Developing a Culture of Story Workshop

“Our expectations of the child must be very flexible and varied. We must be able to be amazed and enjoy like the children often do.  We must be able to catch the ball that the children throw us, and toss it back to them in ways that make the children want to continue the game with us, developing, perhaps, other games as we go along.” ~ Loris Malaguzzi

When I consider developing a culture of Story Workshop, Loris Malaguzzi’s ball toss metaphor resonates with me because of the way in which it acknowledges the children’s role in the development of curriculum. It’s nearly impossible to play a game of toss when your partner has no interest or desire to try and catch – or even pick up – the ball you’ve tossed. This is also true as we’re developing a culture of Story Workshop. The teacher doesn’t develop this culture in isolation, but is a player in the game, tossing the ball again and again and carefully attending to how the children are receiving the many balls that we toss and the ways in which they are (or are not) tossing them back to us.

From the very first day of school, the language we use, the provocations we offer, the texts we read together, the invitations we give, and the expectations we set are all a part of this game of ball toss. As teachers, we make choices about what to pay attention to and what to bring forward and highlight for both the whole group and for each individual child. We have the ability to set a tone, but we alone don’t create the culture. We create culture by living it and we do so in collaboration with the children, who are also working and living within this space every day. The ways in which we and the children respond – how we continue the game of toss – shape the culture we are working to create together.

In this module, I share a series of small stories collected from the earliest days of the school year to highlight some of the things I pay attention to as I work to develop a culture of Story Workshop. I’ll try and call out the ways in which I’m engaged in a game of toss by sharing with you some of my intentions, what I observed, and where those observations might lead me to next.

I think it helps to share with you some of my hopes and intentions in the earliest days of constructing that culture:

  • I want children to know that the environment and community they are working in is a safe space where they will find connections, work through problems and challenges, and feel a strong sense of belonging.
  • I want them to know what it is we are doing during Story Workshop – to know that their words and ideas are what drives the curriculum, that what they care about matters, and that the work doesn’t happen without those ideas. I want to support the development of their sense of agency, to care deeply about their work as authors and the impact it will have on others.
  • Finally, I want them to know what resources are available to support them in these goals. I want them to know that we never do this work in isolation; that we will turn to mentor authors, materials, and each other along the way.

This Module is organized into the following sections:

Connection with Peers

-Cracking Open Words

A Sense of Agency

Exploring the Relationship Between Materials and Ideas

Reading the World

Invitation: Developing a Culture of Story Workshop in Your Setting

Additional Resources

Don’t forget to grab your notebook and give yourself time to capture your reflections as you explore this content. Find a colleague to work through the module with that you can ask questions with and share your reflections together!

Course Discussion