Psicología del Arte – Lev Vygotsky

Psicología del Arte - Vygotsky 2006

El arte es lo social en nuestro interior, e incluso cuando su acción la lleva a cabo un individuo aislado, ello no significa que su esencia sea individual.  Resulta bastante ingenuo y desatinado confundir lo social con lo colectivo, como en una gran multitud de personas.  Lo social también existe cuando sólo hay una persona, con sus experiencias y tribulaciones individuales.  Por ello la acción del arte al realizar la catarsis y arrojar dentro de esa llama purificadora las experiencias, emociones y sentimientos más íntimos y trascendentes del alma, es una acción social.  Pero esta experiencia no se desarrolla según lo describe la teoría de la contaminación (en la que un sentimiento nacido en una persona contagia y contamina a todo el mundo y se convierte en social), sino justo al revés.  La fusión de sentimientos fuera de nosotros la lleva a cabo la fuerza del sentimiento social, que es objetivizado, materializado y proyectado fuera de nosotros y fijado entonces en objetos artísticos externos que se han convertido en herramientas de la sociedad.

–Vygotsky (2006, pag. 304)

El juego es muy importante para los niños de edad temprano.  Es la manera que los niños aprenden la mayoría que pueden aprender.  En su libro sobre el arte en general, y específicamente la literatura, Vygotsky dice que, “para el niño existe una similitud psicológica entre el arte y el juego” (2006, pág. 314).  Este significa que los niños pueden jugar y pueden hacer arte con los mismos pensamientos.

Lo veo este en mis clases todo el tiempo.  Cuando los niños dibujan ellos me dicen lo que hacen los personajes que dibujan.  Están imaginando con sus dibujos en una manera como el juego.  Con la literatura que hacen este es más evidente.  Las historias pueden ser obras del arte, pero para los niños las historias usan los mismos procesos psicológicos como el juego.  Las historias forman una manera de analizar el proceso psicológico del juego.

En sus historias, los niños juegan con las emociones y los sentimientos.  Los niños crean historias que usan humor, miedo, alegría, justicia, amor, y muchos más temas.  Usualmente los niños usan numeroso emociones en una historia.  Vygotsky revela que “una obra artística (como una fábula, un cuento, una tragedia) incluye siempre una contradicción afectiva, suscita sentimientos en conflicto y desemboca en el cortocircuito y la destrucción de dichas emociones” (Vygotsky 2006, pág. 263).

El concepto del uso de los sentimientos en conflicto se manifiesta en esta historia por Enid:

A Película en Rapunzel

Una vez estaba una princesa.  Y allí estaba en su castillo.  Y pues ella era Rapunzel.  Y pues allí hubo un señor en la casa.  Y pues cortó su pelo.  Y pues allí estaba un castillo en un bosque.  Y allí una vez hay un dragon.  Y pues un muchacho niño para matar a un dragon.  Y pues ellos se cazaron.  Y pues ellos estaban juntos.

En la narración, esta historia es maravillosa.  Tuvo un gran empiezo que estableció la protagonista y el escenario.  Hubo tensión, primero con el hombre en la casa que cortó su pelo, y después tensión más dramática con el dragón.  Finalmente la historia terminó con alegría cuando mataron al dragón y terminaron juntos.  Esta historia contenía una dualidad de manipulación emocional que hace gran literatura, uniendo temor con alegría en precisamente el momento perfecto.  El hecho que yo escribí “se cazaron” en lugar de lo que más probable quería decir “se casaron” muestre esta dualidad perfectamente.  Mientras mi miente estaba pensando en el matado del dragón, yo creía que ella hablaría sobra una caza de dragones, pero en precisamente ese punto en la historia ella cambió su sentido y habló sobre el matrimonio.

Vygotsky dice, “El acto de creación artística no puede enseñarse.  Esto no significa, sin embargo, que el educador no pueda cooperar a la hora de formarlo u ocasionarlo.  En el subconsciente penetramos a través del consciente” (Vygotsky 2006, pág. 313).  No enseñé a Enid cómo usar emociones en su obra, ni cómo yuxtaponerlos para cambiar el sentido de la obra.  Pero el hecho que reconocí esta obra como una obra que puede influir mis emociones mostró a ella que sus palabras tienen poder.  Y cuando los niños reconocen que sus palabras son poderosos, pueden manipular las palabras para mostrar su agencia.

