This summer I was inspired by the hashtag #sd38story from the Delta School District. I found their storytelling focus to be fresh, innovative and inviting. I strive to create fresh, innovative and inviting learning experiences for my learners, so I knew it was something I had to try.
I researched quite a bit before beginning, hung out a ton on the sd38 hashtag and fell in love with Janice Novakowski, Little Blair Dragons, and Annieville Kinders‘ work. I knew I had to set something up that would work for the learners in our class and myself. I decided to begin a storytelling focus through story-boxes.
I searched out the Monk’s Office shallow cardboard trays to be the story-boxes, and luckily a lovely colleague across the hall generously shared hers with me. My goal was to have 11 story-boxes, one box per two children. My vision was they would begin by working in partners for our storytelling lessons, and over time that may evolve. I searched out some loose parts such as wool, gems, rocks, sticks, fabric, felt, pine cones, felted acorns, etc. I would have LOVED to fill the story-boxes to the brim with materials, but held my excitement back because I realized that less is more -especially at the beginning. I also had to choose a few animals to have as characters for our boxes, and naturally I chose our Spirit of Alliance animals (which we are very familiar with). I had some helpers, and we made characters on popsicle sticks.
I designed a three part lesson, and plan to guide learners through the same three parts each week. The first part of the lesson is sharing a First Nation’s story. I teach French Immersion, and most of the stories we have access to at our school are in English and that was just fine. The stories I have chosen so far have been extremely easy to switch into French, so I did. I started off the storytelling focus with ‘Good Morning World’ from Native NorthWest. We started by reading through the story, the children repeated the good morning part for each animal. We then stopped and did some imagining and thinking caps. We imagined some of the adventures the different animals could have, different things they might get up to in nature. We had some sharing time with a partner and the whole group. We then reread the story one more time. I briefly introduced the idea of story-boxes and shared a box with some materials in it with the children, so they knew what was coming tomorrow.
The next day, we quickly read through the story one more time and dove back into our imaging. We sat in a circle and shared some of the adventures we had been milling over in our heads. I then modeled what it might look like to set up at story-box. Then together, in French, we created an adventure using two animals: Salmon and Bear. The modeling part was extremely important for the learners in our class. It was great for them to be part of the planning, vocab review and storytelling process before going off with their partner. They knew exactly what was expected, they’d been part of one process, and then they knew they could invent their own adventure and story, or fall back onto retelling mine. Everyone felt successful, this was a key part of the lesson.
We then passed out the boxes, characters and loose parts and off they went! My oh my, our 22 four and five year old learners were SO empowered, it was magical to watch and listen to. The boxes were being set up, stories were being created and shared and the oral language French component was mind-blowing! After some time, they were given five more minutes to set everything up and place their characters down for tomorrow’s lesson. We met back at the circle after putting the boxes away, and reflected on how the lesson went. We shared things that went well, and things we’d like to improve. We reflected on how we were working towards meeting our daily goals during our story-box activity. We talked about tomorrow’s story-box plans.
On the third morning, we were excited to return back to our story-boxes. We knew and understood that our challenge was to retell our created story from yesterday, with our same partner. Then we were to try to extend our story by making it longer or more interesting to a listener. This was neat to experience and hear all of their ideas bubbling around the room. After about fifteen minutes, the children were invited to document their stories. They had the choice of illustrating a bird’s eye view of their story-box or using an iPad to take three still photographs (one of the beginning, middle and end of their story). I was surprised to see how many groups chose a clipboard versus the iPad ,this made me smile. Yes I am a strong believer of inviting learners to use technology as a tool for learning, but it needs to best suit their learning style. Through choice, learners are able to choose how they will learn and document, they know what works best for them.
After we had documented their stories and learning we transitioned into our free exploration time. It gave me goose bumps to see the storytelling continuing around the room in new areas with different parts and characters. A few of the girls decided they wanted to record their story during free exploration time. They worked together, with our volunteer, in the hallway (who does not speak much French at all -so this recording is all them).
This past week, we went through the same process. The story this week was ‘Goodnight World’. We followed the same three part process, with the same boxes and same characters. This week the children worked with different partners and were given a new character: the moon (la lune) and some yellow modeling clay which was for them to use how they wished (stars were very popular).
Please stay connected to hear how this process continues and evolves for our learners.