Emily’s turtle

One day Emily brought her pet turtle, Kirk, to kindergarten (preschool).

I found him in Grandpa’s dam.
Was he swimming in the dam
No. There wasn’t any water in it.
Mum said I could bring him home.

When Emily came in a few days later I could tell something was wrong –
watery eyes, sad shoulders and mouth.
She came over to me where I was squatting on a child’s chair.
She leaned into me and said,

I lost Kirk.
Ohh. What happened?
Mum said to put him in the garden for a wander.
And now we can’t find him.
I wonder why Kirk went away?
I wish Kirk hadn’t gone away.

Later that day Emily painted a picture.
When she’d finished it she brought it to me and said,
Can I do a play?.

Image: © Janet McLean 2016

Can I  do a play?                                Image: © Janet McLean 2016

She dictated her story as a play script which we acted out at mat time.

THE STORY THE LEARNING
Emily had ‘written’ other stories and she knew that I couldn’t write as fast as she could talk. She told her story slowly so I could keep up, word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase.

Once there was a creek.
In the creek there was a turtle living.
Some people went to the creek.
They found a turtle.
The turtle was the same turtle
and something was the matter.
The turtle was funny because it was lying still. And it was still funny.
The people caught it.
They brought it to the vet.
It was having a baby.
The mum loved the baby.
The people that found it took it home.
They kept it forever.
The baby turtle…
The baby turtle growed and growed,
and until it was a adult.
It had it’s own baby.

At mat time we displayed Emily’s painting as a backdrop for the play. Before we acted out the play I asked Emily to tell us about her painting.

The turtle is lying on its back. And that above, that is what he’s thinking.

What is the turtle thinking?

It’s thinking about the family that it lost,

So this is like Kirk, You were his family, and he lost you?

 No, They died in the war.

Recalling and using symbols Emily drew on and used her own experiences and knowledge to paint her picture, and to tell and dramatise her story.

Expressing feelings: Emily expressesd her feelings directly in conversation, and figuratively in her story

Literacy: Emily used a classic narrative story structure: There’s a beginning: “Once there was…’. Early in the story she introduced the main character – the turtle, Kirk. There was a problem (something is wrong the Kirk).The problem was solved (Kirk was rescued and taken to the vet). The ending was satisfying but open-ended – the family took the turtle in. The turtle had a baby which grew up to have baby of it’s own. Her story about Kirk was complex and metaphorical.

Visual literacy: Emily’s painting depicted ideas drawn from personal experiences. She included universal symbols (hearts, for love), and she included the literary device of a speech balloon.

Literacy through social interaction – with adult. Emily chatted with me in a natural way. We exchanged ideas. She asked me to help her express her ideas in written form. I helped her find new, more complex ways of expressing her thoughts – verbally, written, and visually.

Social interaction – with children. Emily has two close friends, Ruby and Ari. The three of them play together, in all areas of the program. However, Emily often works independently, developing her own ideas. She wanted to share her ideas with the other children – the whole group.

Further thoughts:
Emily trusted me to listen to her, and to take seriously the ideas and feelings she was trying to express and share with me, and through me, with the other children

I searched for the hidden meaning in her story and picture. When I talked with her and her Mum I discovered  hidden meaning embedded in her story and the picture. Her Mum filled in some of the details. On the ANZAC Day long weekend Emily went to visit Nan and Pop in the country with her Mum, and her sister and brother. They found Kirk along with dozens of other turtles floundering in the near-empty dam. While they were at Nan and Pop’s caught up with lots of  Aunties, Uncles and cousins, and there was lots of talking around the kitchen table. One of Emily’s great-uncles was one of the oldest living ANZAC soldiers, and on ANZAC Day  his photo was in the local paper. They found out which Aunties were expecting babies. Then, on the way home they stopped for a picnic near a river, and found an injured swan. They called the ranger to come and look after it.

I thought ‘funny’ was a funny word to use. until II realised she was using it to mean odd, or strange – her use of funny is idiosyncratic, immediate and touching. At mat time I helped Emily to choose other children to be the characters in the play. Together we directed the action. First I read the whole story, then broke it up scene-by-scene:

  • The children on the mat became the creek, gently swishing their hands.
  • The ‘funny’ turtle lay on his back next to the creek.
  • The family came along, found Kirk, and took him to the vet.
  • The family took the turtle home.
  • The turtle had a baby.
  • The baby grew up.
  • The baby had a baby.

Today, Emily worked over a long period of time, in different areas, to work through and express her ideas.

She actively participated in shared learning through creative literacy and art experiences.

In the process she created a coherent metaphorical tale of rescue, love, and the circle of Life, drawing on a number of different real-life experiences

© Janet McLean

3 thoughts on “Emily’s turtle

    • Thanks Beth. Now that I am no longer teaching I am enjoying looking back and sharing some of my experiences of teaching preschool children. I’m working towards putting up daily posts as you do. I look forward to them arriving each day.

      Like

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