Vygotsky señala que es importante considerar “el arte como método para construir la vida” (Vygotsky 2006, pág. 316).  Para los niños una cosa que es más importante en la vida es la familia.  Pues, muchos niños crean historias sobre la familia.  En esas historias, de frecuente un personaje pierde su familia, y el conflicto desarrolla de la búsqueda a su familia, como esta historia por Stephanie:

Elsa y Anna y un Oso Polar

Una vez una chiquito oso polar vino.  Un chiquita.  Y pues alguien vien.  Princesa Elsa.  Una vez el oso polar no quiere familia.  Y dijeron que ellos no van quedarte con nosotros todo tiempo.  Triste.  Y ella dijo, “¿Puedo regresa contigo un otro día?” Un otra dijoren, “Pior cien pueda quedar con nos otros.” Príncipe vino y el niña se casó las dos niñas Elsa y Anna.

Al primero, Stephanie contó esta historia en inglés, y después ella tradujo la historia en español.  En la versión en inglés, la oración “Una vez el oso polar no quiere familia,” era “And then the polar bear had no family” (“Y pues el oso polar no tenía familia”).  Ella usó la palabra “quiere” en lugar de la palabra “tiene.”

Este es interesante porque ella aún está aprendiendo español, y en su mente, las palabras “querer” y “tener” son indistinguibles en español.  Esta paradoja entre lo que el personaje quería y lo que el personaje tenía fue accidente, pero muestra una cosa muy importante en esta historia.  Si el oso polar no quería familia, el resto de la historia no tiene sentido.  ¿Por qué la osa polar está triste cuando Elsa y Anna no quieren quedarse con el oso polar?  ¿Por qué la osa polar pide regresar con ellas?

Las palabras que un autor elige son muy importantes.  Vygotsky dice que “Los sonidos sólo se tornan significativos si la palabra es significativa” (Vygotsky 2006, pág. 96).  Para Stephanie, los sonidos de las palabras “quiere” y “tiene” son bastantes similares para intercambiar las palabras, pero para un lector de español las palabras tienen significativos muy diferentes.

Este es muy importante, porque el significativo se construye en el elemento social.  Creo que lo más importante de este libro es la declaración de Vygotsky que “El arte es lo social en nuestro interior, e incluso cuando su acción la lleva a cabo un individuo aislado, ello no significa que su esencia sea individual” (Vygotsky 2006, pág. 304).

 

En la mes que viene más probable hablaré sobre el libro, Educating Emergent Bilinguals por García y Kleifgen (2010).  Si hay un libro que usted quiere que yo discute en este blog, por favor haga comentario en la página de Lectura Recomendada.

 

Referencias

García, O. & J.A. Kleifgen (2010). Educating emergent bilinguals: Policies, programs, and practices for English language learners.  Nueva York: Teachers College Press.

Vygotsky, L. (2006 [1971, 1925]). Psicología del arte (C. Roche, Trad.).  Barcelona, España: Ediciones Paidós.

 

 

From Lullabies to Literature – Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse

(en español)

From Lullabies to Literature - Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse 2007

It is lunchtime and there are two empty seats at the table.  Everybody knows that Trinity and Amanda are best friends, so the two seats have been left for them.  But neither Trinity nor Amanda wants to come to the table.  They had gotten in an argument and told each other that they never wanted to be friends again.  Now, with the only two seats remaining being next to each other, they refuse to come.

I approach them and bring them together away from the table and place myself between them.  I tell them a story from my childhood.  It is a story of when I was a child and I had an argument with my best friend, and we said we would never be friends again.  I tell them how I had gone home that day and cried, but the next day we were playing together again, and even today I still am friends with him on facebook.  I tell them I can sit between them at lunchtime to help them while they are arguing, but that I think they will be friends again.  They don’t believe me, but join me at the table.  Sure enough, that afternoon they were inseparable once again.

Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse say that “Stories can cross the borders of time and place better than many other experiences because they connect children and adults to each other through the sharing of universal feelings and experiences” (Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse 2008, p. 7).  In this situation, Trinity and Amanda were having difficulties with conflicting feelings.  They had been close friends all year, but recently Amanda had gone away for an extended time, and ever since her return they were having more arguments and their friendship appeared to be suffering.  But my story helped bring them closer together by helping them to realize that they can come back together after an argument.

