Thursday, November 11, 2010

Board Stories at Beansprouts

My friends and mentors at Barron Park Preschool have taught me a lot of neat teaching tools.  One such skill is the Board Story.  This means using a dry erase board to narrate a story while using simple pictures and images to represent the story.  Because they are on the dry erase board, these stories are dynamic, tailored to the audience, flexible, participatory, and highly engaging.

Today I was reminded why the most important component of board stories are the kids' ideas.  My "story" was headed nowhere fast.  In the nick of time, the kids saved the story.

I started the story in the usual manner:

Once upon a time, there were eleven children sitting around the circle singing songs.  Can you tell me what they were singing? [children give ideas of songs and we sing snippets of the songs].   

"Baby Beluga!"
"Monster song!"
"Peacock song!"
"The running song!"

 At this point, monsters already tried to enter the story.  Every time we tell a board story, kids try to get the main character to be a monster, sometimes scary, sometimes silly.  As fun as that is, I admit I'm a little tired of monster board stories.

All of a sudden, they heard a very silly sound.  [I had to say "silly" rather than "loud" or "strange", lest the noise be a monster's footsteps or a monster roar.  Just me trying to control the outcome.]

E's hand shoots up.   

What did they hear, E? 

"A bunny!" she said.

So I drew Carrot (our pet rabbit) on the board.  He was making a chewing sound (according to the kids), and since I only had a green marker, I drew a big avocado (I wanted something massive, and it was the first thing that came to mind.  Had I asked the kids, I would have gotten something way more profound than an avocado).  Carrot was chewing on, of all things, an avocado.  These are the ridiculous ideas I come up with.  Plus, most avocados are black, not green!

The kids at circle, each dot named for a child, and carrot with a huge green thing in his house.

The out-of-place avocado suddenly made me realize that if it was only up to me and my creative juice, this story would be a total flop.  It was time to figure out some way, any way, to incorporate the kids' ideas.  The story continues...

After circle time, the kids went outside.  What were they doing outside?

Each child volunteered and this is what they said:

H: playing with Te
Be: playing tag with all the kids
E: running through the grass
Br: playing with L
L: drawing pictures
Bl: digging in the dirt
Te: playing with Ta
A: playing with elephants
Ta: playing the can't catch me game with the kids
S: using the big red shovel
Z: playing with Te

 Te gave affectionate approval after hearing Z give her response.

It was interesting to see how many of their responses involved doing things with other kids or focused solely on the child they were playing with.  Social development has come a long way with this group.  There have been many social unfoldings.  Lunch and snack often involve kids saving spaces for friends, or being very excited to sit next to so-and-so.  It's often not about specific kids, but whoever they happen to land next to.

While the children played outside, the Science Man [a character imported in from the Barron Park board stories, the "Mad Scientist"...but I didnt' want to use the word "mad" because we've been discussing emotions and the crazy mad might convalude their new concepts of the angry mad] came to visit.  He had a problem!  He was doing science experiments in his science lab, and his concoction started making bubbles, and it won't stop!  Now his lab is full of bubbles and he doesn't know what to do!.

Here are the kids ideas:
E: pop all the bubbles
H: make the avocado go away
Be: ask the children for help

When the scientist tried to pop the bubbles, the concoction continued bubbling until the entire room was full of bubbles.  So he asked the kids and they told him to consult his science book.  In his science book, it said he needed one large avocado [we drew a book and wrote the words "1 large avocado" on the page] to make the bubbles stop and for the concoction to be complete.  But the avocado was so huge! [Br had been using the word humongous in the morning, so we incorporated it into the story with the "big, giant, humongous avocado"]  How would they get it from Carrot's house to the lab?

Be: get a forklift to carry it
H: make it smaller
T: ask the children for help
E: roll it
A: ask the bunny

So they all worked together to solve the problem.  Carrot pushed it onto the forklift with his powerful nose, and the kids directed the forklift in the right direction to the science lab.  He added the avocado to his concoction and the concoction immediately stopped bubbling.  He then used E's idea and popped the bubbles that were already floating around his lab.  Since it was such a humongous avocado, he had lots of extra to share with the kids.  They ate the avocado with their tortilla chips [the kids like when food is involved in the story]. 

And that is the story of how the children helped the scientist solve his problem.

The feeling of completion from the kids was palpable.  It's hard to explain, but it was almost like they had defeated this major task and the energy in the room shifted from enthusiastically listening and offering ideas, to calm and satisfied and ready for nap time.

The storyline is so absurd.  It would never make a successful children's book (in my opinion).  But the children's ideas make it come alive.  They own the story when it comes from their minds and hearts.

Finding a way to incorporate all of the children's ideas can be a challenge when the ideas don't fit with my own.  But when I am flexible and open, I can start stories with a storyline in mind, and by the end, allow it to transform into something else entirely.  Ultimately it employs the practice of having an idea in mind, and then going with the flow.

 After naptime, we went to visit the real Carrot.



  1. H is currently re-counting the story to me and I have enjoyed hearing her version of it - thank you for posting this!

  2. An emergent and customized (cotton)tale that roams in the realm of their own experiences and observations. It must feel secure and familiar like a soft plush toy at nap. Their own ideas heard and seen -write down- to the hare...heralding end.


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