Guest Post: Virginia Lowe #1

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Today Packing for the Journey features two stories from Dr Virginia Lowe. These wonderful anecdotes show how shared book reading enriches children’s knowledge and their ever-expanding understanding of life.

 

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I’ll tell you a story Mum’: Two children tell
by Virginia Lowe      

I kept a record of my two children’s contact with books and their responses. Rebecca is almost three years and three months older than her brother. The children’s own stories arose naturally from contact with books. These two stories demonstrate how the children use this literary material – in this case at least, one shows her scientific bent, the other works on relationships.

1. Nick the whale. One morning, Rebecca and I had a row before school – the reason for it is not recorded, but Nick disliked us arguing and was tense about it. Later he was helping me hang out the washing, as usual handing me pegs. (He was 3y1m old.) 
This time he was picking them up in his mouth because he was being alternately a shark and a whale.

       N: I’m picking them up in my mouth cos I can’t use my flippers. I’m a friendly whale.

       V: You’re clever to do that Mr Whale.

      N: Yes, I can do that ‘acouse I’m an excellent whale who can do everything that is magic. 

He talked a bit about his mother who had gone shopping underwater. Then,

        N: I’m having an argument with my mother [imaginary whale one that is].

       V: Oh yes. Do whales like arguments? [Expecting him to say that like him, they didn’t. It’s obviously different for whales]

        N: Yes. Argumenting [sic] is good for whales.

He carried the monologue on over lunch. His [whale] mother was sitting beside him.

        N: I’m sharing my food with my mother. She said to put the plate in the middle.

        V: What am I?

        N: You’re people

He carried through fairly logically, as a completely anthropomorphised whale.

        N: Do you know how we get out of the water? We use our flippers on the steps.

        N: Do you know how we wash our clothes?

        V: No.

        N: In a washing machine! [etc etc].

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Whale’s Way Written by Johanna Johnston, Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard.                                   Originally published in 1962

Anyway, at rest time, I fetchedWhale’s Way (Johnston) to read to him. He at once identified himself with the largest whale on the endpapers and first few pages.


        N: That’s me and that’s my mother. I’m bigger than my mother.
       N: That’s me and that’s my mother [the lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

 

 

Some pages later he chose the smaller of two on the page

        N: There’s me looking small.

        V: Do you look small because you’re further away?

        N: Yes.

        N: That’s me and that’s my mother [lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

On several pages he commented on the more distant whale as ‘that’s me looking small’ presumably to make sure that we both understood it was only through perspective that he looked smaller.

        N: I have those flukes. I swim and splash with my flukes (etc. mainly echoing the book’s text).

But the book is fairly long and very complicated, and he was restless before the end of most pages. 

        N: I’m tired of this whale book

So we stopped and he cuddled down to sleep with it clutched in his arms.

When he woke from his nap, his grandparents were visiting. I asked him if he was still a whale, he grinned and said ‘yes’ and told them with excitement –

        N: We’ve got a book about whales!

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2. A story-game from Rebecca. She was 4y 4m, and we were exploring Italy in a campervan.

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The Fairy Tale Collection selected by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by Raymond Briggs, first published 1972 by Hamish Hamilton

A day of turnips inspired by ‘The Turnip’ (Tolstoy) which is in two of the collections of stories we had with us, Bamberger My First Big Story Book and Haviland The Fairy Tale Treasury.

First, in a park, by a delightful pond (Florence) – Rebecca pointed to a large clump of grass.

        R: That’s a great big turnip, Mum! There must have been a show here to grow such a big turnip (presumably she meant the biggest vegetables would be grown for and sent to agricultural shows). 

That evening, while tea was preparing, she played ‘turnips’ outside in the campsite for half an hour or so. She was pulling up clumps of grass. This is just a few jotted phrases of an interminable conversation.

    R: Look at this great big turnip, Mum! It’s so heavy, and it was hard to pull up. We’ll have turnip for supper.

   R: If I find more than four turnips I’ll invite some friends to tea (a partial quote from Potter’s The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher).