Many people equate the word “story” in a classroom with the word “book”.  When I talk about telling a story to a child in my class, people often assume I am referring to reading a book.   But stories are both much deeper and more diverse than that.  As this example reveals, told stories can also play a very powerful role in the classroom.  Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse tell us that “told stories can extend linguistic learning that happens through natural conversations and language play” (Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse 2008, p. 74).

In my bilingual classroom, linguistic learning is very important.  While I read books in both languages, my told stories for a long time were only in English.  I recall the moment I realized that I needed to start creating told stories in Spanish.  In my classroom we had these Story Starters in a Jar, published by a company called Free Spirit Publishing.  They contain a short phrase with an ellipsis in a thought bubble to help trigger the imagination.  Several children enjoyed using the Story Starters to tell their own stories. When I noticed that they were all in English, I contacted Free Spirit Publishing to see if they had a Spanish version available.  They did not, and also informed me that they had no intention of publishing a Spanish version.  They gave me permission to translate them myself for my classroom.

A short time after adding the Spanish version to my classroom, Brandon told me he wanted to do one of the Story Starters in a Jar.  I decided to try out the Spanish ones with him.  As I read it to him, he stared at me blankly.  I read it to him again and he stared at me blankly again.  After repeating this several times, I asked him if he was going to finish the story and he told me, “You know what, I change my mind.  I don’t want to do this.” I then offered to make up a story myself based on the story starter, and he sat and listened to my story in Spanish.

However, I discovered I had difficulty creating a story in Spanish.  I realized that I needed to tell stories in Spanish more often.  Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse say that “Children with little or no knowledge of English will generally enjoy the same stories as children who are native English speakers, provided that you are expressive and use props when you share them” (Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse 2008, p. 83).  I quickly discovered that the same is true for English speakers when telling stories in Spanish.

One day shortly thereafter I told a story in Spanish at lunchtime.  It was a story about a rabbit going for a walk in the grass and coming across a dog.  The rabbit ran home to its mother who kept it safe.  Later that day Amanda created the following story:

Cat

One day there was a little cat.  And then she saw a rat.  And then when the rat saw the cat it ran away into the forest, because that’s where its home was.  But it didn’t know the path home.  And then the little mouse found a tree.  It found its home.  And then the cat found another rat.

She replaced the rabbit with a rat/mouse, and the dog with a cat.  Otherwise, a great deal of this story follows the structure of the story I had told at lunchtime.

As I considered Amanda and Trinity’s relationship, I thought about this story of Amanda’s and what it revealed about the nature of dangers outside of the home.  Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse reveal that “Stories weave bright threads of communication and connection through all human relationships” (Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse 2008, p. 116).  Amanda connected with my story and retold it in her own way because it was one that strengthened our relationship by speaking to her concerns of the time, namely her fears of not connecting with others away from home; her fears that her teachers and peers at school will be more like the cat than like another rat or mouse.

Trinity was exploring similar fears around this time, and she created the following story:

Me and My Amigos

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  And her name was [Amanda].  And there was another girl named [Trinity].  And there was a boy named [Seth].  And then there was a little girl named [Bridget].  And they were doing a story.  And they were doing outside.  And there was a big storm.  And then the storm made me so powerful that it made me mean.  And then there was the sun.

For Trinity, her story expressed a great desire for friends, and she added many peers as characters to be her friends in her story.  However, she realized that friendship can be like the weather.  It can go from sunny to stormy in an instant.  And when that storm approaches, she herself can become mean.  But she also realized that it can go the other direction and the sun can come back just as suddenly.

Not long after the lunchtime incident where Amanda and Trinity refused to come to the table, they got into another argument.  My personal story had served its purpose that day, but it was a temporary solution, and now once again they didn’t want to be near each other.  Birckmayer, Kennedy / Stonehouse tell us that “when we listen to their stories, we model attentiveness and reinforce children’s willingness to listen carefully when others share stories with them” (Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse 2008, p. 15).  I decided this time to demonstrate such attentiveness to one of Trinity’s own stories and use it as an example rather than one of my own.  I pulled out my computer and read her story from long before, “Me and My Amigos.” I told her what I had noticed about friendships being like the weather.  She instantly showed that she recognized this analogy when she said, “Me and [Amanda] are having a storm right now.”

They came together to act out one of Amanda’s stories as well, and the next day, when they got into an argument once more, they immediately resolved it without my intervention.  Through stories, they were able to come together and find their friendship once again, demonstrating how “the gift of stories can greatly improve any early childhood program” (Birckmayer, Kennedy & Stonehouse 2008, p. 113).

