Finding stories; finding each other
About once a week in the Alder community of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds, we split the group in two, carefully considering friendships we want to support or stretch. We affectionately call this structure “half-sies.” The smaller groups give each person (children and adults) a chance to see, hear, and know one another in new ways. It also relieves some of the pressure that comes with navigating 20 relationships, and negotiating the use of materials among the whole group, so we can practice skills (such as routines at the beginning of the year or problem-solving throughout the year) or thinking protocols (such as Notice and Wonder) in more focused ways. We’ve found this structure supports the professional development of teachers, too, since they can continue growing their habits of inquiry, observation, documentation, and reflection with and about children in a smaller group.
During yesterday’s half-sies, the first one of this school year, the teachers wanted to introduce a new material (collage) and we hoped the children would find stories in it. At Morning Meeting, half the class was with Caroline. I was happily sitting with the group with a child in my lap. I was feeling relaxed and engaged, when suddenly I remembered that I had a job to do! So I jumped up, grabbed some tools, and started documenting. I really wish I videotaped this dialogue so you could see and hear the children’s energy, but this is what I’ve got.
Caroline: Sage, yesterday you were painting and you discovered a story about a unicorn. Did you know that would happen?
Sage (who is often withdrawn was full of gusto): A story just popped out of my head!!
Caroline: It was so exciting! I have something else that’s really exciting to tell you. Caroline whispers, Paint is not the only place where you can find stories.
Harrison: Stories are everywhere!
Caroline (in an animated and suspenseful way): Yes! Did you know that you can also find stories at blocks like Harrison? He told a dinosaur story last week. Or, you might find a story a in clay like Bella and Fritz? They found a story about a worm family. Now, I want to introduce you to a new material.
Caroline stands up to get a few collage materials and a piece of black felt off the table, where they’re setup for Explore. Several children cover their eyes in anticipation of a big surprise. She returns to the circle and places the items carefully on the floor.
Caroline: Are you ready to see?
The children open their eyes. A few friends say, Collage!
Caroline (nodding her head): This is collage, and it’s another material where you might find a story today.
The children lean forward and peer into the containers.
Sage: That green thing, that’s a snake. (Caroline smiles and carefully pulls out a snake and places it at the bottom of the black felt.)
Ivy: The white pompoms could be clouds. (Ivy picks up a few pompoms and scatters them across the top.)
Ian: Fire, a nice fire.
Sage: With these (picking up shimmery bronze tiles, she hands them to Caroline, who places them on the black felt).
Reece (pointing to blue pompoms): This can be the sky.
Leo (holding up a stick): This can be a person!
Ian (gathering two more sticks, adding to the one Leo offered): Daddy, Mommy, me.
Sage (knowing something special about her friend, Ian): And he has a little brother, one more.
Reece: They’re roasting marshmallows. (He hands Caroline a white pompom)
Sage (picking up another green thing): This is mommy snake; this is baby snake.
Ivy: This could be the sun!
Reece: Next to the clouds!
How does Story Workshop start with our youngest learners? On this day, it happened in half-sies, sitting beside each other, finding characters and details in a handful of materials, adding on to one another’s ideas, and connecting with one another in new ways.