    R: Look at them on the scales. See how heavy the big one is? (One in each hand, arms  straight, bigger one low, smaller high)

Later:
     R: Now I’ve got two little turnips and one big one. Nick will have a little one, and I will have a little one, and you and Daddy shall share the great big one.

      R: Three of them are boiled now. I can’t wait to eat them.

    R: I’ve planted some more of that brand of turnip. They’ll be ready in the morning. They’re the sort that grow overnight. I hope they’re as nice as the ones we’ve just eaten.

As might be expected, this one is now a scientist (a permaculture one) and the other a teacher, coping with relationships all the time.

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Dr Virginia Lowe has been a Judge for the Children’s Book Council’sBook of the Year Award and Convenor for the CBCA Crichton Award for new illustrators. She is now an honorary life member of the CBCA (Vic) and recipient of the Leila St John medal from them for services to children’s literature in Victoria. She has taught children’s literature, English and creative writing at university. She is a published poet (her latest, with her husband John, is published by the Melbourne Poets Union, Lines Between), and has also written extensively on children and books with some forty academic articles and a regular column ‘Two Children Tell’ in Books for Keeps  http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/. Virginia’s book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell was published by Routledge (London, 2006).

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Virginia Lowe’s book  Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell is based on a reading journal of over 5000 hand written pages in which she recorded all the books read to her two children and their responses to them. 

Links:

https://createakidsbook.com.au

http://www.shelleychappell.com/blog/introducing-virginia-lowe

http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/member/virginia-lowe

https://monash.academia.edu/VirginiaLowe

Anyone can be the mother

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“…Vivian Paley observes in her classic study of social inclusion, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play”…
“Certain children will have the right to limit the social experiences of their classmates. Henceforth a ruling class will notify others of their acceptability, and the outsiders learn to anticipate the sting of rejection” (p.3)

What then if, as Paley documents in her work, we took a stand against such exclusion, and actively (intentionally!) sought to shape and guide the social relationships occurring before us, just as clearly and strongly as we seek to shape the other kinds of learning that happen in our settings everyday?

http://thespoke.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/what-if/#comments

 

 

Superheroes on the wall

Visual storytelling unlocks the images (children have) stored up from
cartoons, movies and video games and helps them make more sense of the 
media-transmitted stories that fill their environments.

Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters – why children need fantasy, superheroes, and make-believe violence. p.9

On this day in March 2015 when R and O came over, they raided the stack of recycle A4 paper, found the markers and began drawing. O began drawing his favourite superhero characters. He told me who they were and I wrote down the names. When we began to display them on the wall R decided he would draw some too.  O was 5yo and R was 7yo when they drew these pictures. R’s drawings were more detailed, and he wrote his own labels.When we ran out of space in this corner of the gallery R took all of his down and moved them to another wall. As well as doing his own drawings O asked for a copy of a black line master  to colour in – hence the lifelike Spiderman.

Gallery CornerR&O's superheroes1

Facing wallR&O's superheros5

L. to R: Top row: Wonder Woman, Hawk Guy, Green Gremlin
Bottom row:Poison Ivy (makes superheroes ticklish with her powers), Batman, Mr Beast

Side wallR&O' superheroes6

L – R: Top row: Captain America, Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, Spiderman
Bottom row: Gaston (He flies around the world), Asgard, Captain America, Superman,
Iron man

Palindromes and Drawings

One day O, aged 5 years, drew our house, wrote some palindromes, and had a drawing lesson.

The first drawing O did was a picture of our dog, Callan, sitting down. He showed it to Andy who did a little drawing in the corner of a sitting dog, then O had another go at grounding the feet.
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callan-sitting-thinking

On the other side of the paper O drew a detailed picture of our house – with pitched roof, chimney, front door with transom window, decorated glass side panels, a number 2, and himself standing in the doorway. There are shrubs in the garden. The dotted line at the bottom of the page depicts the street, the solid line separates the footpath from the road, and there’s a path leading to the front door. Our car is parked in the driveway next to the house and, from the top of the gable a bird is pooping SPLAT! on the windscreen.

