A mountain of stories

“We know of course that there’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.”

-Arundhati Roy, Sydney Peace Prize 2004[1]

everything out of home copy

I am currently sifting through a mountain of children’s paintings, drawings, collages and writing, transcripts of dictated stories, play-scripts, conversations, anecdotes and photographs of children’s play. I accumulated this collection when I was teaching at Yarralea Children’s Centre in Alphington, Victoria, on and off, between 1984 and 2006.

For the past nine years I have also been encircled in the life stories of my grandchildren, Rory, Otto and Fraser – ‘the brothers’.

Packing for the Journey – a spaciousness for sharing children’s voices over a timespan of thirty years.

 

Pirates – part 2

I do not ask the children to stop thinking about play. Our contract reads more like this: if you will keep trying to explain yourselves I will keep trying to help you think about the problems you need to solve.

Vivian Gussin Paley (1981) Wally’s Stories

 The pirates nudging each other

When Richard told me his next story Ned was sitting next to him.
‘I’m going to do a play,’ said Richard.
‘There’s only two people. Ned, do you want to be in my play?”
Ned didn’t answer.
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
Silence
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
Nothing.
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
‘Maybe’. Continue reading

Pirates – Part 1

Nudging Ned

a-sams-drawing

For many weeks Ned and Richard were playing pirates together. The day Richard said, quite politely, ‘Walk the plank, Ned’, things changed. Ned stamped his foot, got red in the face, and stormed off to the cubby house, shouting. ‘I’m the captain, Richard!’.

Ned refused to be in Richard’s story – the one where Richard was the captain. I had been watching this drama unfolding, aware that Ned always assumed the role of captain, and that Richard was getting a bit sick of being the pirate who always ended up in the shark-infested water.

I couldn’t help them work it out that day. I tried to help them find other ways to tell their stories.
‘You could paint or draw a picture about your pirate story.’
‘I can’t paint a pirate.’
‘You could each tell me the story that you’re thinking about, and I could write it down, and we could act it out at mat time.’

Richard was the first one to tell me a story.

‘There’s only Ned and Richard. There’s only two people. It’s about Ned and Richard. Ned and Richard fight with the swords and I’m the goodie and Ned is the baddie. There was a sea and I pushed him into the sea and I made him walk the plank.’

At mat time, Richard asked Ned to be the pirate who walked the plank. Ned shook his head, ‘No’, so Richard chose someone else. Ned wasn’t ready to take on that role – not in dramatic storyplay, and not as a character in Richard’s story. He as watched another child acted his part – a baddie being pushed into the sea. Continue reading

A 68-word story

Sorry for the poor quality of the reproduced drawing. I hope you get the idea how Tyler used the drawing to help process his thinking.

And there was the day Tyler asked me if he could ‘do a play’.

Sure, I’ll just go and get my writing book and a pen. 

Tyler fetched a large sheet of drawing paper, and the red, blue, green, black, and pink markers. He placed these side-by-side on the table, and said:

Captain Planet gave some rings, with diamond rings, to little kids.

While I was writing Tyler started his drawing. Up in the top right hand corner of the paper he used the blue marker to draw Captain Planet. Then he started on the rings, which he placed on either side of Captain Planet, and as he drew he said,

A red diamond on it.

A pink diamond.

A blue diamond.

Now, there’s two more.

Now let’s see – green, I think.

Now, one more.

Blue – water.

Red is fire.

The pink one’s heart.

The green one’s …

I’ll just make up a name for green.

The Black one’s wind.

I’ll just call green, earth.

 I need to draw the little kids.

Red is fire.

Now, what was the second one?

Heart Continue reading

Making Signs

 

IMG_1068 (1)

Young children know how to use signs to get their message across .

One Monday morning, at the making table Euan very carefully placed a cork to the end of an icy pole stick and attached it with lots of sticky tape.

‘It’s a pipe,’ he said, as he put it in his mouth.  When the other children saw it they all wanted one.

‘My dad smokes a pipe’, said Euan.

‘My Dad, and Grandpa, and Great Grandpa smoke a pipe!’ said his friend, Fred. Later, when I talked to Fred’s Mum, she said that none of them smoked at all – let alone a pipe. Fred had created a story by imagining these three close people were pipe-smokers, and he used them as characters in his story. Continue reading