For the past two weeks we have been basing our work around the brilliant book I am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz. I must admit that I was not sure how this class would respond – but they absolutely loved it. We thought about thinking and what we would think if we were Henry Finch; we shared what we were good at and what we would like to get better at; we made a flock of finches with our thumb prints and discovered how we could create different characters with just a few pencil lines. We were scared at the beast and drew our own beasts, describing them with all sorts of wonderful words. We even made up words to describe the noises in the beast’s stomach – how about that creators of the phonic screening check!! One morning when we arrived in school we discovered a set of beast footprints and worked out the beast must have been there in the night. The footprints had numbers on them and so by following the order of the numbers we worked out where the beast had been. It was all really exciting and the children were completely engaged throughout. Of course they are still a lively class who are learning how to learn but they were drawn into the story and gained from it.
I have always advocated the power of story and these past few weeks have confirmed that for me. A text based curriculum seems to be the obvious way to go. It is also the introduction of story into all parts of the day which has reminded me of the importance of narrative to the sense making process. We have a puppet lion called Learning Lion. He asks the children after every session what they have learned and I have had several conversations with Learning Lion about whether we think an activity is too difficult for them – Learning Lion is usually more optimistic than I am!
At the end of a day when they are tired, noisy and fractious the children will sit quietly and listen to a story. This afternoon we read The Wonder by Faye Hanson. It is a magical book with wonderful illustrations which take you into the imagination and beyond. The children were entranced and each double page spread led to lots of ideas and questions. At the end they all closed their eyes and let their imaginations wander to think what they might put on an empty square of paper. Yes – my lively chatty, wriggly, troublesome class sat absolutely still with their eyes closed for three minutes giving their imaginations free rein. Such is the power of story!
What is story doing for this class?
- I believe it is uniting them into a more cohesive whole. Through the shared experiences of listening and responding to stories they talk and compare reactions and ideas.
- The stories challenge their thinking and inspire them to do much more than they normally might. They provide a framework for their learning.
- They are introduced to different ways of using language and thinking and sometimes these words are used in their oral and written compositions
- Story enriches the whole curriculum, broadening it from the rather simplistic statements to which learning often seems to be reduced
It has been exciting to see story work its magic in the classroom this week. Barbara Hardy’s well-worn description of narrative as a ’primary act of mind’ is absolutely true; next week we start to explore traditional stories through The Jolly Postman. It’s going to be fun!