Monday, April 21, 2014

Telling Stories As They Happen

Narration, or what Magda Gerber called "sportscasting," is at the core of how I teach. I spend my days at Woodland Park telling the children's stories as they happen, loudly enough that those nearby can hear. 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, the basis of community, the reason we come together in the first place. Over time, with practice, one 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. 

River 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. 

"River 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. River's turning the wagon around using two hands . . . He is pulling the heavy wagon to the top of the hill. He's working hard . . ."

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

"Luke and Ben are helping unload the rocks too. They are picking up rocks from the wagon and putting them on the green box. Ben 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 . . ."

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

"River is pulling the wagon down the hill. It's easier going downhill than uphill. Luke is helping push the wagon. Ben 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. "River is holding the wagon so it doesn't roll. Ben and Laurie are helping pick up rocks and put them in the wagon. Liam and Luke and Marcus and Sylvia 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. River is pulling the handle. Ben and Marcus and Luke and Sylvia are pushing the wagon. The wagon is heavy. Everyone is working together to move it up the hill to the green boxes . . . "

"River is pulling the wagon and Sylvia and Luke and Ben and Laurie and Marcus 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 River move those rocks to the top of the hill. We're doing it! We're moving the wagon together. We're a team. Sam and Liam 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 Marcus unloading rocks, I see Ben unloading rocks. I see River 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 friend team. We're all helping. That's what friends do together . . . "

The End.

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janetlansbury said...

Another wonderful story, Tom. How can we all thank you for these gems you so generously share? I hope every preschool out there is closely studying the extraordinary model you provide.

One quick thought I wanted to add... My mentor Magda Gerber coined the term "sportscasting"! I realize that there are educators now using this term as their own without attributing it to Magda, but I knew you'd want to give credit where it is due. :)

Teacher Tom said...

Thank you, Janet! I didn't know that. I probably learned the term from you. I've edited the post to give her full credit.

janetlansbury said...

Thank you, Tom! You remain my hero. I admire you tremendously, even though you have the most difficult spam protection code I've ever encountered. It literally took me 4 goes to discern the letters I was given last time. But you're so WORTH it!

Anonymous said...

We all want to be part of Story, even as adults! The concept of Story is such a huge part of our journey as humans, learning how we fit in to the Greater Story, how we fit in to relationships with Others' Stories, and what we will do with our own Story. You're giving these children a beautiful beginning to learn what Story truly means!