 

Next month I will most likely be discussing the book Including One, Including All by Leslie Roffman and Todd Wanerman.  If there is a book you would like to see me discuss in this blog, please comment on the Recommended Reading page.

 

References

Birckmayer, J., A. Kennedy, & A. Stonehouse. (2008). From lullabies to literature: Stories in the lives of infants and toddlers. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Roffman, L. & T. Wanerman. (2011). Including one, including all: A guide to relationship-based early childhood education. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

 

Documentar la vida de los niños y las niñas en la escuela – Rosa Sensat

Documentar la vida de los niños y las niñas en la escuela - Sensat 2011(in English)

He pensado mucho en cuál libro a leer para el regreso de este blog. Creo que es importante que discuto la observación de los niños en la clase, porque este blog es sobre mis observaciones con relación a los libros que leo. Pues, leí el libro Documentar la vida de los niños y las niñas en la escuela (Sensat 2011), mostramos nuestras observaciones de los niños por medio de la documentation.

He enseñado en muchas clases a través de los años, y los niños han aprendido mucho. Pero yo también he aprendido mucho por mis observaciones. Y también los niños, si lo saben o no, me han enseñado mucho. Como dice David Altimir, “los niños y los adultos tienen que estar, para aprender, en relación con los demás” (Altimir 2011, p. 38). Los niños y yo tenemos que estar en relación mutua. Cuando yo pienso en lo que los niños dicen, cuando yo reflexiono en lo que pasa en la clase, cuando yo hablo con mis estudiantes sobre mis reflexiones, nosotros ambos aprendemos. Una forma de observar los niños es escuchar. Altimir dice, “La escucha pone al adulto en la condición de observador, pero no de observador neutro y objetivo, sino en la condición de un elemento subjetivo que forma parte de la realidad que está observando y que no solo la describe, sino que construye” (Altimir 2011, p. 39).

En una de mis clases, Irene iba a clases de ballet. En el invierno yo observé a ella bailando el ballet de “Cascanueces.” A ella le gustaba contar historias de balet de no ficción. Ella me contaba frecuenemente sobre una “prima balerina” que necesitaba cirugía en su pierna y no podía hacer ballet por mucho tiempo.

A Irene también le gustaba contar historias de ficción sobre princesas. Una vez ella empezó una historia que yo pensaba fue una historia de ficción. Empezó así, “Una vez estaba una balerina. Y ella era una princesa. Y ella tenía una hermano. Que quaría la hermana. Y después estaba otra hermana. Y ella no era una balerina. Ella era una reina. Y ella se llamaba Isabella.” Pero ahora ella se detuvo la historia. Ella me dijo que no pudo recordar. Le dije, “No tienes que recordar. Tienes que imaginar.” Pero ella me dijo, “No quiero.”

La actividad de contar historias usualmente es una actividad de una dirección. Los niños cuentan, y yo escribo. Es una forma de observar por escuchar. Pero Mara Davoli revela que “’observar’ es un verbo activo, un acto creativo que requiere nuestra interpretación” (Davoli 2011, p. 16).

Cuando Irene me dijo que no quería imaginar lo que seguía en su historia, tuve que actuar en la observación. Pues, tuvimos una conversación.

Irene: El hermano no estaba una prima balerina. ‘Cause I forgot [Porque me olvidé].

Jeff: ¿Sí?

Irene: Don’t write that down [No escriba eso].

Jeff: ¿Qué, qué era el hermano?

Irene: Él, then, so, do you know Cristoran Col- Columbust [pues, conoces a Cristoran Col-Columbust]?

Jeff: ¿Quién?

Irene: Cristonal Canaldis.

Jeff: No ¿Quién es?

Irene: There was two sisters. Isabella was younger. And her mom was again named Isabella. And, um, and, um, she had two older brothers. Yeah. And, um, she had so many, like, goldens. And Cristobal Canaldis came. And he s- wanted to buy two boats. Three boats. First, there wasn’t anything here. They didn’t know about Sfran Ticisco. Yeah. [Hubo dos hermanas. Isabella era menor. Y su madre también se llamaba Isabella. Y tenía dos hermanos mayores. Y tenía mucho oro. Y “Cristobal Canaldis” vino, y él quería comprar dos barcos, tres barcos. Al principio, no había nada aquí. No sabían sobre “Sfran Ticisco”. Sí]

Jeff: ¿Dónde, de dónde estaba?

