To be a person is to have a story to tell.
I am sitting in Melissa Kolb’s preschool class next to Bree, a quiet, dark-haired girl who is coloring the picture she’s drawn. “Can you tell me about your picture?” I ask. “Tree house,” she responds. I realize Bree is shy, and wonder if she speaks much English. “Is it your tree house?” I ask. She tips her head down slightly to nod yes. “Can you tell me more?” She nods no with a slight smile.
I point to different sections of the page, asking gently “What’s this?” each time. Bree says her word carefully — sun, Barbie, moon, Gabby. Finally I ask, “Would you mind if I told you a story about this picture?” Bree smiles and nods affirmatively as I begin. “Once upon a time there was a little girl named Bree. One day she climbed up in her beautiful tree house. She climbed and climbed all the way to the top with her friend Gabby, watching the sun come up. They played with their Barbies all day long, till the sun started to go down. So they climbed all the way back down, out of the tree house, and skipped home as the moon rose. Then they lived happily ever after.”
I know — not exactly Shakespeare, right? Yet Bree claps her hands and exclaims, “Tell it again!” I retell the story one more time, compliment Bree on specific elements of her detailed drawing, then leave the table to visit other preschoolers who are happily chatting, drawing, and writing.
A few minutes later, I see Bree walking to another table with her drawing. I can hear her in the distance, telling the story to another child. She comes back to me a few minutes later and asks, “If I make another picture, can you tell another story about it?” I realize Bree’s English is fine — she is just a little quiet with strangers at first. I explain I will be leaving the classroom soon after my morning visit. “But that doesn’t matter — if you draw another picture, you can tell another story. It’s your story anyway, not mine.”
I learned many years ago about the natural progression of drawing to labeling to storytelling with young writers, yet it’s still magic to see the moment any writer realizes their sketches and words are stories. In all my years visiting classrooms, this is the first time I’ve appropriated the storytelling from a child, yet it felt right, especially after Bree immediately reclaimed the story to share with classmates. The story was there, just waiting to be told by someone.
This is the time of year when we’ve passed through beginnings and middles of the stories children will carry from our classrooms, and we’re rushing towards the finish line of the school year. What is the story (or stories) you want students to remember most from your classroom this year? Photos, blogs, and keepsake books can record the memories for students to carry away. But nothing replaces the value of sitting together quietly for a few minutes before the year ends and having each student begin with the words, “What I will remember most about this year is . . .”
This week we’re highlighting resources for shared reading. Plus more as always — enjoy!
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Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy archives to help you think in new ways about shared reading.
In Whatever Happened to Mrs. Wishy Washy?, Shari Frost makes a compelling case for the value of shared reading in the primary grades:
Katie DiCesare lists some of her favorite Picture Books for Shared Reading:
If you’re getting a little exasperated with children’s behavior late in the school year, you might want to check out Naming What Children Can Do from Responsive Classroom. It’s a positive approach to motivating students:
Is your classroom getting a little cluttered? We have suggestions for clever storage ideas with photos at this Choice Literacy Pinterest board:
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Shari Frost explains why shared reading is valuable for older students, with examples of the practice in the intermediate grades:
Melissa Kolb finds her three- and four-year-old students are ready for more focus during reading time. She outlines Three Ways to Build Purpose in a Preschool Reading Workshop:
In this week’s video, Franki Sibberson has her students read a blog post about books written for boys and girls, and this begins a fascinating discussion with the class about gender in reading choices:
Katherine Sokolowski brings the popular web “slice of life” challenge to her fifth-grade classroom. This is a fun and rigorous writing unit for late in the school year:
Finally, Andie Cunningham observes a third-grade teacher as she systematically improves the quality and depth of student questioning over time:
That’s all for this week!