Tag Archives: ECE

Practicing Situated Practice through Storytelling

As mentioned before, I (Cathy) am a committed supporter of  implementing a pedagogoy of mulitliteracies (New London Group, 1996) in the classroom.  There are many components to multiliteracies, but for this post I will highlight my use of  only one  component- situated practice.    The situated practice component suggests that pedagogy must consider “the affective and sociocultural needs and identities of all learners” (NLG, 1996, p. 85).  By the inclusion of  students’ “lifeworlds” or home-life and culture, a classroom environment is created where students feel secure and will take risks (NLG, 1996, p. 65).

In a recent storytelling workshop I delivered to ECE students (in a higher education setting), I was intrigued at how the significant situated practice became.   Prior to the class,  I asked the professor what cultures were represented, so I could reflect at least some of these cultures through my story selection.  The list was long, so I had to be selective.  I decided to tell a story from Jamaica, the US and one from India.  These represented not only a range of the participants’ cultures, but also a broad range of storytelling styles, which I thought might be useful for the students to see.   During the workshop I explained to the students that eventually being inclusive of all of the cultures and backgrounds represented in their classrooms  through the stories we tell (and books we read) was essential.  It was our responsibility to get to know our students and know what was important to them.  They agreed that this was important.  But I had a lot to learn about how important,  even when working with adults.

I knew how much the  participants  enjoyed and learned from the experience, as they were highly engaged during the workshop, but i was also treated to written feedback  as the  professor asked the students to post their critiques online.  The following comments caught my interest:

“The workshop really resonated with me… I learned about stance, gestures and facial expressions”

“I was amazed to see how storytelling could grab our attention”

“I am excited to step out of my comfort zone a little bit and try out these strategies with children”

My favourite was:

“I really enjoyed the ending of the workshop using the Urdu [story] “Ek thi Raja, ek thi Rani, doono margy khatm kahanni'” as Urdu is my mother tongue and I was able to understand this very famous [story].”

I did indeed end the workshop with a very short story in Urdu.  In case you do not understand Urdu, in this story there is a  king and a queen, they  die, so the story is over.   That’s it.  It is a traditional ending to a storytelling set.  I usually ask a participant to translate the story for the rest of the group.  Even though my Urdu is not the best, I can always tell who understood the story, because they are the only ones laughing.  Children  are usually delighted that I took the time and effort to be able to tell , regardless of how short,  a story from their culture.  But this small gesture never became more evident  to me than at the conclusion of this workshop.   I was approached by a woman wearing  a khimar (a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist, but leaves the face clear).  The woman introduced herself and told me that she was most impressed that I told a story in Urdu.  She said she felt it made her Urdu speaking colleagues very happy.  She then asked me to do something I was not expecting.  “Would you”, she asked timidly, “consider sometimes ending your storytelling in Arabic?”  I smiled and immediately answered “of course, if you will teach me!”   She was delighted and proceed to teach me  the following traditional ending:

Touta touta.  Kelset el haa do tah.

This is now part of my repertoire.  I was never more convinced of how significant it is to honor the cultures of our students.   Young or older, it is their identity and they need us, their teachers, to validate this.  I will endeavor to enlarge my commitment to situated practice by sometimes speaking in Arabic for my students and hope my  students, whether ECE students, student teachers, or teacher educators will consider doing the same.

Blending old and new world literacies: Storytelling and Technology

I (Cathy) was recently asked to give a storytelling workshop for a third year Early Childhood Education Class. The professor felt the experience might broaden her students’ concept of literacy.   As a practitioner of multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996) I felt compelled to blend “old world literacy” which in this case would be storytelling (it is the oldest form of entertainment for our species), and new world literacy, which in this case was an online interactive learning system called Today’s Class.  (I have mentioned Today’s Class in an earlier post.  Today you get to hear how I put it into practice).

Initially, the students (a broad range of ethnicities, ages, and English language proficiencies) shared they had never previously experienced storytelling.  They had been read to and assumed this was the same thing.  Most admitted they had never heard of Todays’ Class either, but were game to give it try.  I warmed them up by delivering an old folktale (old world style, just me, them and their imaginations) which blew them away.  “I could see the story!”, and “I was captivated” were some of the responses.  The class was then arranged into small groups of three, each group having a lap top with access to the internet.  Each group was “invited” into the Today’s Class site and asked to give their group a “nick name”.  On the large screen at the front of the room, I posted questions about the storytelling experience for them to consider.  After some deliberation, the groups posted their responses, using only their nick names for identification.  I was intrigued by their reactions as the team responses popped up on the screen.  They were highly engaged.   I could have heard a pin drop they were so intent on reading the other groups’ answers.  When I used to do this kind of activity, the groups used chart paper and markers to record their answers and these were posted around the room.  I usually read out the answers because the printing was often not legible across the room.  Also, I often filtered what I read aloud, instantly deciding what the key points were and only sharing those.   However, with the big screen, it became each students’ responsibility to do the reading and the  filtering. The accountability and engagement levels were higher.

As we moved through the workshop, experiencing different forms of storytelling, the groups returned to conferencing at their computers, analyzing the responses and discussing the salient points.  Both my students and myself were delighted with the results.  Storytelling and technology were a perfect fit.  The students left with a much deeper understanding of an ancient literacy form, many vowing to use it in their child care centers, but also left with a much broader view of the usefulness of modern literacies.   Old and new world do blend.   I couldn’t help but wonder how Aesop might have felt about Today’s Meet.    I think he would have liked it.

New London Group. (1996) A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures.  Harvard   Educational Review,1, 60-89.



Guest Blog: Gisela Wajskop

Yesterday I (Gisela Wajskop) shared with Monica McGlynn-Stewart an important moment Gisela Wajskopin her professional and personal life as well as in the lives of her students at George Brown College (Toronto, Ontario). I attended the Second Annual Bachelor of Early Childhood Leadership Research Symposium organized jointly with Fanshawe College (London, Ontario) and Sheridan College (Oakville, Ontario). The event celebrated the innovative early childhood education (ECE) program. This four-year program prepares students to be educators and to become leaders in curriculum and pedagogy development for Ontario’s early childhood settings. These include: childcare centers, nursery schools, family drop-in programs (including Ontario Early Years Centres, family resource centers and parenting programs), family support programs, and early intervention services.
I was quite excited by the students’ serious and enthusiastic research presentations that were based on their practice/placements in schools and community centres. The program believes the field of ECE requires critical thinkers and practitioners who have vision, a professional demeanour, and in-depth knowledge. The ECE program wants to prepare future leaders and educators; they hope to empower students by using a variety of pedagogical strategies (e.g., research on practice). Overall they aim to raise expectations for their students; the new standards for the profession raise the accountability bar.
Attending the Symposium reminded me of my Brazilian students and the practices we developed together the last 12 years. As a teacher educator I was committed to empowering my students to have a critical voice in the field just as those three Colleges aim to do.
Participating in this very special event reminded me that we are entering Passover: I am grateful to Monica who opened her door to me … and I wish her students all the best. Under her supervision and leadership may they develop and become better people and excellent professionals.
Chag Sameach for all!