Irene: There wasn’t anything and they didn’t know about Fran Francisco. And Cristobal Columbus wanted, and he was going to get all the way there. And going to see, see, para ver. [No hubo nada y no sabían sobre “Fran Francisco”. Y Cristobal Colón quería, y él iba a ir todo el camino allí. Y iba para ver]

Jeff: ¿Y él vino a San Francisco?

Irene: Sí. And there was just water. And he putted all the gold into it. In there. And then people took some. And then they died. [Y sólo había agua. Y él puso todo el oro adentro. Adentro allí. Y pues la gente llevó algunos. Y pues murieron.]

Jeff: Awww…

Irene: I don’t think so [No lo creo].

Jeff: Porque, porque estaba hace mucho mucho tiempo, ¿sí?

Irene: Sí. Antes que personas, antes de esto estaba aquí. Antes una vez estaba aquí.

Ella contaba la historia de Cristobal Colón, pero yo cambié la historia por mis preguntas. ¿Qué era el hermano? ¿Quién es “Cristonal Canaldis”? ¿De dónde estaba? ¿Él vino a San Francisco? ¿Estaba hace mucho tiempo? Pero toda esta conversación no estaba parte de la historia escrita, porque ella me dijo que yo no escriba. Ayudó a ella pensar en su historia, y cuando ella regresó a la cuenta después de esa conversación, ella supo lo que quería decir.

Esta fue la historia completa, con el título A Long Long Time Ago [Hace mucho mucho tiempo]: “Una vez estaba una balerina. Y ella era una princesa. Y ella tenía una hermano. Que quaría la hermana. Y después estaba otra hermana. Y ella no era una balerina. Ella era una reina. Y ella se llamaba Isabella. Y lo dió responeras a Cristobal Colón. Y él fue a los barcos. Y quiere estuvió en San Francisco. The End.”

La documentación de la historia escrita fue una buena documentación, pero no era completa. Para entender toda que la niña decía, necesitamos la grabación también, porque la grabación de la conversación revela cómo ella hizo la historia. Irene escuchó a la grabación, y podía reflexionar no sólo sobre lo que había hecho, sino también sobre cómo lo había hecho, que es muy importante para aprender. Como dice Davoli, “Hacer es importante, pero no es suficiente. Hay que permitir a los niños y niñas, y a nosotros mismos, tiempo para reflexionar sobre lo que se ha hecho y sobre cómo se ha hecho” (Davoli 2011, pp. 18-19).

Escuchar la documentación no sólo ayuda a Irene reflexionar en sus pensamientos, sino yo también. Pienso en mis preguntas para Irene. Hay cinco preguntas importantes en aprendizaje: Quién, Qué, Dónde, Cuándo, Por qué. Yo pregunté Quién (¿Quién es ‘Cristonal Canaldis’?), Qué (¿Qué era el hermano?), Dónde, (¿De dónde estaba?), y Cuándo ( ¿Estaba hace mucho, mucho tiempo?), pero no pregunté “Por qué”, pregunta muy importante. Mientras reflexioné en la documentación, miré que yo pudiera preguntado “¿Por qué vino a San Francisco?”, o “¿Por qué necesitó tres barcos?” Quizás con esta pregunta ella pensara más.

Es importante que observamos los estudiantes, pero también es importante que reflexionamos en lo que observamos. Rosa Sensat dice “no es posible documentar solo, porque sobre lo documentado es necesario un diálogo, es necesario que el otro o la otra pueda comprender, hay que estar dispuesto a desnudarse y a aceptar la crítica” (Sensat 2011, p. 11), entonces yo quiero un diálogo aquí si es posible. Por favor hacen comentarios sobre lo que piensan de esta discusión.

El mes que viene más probable estaré discutiendo el libro “Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism” por Colin Baker (2011). Si haya un libro sobre que le gustaría que yo escriba en esta blog, por favor haga comentario en la página de Lectura Recomendada.

 

Altimir, D. (2011). Escuchar para documentar. En R. Sensat (Ed.) Documentar la vida de los niños y las niñas en la escuela (págs. 37-51). Barcelona, España: Octaedro.

Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism, 5th edition. Bristol, RU: Multilingual Matters.

Davoli, M. (2011). Documentar procesos, recoger señales. En R. Sensat (Ed.) Documentar la vida de los niños y las niñas en la escuela (págs. 15-26). Barcelona, España: Octaedro.

Sensat, R. (2011). Documentar la vida de los niños y las niñas en la escuela. Barcelona, España: Octaedro.