O signed his name and Andy told him it was a palindrome, then he wrote ‘pop’ and ‘poop’

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O carefully cut out a plain piece of paper from his drawing and, with Andy, wrote some more palindromes

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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

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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

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

The lost footy jumper

Sunday night. Just settling down to watch TV when the iPad started buzzing.

Hello?

         Hello, Janna?

Oh! Hello Rory

         Hello Janna. Is my Essendon footy jumper at your place? 

Ahh, well, I think it might be. Let me go and look.

Hang on. It might take me a minute or two to find it.

Okay.

I went to the cupboard where I stash the clothes that get left behind for me to wash when the brothers come over. I pull out five pairs of trakkie daks – two Size 8s, two Size 6s, and one with a flying bat on each knee that looked about a size 4.

Then out tumbled five T-shirts.

  • One black, long-sleeved, size 18-24 months emblazoned with a Superman logo, and the words My Daddy is Superman.
  • One plain grey, size 8.
  • One black, size 6.
  • One white, size 8, with long blue sleeves, and a huge lion’s head wearing a stars and stripes helmet.
  • One red, size 6, with a picture of a bear holding a skate board and gazing pensively off to the right.
  • Another grey, size 6, with a bear wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and an orange T-shirt.

There’s also a bag of too-small nappies, two packets of baby wipes, four bibs, one pair of pajama pants, nine pairs of socks, and any number of odd socks, and…

…an Essendon footy jumper.

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Rory, are you there?

         Yes.

I think I’ve found it. Is it sleeveless?

         Umm…

Does it have KIA logo on the back?

         Urr. It’s…

I think this is it. Do you need it straight away?

         Yes

What do you need it for?

         Tomorrow is hot dog day at school and we are allowed to wear our colours.

What are your colours?

         Our footy team.

Oh, okay.

         So, how are we going to do this?

You need it tomorrow do you?

         Yes

I could bring it over in the morning before you go to school.

         Oh, okay. What time?

What time do you leave for school?

         We leave at 8.30.

Okay, I’ll be over there by 8.30.

         Thanks, ‘bye.

         ‘Bye.

 A few minutes later the iPad dinged with a message.

“Hi it’s Rory thank you so much for finding my jumper see you tomorrow I don’t know how to thank you send us another message to tell us what you want me to do.”         

I messaged him back.

I’m happy to bring the jumper over – If you want to do something for me maybe you could do a drawing of the Queen Fairy to go with this story. See you tomorrow at 8.30. xx

This is the story I sent. It is one of many that I have collected over many years of teaching in a story-sharing preschool.

THE QUEEN FAIRY

By: Anon. Aged 5 years

She is wearing a crown.

She has golden teeth

In one hand she is holding her wand, and juggling water

With her other hand she is juggling the whole moon, which she has picked out of the sky

She changed the moon into the world because she didn’t want it to be light at night

All of the people wanted to be scared so they told her to do that

Then she took the sun out of the sky, so every night and day it was dark

The snake in the grass bit her because she took the moon away

It was a good snake and if you did something bad it bit you

 It wasn’t long before the iPad dinged again. It was Rory sending a photo of his drawing…

…with the message:

is this ok for you                                                                                                  

Perfect – thanks Rory

(The snake says, ‘You took the moon’).

the-queen-fairy-rory

 

 

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

I’m in love too

Version 2

I watched you Jake, sitting with your friends at the making table, drawing, and making puppets and signs. You were talking about what happened when you all went camping over Easter. Do you remember, Rory and Jessica came bustling in from outside? Rory was looking for something and Jessica was close behind, asking him the same question, over and over.

‘But Rory, who’s the favourite girlfriend of them all?’

‘All of them.’

‘Who’s the favourite one?’ ‘

‘All of them.’

‘No, who’s the best one?’

And you said, ‘I think she means only one.’ Continue reading