Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tell Me a Story

For a number of years now my school has been holding Partners in Print evenings for families. These evenings are designed to help parents learn and practice ways to help their child grow as a reader and writer. Since moving to first grade from the upper grades I've helped present several of these evenings.

Last week we presented the first one for this year. For the first time we completely ditched the script (we've seriously modified scripts in the past). We decided to focus on storytelling because that is an important focus in our classrooms at the beginning of the year.

After giving some basic reasoning for our plan to help parents understand why we were doing what we did, one presenter told a personal family story. Then parents told their children their family stories; stories from their childhood, from the child's younger years, or even from other family members. It was amazingly fun to watch families talking and laughing together.

After telling stories we modeled writing the story in a book. Then we provided paper, pencils, crayons, and colored pencils. We weren't concerned about who did the writing and/or illustrating in the family, just that they were doing so together.

Our hope is that families will continue telling stories after this evening, every chance they get. Oral storytelling is an easy thing for families to do together and helps build an understanding of story structure. Children who haven't been read to regularly often don't have a foundation for stories. Telling family stories is a way all families can support this goal, regardless of whether there are books in the home and whether parents are literate in English or other languages. We all have stories to tell. I'm so glad I had this opportunity to hear some from our families.


Launa Hall said...

Absolutely beautiful. Look at these photos! Very inspiring.

Sarah said...

Wow, this is such a neat idea! What a special time for those families :)

Awave said...

This event seems so fantastic for supporting students in learning. It demonstrates genuine value for all individuals, families, languages, experiences. I am so curious about the details of how you enact this story-telling evening. How do you get families to attend? How is the event facilitated?

I am a student teacher and I am also wondering how you integrate this family story-telling with your curriculum. Because the year starts with story telling are your students then encouraged to write their own stories? Does it work best for the story telling to stick to paper and pencils or do you think some kind of technology, such as digital audio recording, might be useful?

What are some of the challenges that come with the story telling event and how do you prevent or handle them?

Thank you.

Jenny said...

@Awave Families attend if they want to. We send home information for several weeks and the teachers talk it up. But that's it. Well, we do also give each child a book to keep at the end of the evening. Teachers lead the event. We try to share that duty among the teachers at the grade levels involved so that no one has to be there every time.

We do encourage students to tell their own stories. They can write about anything they want, but we do a lot of modeling on telling our own stories. We do mostly paper and pencils, but we've been trying some technological options. We've used voicethread to great success as well as just having recorders for kids to share their stories. Really, anything we can do to get kids telling stories is worthwhile.

As to challenges, I'm sure there are many. We have a half-time parent coordinator (she's an ESOL teacher the other half time) who manages all the logistics. She arranges for translators for at least the 3 most common foreign languages in our school. So I don't have to think too much about those details, luckily.

Student Teacher said...

Wow, what a great way to teach your students and their parents! I am so excited that you have had a good turn out with so many family members.

As a pre-service teacher I am looking forward to bridging the gap between my students' classroom-life and that of their family-life. I am encouraged by your successful story night. Story telling sounds like a nice and non-threatening way to introduce adults to an additional way they can support their students' learning.

Thank you for sharing your story with us!

yujin said...

Wow! What a great way to get parents and families involved. I really love the idea of storytelling. I think this is a great way to involve students to write and just let them have fun. Thank you for sharing!

BookChook said...

Oral storytelling is such an old and honourable art form. I loved seeing the way you brought family members closer together by using it!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE that you ditched the script! You made it so much more meaningful for English language learners. At the same time, families connected with each other. I was there that night, greeting families at the door -- I'm so lucky to be a part of this school.