 

Literacy Through Play – G. Owocki

(en español)

Literacy Through Play - Owocki 1999This month I read the book Literacy Through Play by Gretchen Owocki (1999).  Of course, there is already a wealth of information in the early childhood field on the topics of play and of literacy, as well as the relationship between the two.  Owocki’s statement that “In a developmentally appropriate classroom, play time is teaching time” (1999, p. 29), seems to be reflective of the attitude of nearly every early childhood educator I meet.  While play would seem to be universally utilized to some degree in virtually all preschool classrooms, primary classrooms are often not so fortunate.  I will therefore be discussing Owocki’s text in relationship to my student teaching experience in an inner-city third grade classroom.

Despite all of my university courses stressing the importance of play throughout the entire early childhood span of birth through third grade, in my midterm competency appraisal for my student teaching experience my university supervisor declared standard 4Bb, “Plans and implements a curriculum that incorporates play” (NLU 2012, p. 26) to be “Not Applicable” to the third grade public school classroom I was assigned to.  But as Owocki points out, “Play allows teachers to respond to children’s ideas, to help them elaborate on their thinking, and to help them see the world of literacy through many lenses” (1999, p. 39).  I therefore made efforts to incorporate play into my literacy curriculum.

This was not an easy task, as I received pressure from the public school to conform my curriculum to that being taught in the other third grade classrooms.  However, with the benefit of my experience as a preschool teacher, as well as support from my university supervisor, I found myself with surprising freedom when it came to teaching writing.  With the understanding that by the end of my unit I would have covered the same topics that other third grade classrooms were covering, I was given the freedom to stray from the prescribed curriculum to some degree and teach those topics in my own way based on a teaching method I’d found particularly successful in preschool.

Owocki indicates that “If children do not understand that reading and writing serve important functions, then there is little reason for them to read or write” (1999, p. 56).  She additionally states that “Developing a clear message for an audience is fundamental to effective communication” (1999, p. 21).  I strove to make literacy meaningful by providing the children a greater understanding of audience.  I did this by incorporating drama into the writing curriculum.  The sequence for the unit was as follows:

  • Week 1 – Story Dramatization – Students learn to retell a familiar story by acting it out.
  • Weeks 1-2 – Writing Dramatizations – Students learn to incorporate peer feedback by dramatizing and discussing as a class their written stories.
  • Week 2 [Math] – Making Change – Students learn to make monetary change by ordering DVDs of their dramatized stories.
  • Week 3a – Character Traits – Students learn to describe characters by discussing the character traits of the roles they are portraying when dramatizing each others’ stories.
  • Week 3b – Guest Speaker: Editor-in-Chief – Students learn about the process of editing from the editor-in-chief of a local university newspaper.
  • Week 4 – Setting – Students learn to visualize and describe a setting through the use of props.
  • Week 5 – Chronology – Students learn to describe a sequence of events in their stories.
  • Weeks 5-6 – Spelling – Students learn to use accurate spelling to improve readability.
  • Week 6 [Social Studies] – Election – Students learn about the upcoming election by voting on the title and cover illustration for a class anthology.
  • Week 7 – Punctuation – Students learn to use periods, capital letters, and quotation marks to improve readability.

Throughout the seven weeks of this unit, the children dramatized stories on a daily basis, transforming their writing into play.  Of course, some teachers might say that dramatization of written stories may not be considered play in the fullest sense of the word, but I would argue that it meets Owocki’s criteria for the most complex form of play, in which, “Dramatic play is characterized by the mental transformation of objects, actions, and situations” (1999, p. 11).  In my student teaching the children were able to mentally transform themselves and the various props that were provided into fictive elements developed from the children’s own imaginations.

Owocki reveals that “Play allows teachers to respond to children’s ideas, to help them elaborate on their thinking, and to help them see the world of literacy through many lenses” (1999, p. 39).  In my writing curriculum I was able to utilize the play to provide a forum for discussing important topics in relationship to writing.  With the exceptions of Week 2 [Math], Week 3b, and Week 6 [Social Studies], each topic was discussed in direct relationship to a specific story or stories written by the students and dramatized during that week.  These play-fueled discussions helped to build the type of social community that Owocki is discussing when she states that “all of the children within the social community activate zones [of proximal development (Vygotsky 1978, p. 87)] all over the classroom as they play, talk, and share their understandings of the world” (1999, pp. 50-51).

