Tuesday, September 11, 2012

“Playing is still the greatest training you can have, I think, for being a writer. It helps you love life, it helps you relax, it helps you cook up interesting stuff in your head.”  

Cynthia Rylant

I was given the opportunity to travel to a conference this summer hosted at the Opal School, a public charter school in Portland, Oregon. The school is Reggio inspired and shares many similarities with our school. We left feeling a sense of inspiration and affirmation.

The Opal School devotes a portion of the morning to a rhythm referred to as Story Workshop. The children play and create using the languages of drama, design, paints, building, clay, sketching, dance, music and the many imaginable and unimaginable expressions of ideas. As they play and create the children are asked to record the story they are telling. The teachers assist in capturing the story. The story is then retold to others and represented using other languages. This process encourages the author(s) to dig deeper, revise, answer questions and develop the story further.

We have also worked in this way in the Sabot classrooms. Collaborative stories were woven in the past with a large group of children during Investigative Research (or project time). These stories relied on  sketching, music and play to pull and stretch the story. We were true believers and knew that this rhythm would be worth instituting as a part of our Literacy Workshop.

Would you like a glimpse?

Ella drew a story in her sketchbook. As she drew, she talked to her friends and elaborated the details. Later, we asked her to use design materials to tell her story again. What happens when you are asked to represent an idea using a new language? Have you ever had this experience as an adult or even in your memories of childhood? Have you ever witnessed a child in the process of doing this?

Ella owned a farm. She had animals, too. She had a duck, some pigs and a giraffe. Ella did all of the work while her sisters were at school.

Jericho used clay to tell a story that was peculating in his mind.

"This is a volcano that shoots fireballs into the sky."

This story was retold by his friends using the media of water colors. Notice the colors that they used to capture the movement of the clay and the power of his words.

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