriage counselling! and have used instinctively with the kids ever since. Tom, I particularly like the way you integrate social commentary as well as narrating the action, eg the references to friends- will be trying that out today!

landartista said...

I just found your blog! What a wonderful site. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. I look at playspaces through a design lens. You may like this post including lots of loose parts.