By using the children’s own stories and play as the driving force behind the curriculum, I engaged the children in writing in a way that enticed them to enjoy the task.  As Owocki says, “Through stories, children experience imaginative ideas, new possibilities for doing things, and diverse ways of thinking and living” (1999, p. 62).  Children’s excitement about the idea of bringing play into the third grade classroom in this way was evident even before the process had begun, as can be seen in the following excerpt from my student teaching journal:

As the last few children were finishing up their character webs, I made a big show of setting up the projector.  The children were curious and asked me all sorts of questions about what we were going to do with it, during which I remained silent and allowed their imaginations to compound their curiosity.  Finally, I responded to the most persistent child, Yousef, who was at this point asking if we were going to watch a movie, to which I told him that we would, but that it would be a very short one.

This got many of the children excited and on the edges of their seats.  The stragglers for the character webs went to the task with renewed vigor, anxious to finish so that they could see what I was going to be showing them on the projector.…  I quickly finished setting up the projector and I showed them a single short clip that I often show in workshops I give on the topic of story dictation and dramatization.  I introduced the clip by telling the children that, just like we dramatized a chapter from Horrible Harry (Kline, 2000) yesterday, I often had my preschoolers dramatize stories that they created.  I explained that the preschoolers didn’t know how to write yet, so I had to write the words for their stories, but the children created the stories and then got to act them out.

The entire clip was a minute and ten seconds, and the children had their eyes glued to the screen with excitement throughout.  They laughed and enjoyed watching the preschooler’s story dramatized along with the children in the video.

After the clip was over I then told them that, just like the children in the video, that we would get to dramatize their own stories.  I asked them to think about this as they did their stamina writing.  The children got very excited by this prospect, Pierce and Joseph in particular.  So much so, that when I had to stop them during their stamina writing because one of the children got distracted, the children got upset and demanded that I let them write more.  I did, and they went even longer, which surprised me since they didn’t have a break between the two attempts.

Nor did this enthusiasm for writing die down over the course of the curriculum.  In fact, it actually increased, as can be seen in this excerpt from my final reflection on the unit:

I have them hooked.  I’ve introduced writing in a way that has the children engaged and excited.  As I’m transitioning to get the children back on the same page as the rest of the third grade writing curriculum, I have been teaching the same writing lesson that the other third grade teachers are doing this week.  We’ve given the children scarves and told them to pretend that they are magic scarves that give the wearer superpowers.  They are to write stories based on the superpower their scarf would give them.…

Pierce tends to take a little bit longer at tasks than most other students, but the same enthusiasm I saw at the beginning of my writing program was still there when he told me that he wasn’t quite done [with his superscarf story] as we were getting ready for recess today.  I started to tell him that he could finish it over the weekend as he worked on his second draft, but he cut me off to tell me that he wanted to stay and work on it during recess.  I then made it clear that he didn’t have to do that and that he could do it over the weekend, but he still insisted on staying during recess.  It took him about five minutes to finish before he went outside.…

While I am not happy to see the children missing out on their time to engage in play, it excites me that the children choose to use their free time to work on writing.  As the writing curriculum prior to this week is the only part of my curriculum that has not been already shaped by the third grade team, this gives me a sense of satisfaction that I’ve done something right.

In my opinion, it is the desire to write more than anything else that is the greatest thing a literacy program can help cultivate in children.  Style and mechanics will all eventually come if they have the motivation to pursue them.  In the words of Gretchen Owocki, “Once children have a reason to use print, they naturally explore its features” (1999, p. 25).

I welcome and encourage comments and discussion on this post.  Also, if you have a book that you think would interest me and would like to see me discuss in this blog, please feel free to comment with your recommendation.  Next month I will be discussing the book Teaching Community by bell hooks (2003).

References

hooks, b. (2003). Teaching community: A pedagogy of hope. New York, NY: Routledge.

Owocki, G. (1999). Literacy through play. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Kline, S. (2000). Horrible Harry moves up to third grade (F. Remkiewicz, Illus.). New York: Penguin.

National-Louis University (2012). Early childhood education undergraduate and graduate student teaching handbook. Online: http://www.nl.edu/t4/media/nlu/downloadable/nce/studentmaterials/ECEStudTchngHandbook2012.pdf

Vygotsky, L.S.  (1978 [1930-1935]).  Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes.  (M. Cole, S. Scribner & E. Souberman, Trans. & Eds.) Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.