Karen Choo, grades 4&5 teacher at Blair Elementary is part of our district’s Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry series. In January, she shared her journey with a group of 50 educators – how she has been using morning provocations to uncover big ideas and big thinking in her classroom. She has a collection of loose parts in her classroom and along with art materials, provides opportunities for all her students to build and create ideas together.
Karen and her students have been learning about Chinese Immigration to Canada, reading novels, information books and having rich discussions, many students making connections to their own families’ immigration stories. Although Karen’s students were familiar with using materials to represent and idea, they had not used them to create stories. We presented a table of materials along with the loose parts already available in the classroom.
Karen noticed the high engagement with her students and also commented on the richness of the language and the role-playing that emerged in the stories. Karen commented that the concepts came alive for the students through the storytelling. It was interesting to note how the students wove in metaphors and symbols in their stories – such as the Chinese and Canadian flags and “gold mountain”.
Many of the stories involved travels across the ocean and the students created settings or symbols of the two worlds – China and Canada, separated by a journey.
The students used the iPad camera to take photos of their stories and then use the 30Hands app to narrate their stories – often going outside to find a quiet place to record. As I listened to the students’ stories, I heard many connections to the students’ own personal experiences and their strong beliefs about social justice coming through.
Not only does storytelling create an opportunity for Social Studies and Science concepts to come alive for students, it also provides an opening for students to tell their stories, to share a bit of themselves.