How did they carry out the best practice?
LEARNING THROUGH COLLABORATIVE STORYTELLING. VIOLET, THE STORY OF A BUTTERFLY, “an ambassador of sustainability” is a learning practice based on a collective creativity process aimed at pre-school children. It is a story created in a collaborative format involving a mysterious writer, 3 classes of 5 years old children, their Philosophy and kindergarten teachers along a period of about 15 weeks. The mysterious writer is someone children don’t know who is. He/she challenges the children with a story with a sequence of chapters. New insights given by children through a “conversational writing” process, are sequentially incorporated in the story by the mysterious writer.
The process of building up the story has 5 steps.
1: CREATING THE STORY: The mysterious writer creates a story organized as a sequence of chapters.
2: INVOLVING / ENGAGING THE AUDIENCE: The mysterious writer sends a letter to all the children inviting and encouraging them to collaborate and become part of the storytelling. The letter also refers the central theme of the story, introduces the main character, the setting and the conflict. At the classroom, with their philosophy and kindergarten teachers, children listen and discuss the theme of the story and the main character, ask questions to clarify meaning, evaluate the relationship, sequence and coherence of story path before sequentially participating in building up the story.
3: BUILDING A COMMUNITY OF INQUIRY: Following the sharing of the story, children are asked to create questions that are based on what they are curious about or interesting in. Questions may reflect their ideas about the whole story or part of it. At home, parents are also invited to collaborate with children by helping them to search for information or by providing information to answer their questions. Kindergarten teachers’ collet the children questions, answers and arguments and communicate the follow up to the mysterious writer by sending her a letter. Every week the mysterious writer confronts the children with a new chapter by sending a new letter and the inquiry process is repeated again.
4: CONTENT SHARING: The mysterious writer brings into the light the ideas generated by children through a “conversational writing” process, giving textual cohesion to the story. Along the “conversational writing” process children take in what the mysterious writer has created, evaluate it, and synthesize that content with their own thoughts to create a new idea. They use problem-solving skills to figure out how the pieces fit together to create the whole. Moreover, they discover and benefit from the social nature of writing.
5: WRITING THE STORY: The collected information allows the mysterious writer to integrate new episodes or develop different branches of the story. When the story reaches the end, the mysterious writer is revealed.
The approach uses the potential of storytelling to develop and expand children learning skills:
i) EMERGENT LITERACY and LANGUAGE SKILLS. Emergent literacy in a broad sense refers to an over-all attitude toward the development of a communication system. Literacy is not a product but includes the dynamic process of inter-relating thinking/view, listening, speaking, writing and reading.
Children take conscience that people use different ways to communicate: Speaking and Writing. They learn how to treat right, to ask questions, to give answers. They become aware of different intonations (prosody).
ii) The characters we use in handwriting are different from those in printed writing. The Mysterious Writer’s letters are handwritten and the chapters are written on a computer. The Story of Violet uses fables, proverbs, songs, rhymes that are part of the oral heritage and also children’s literature. This will prepare kindergarten children with the language background needed for the refinement of reading and writing in primary school level.
iii) listening and paying attention. Children retain information through their interactions with others and this includes language skills. The more children listen to what others have to say, the better their vocabulary and communication become;
iv) narrative development skills. As children’s narrative skills develop they will begin to follow the rules of storytelling such as the correct sequencing of events, including all relevant characters and establishing a coherent narrative. During a collaborative learning session, children develop their social skills and learn together which improves their relationships with one another in the class.;
v) collaborative learning skills Collaborative learning helps children develop compassionate and realistic expectations of one another Children are valued for their differences and learn and grow together;
vi) critical thinking. Thinking clearly and systematically can improve the way children express their own ideas. In learning how to analyse the logical structure of texts/narratives, critical thinking also improves comprehension abilities. Critical thinking helps children to make good decisions, understand the consequences of their actions and solve problems. Encouraging this kind of thinking early in a children’s life prepares them for understanding the books they will read on their own later on;
vii) environmental literacy. The story provides a context for introducing natural science, contents and addressing/questioning societal problems, which will prepare children for citizenship, nurtures their appreciation of the natural world, and enhances their physical well-being.
viii) gross motor skills: children observe the movements of the various animals in the story and discover how they use their bodies to get moving (e.g. crawl, run, jump, etc). Having good motor control helps children to explore the world around them and also helps with their cognitive development.