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The Challenges of Story as Thinking

The essential nature of story in children's lives - Kathy Short


One of the guiding principles of CREATE is that story is essential to children’s understandings of themselves and others. We see story as a way of thinking about and making sense of our lives and world. Every day we tell stories about our lives and listen to other’s stories in order to create meaning and to learn from our experiences. Stories are such a common everyday occurrence that we often do not realize the significant role they play as a thinking process. Story is, in fact, a primary act of mind as we dream, remember, hope, doubt, love, and hate through story. In order to really live, we make up stories about ourselves and others.

We are working to bring this broad understanding of story into our early childhood teacher education program through our coursework as well as into engagements with families and classrooms. The first semester our university students take a children’s literature course on books for young children and so that course has become a natural place to start our focus on story. The course begins, not with books, but with the concept of story as a way of thinking. We spend several weeks inviting preservice teachers to tell and reflect on stories from their lives as well as to read professional articles about the significance of story for young children.

After several weeks, we move into books but always connecting to the broad focus on story as the larger frame for the course. For example, the preservice teachers do a storytelling mini-inquiry, not just read-aloud mini-inquiries as in the past, and they do a family story interaction as part of a home visit where they use books to encourage oral family stories.

The questions we are pursuing are documenting the ways in which we need to change the children’s literature course and the types of course engagements that help preservice teachers develop a conceptual understanding of story. They come into the course expecting the focus to be on books and reading aloud to children, but we want them to think more conceptually about the role of story in children’s thinking and lives. We want to know what types of understandings they develop over time about stories and children. We also want to explore how this broader understanding of story gets woven across their other teacher education courses. This assumes, of course, that other instructors and classroom teachers also have a broad conceptual understanding of story and that’s not always the case.

So our challenges are to identity the engagements and readings that develop a conceptual understanding of story, to find ways to document changes in preservice teachers’ understandings about story, and to identify strategies for integrating story throughout all of the other courses and field work experiences.

Nov 03, 2011 01:10 AM | Comments (0)
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