Storytelling is the purest form of philosophical exploration. When we surround our children with the mysteries of human nature, social conventions and the moral and ethical maze that weaves in and out of stories, we are enabling them to think. More importantly, we are introducing a medium that encourages the language of thinking and wondering.
Opening the doors into story worlds enables children to see connections between their own worlds and the stories they tell within them.
But it is also important that the stories have not only a context but a consequence too. Stories that are untold cannot be understood, built upon or developed with understanding. The stories that are told in the classroom should be given reference and recognition.
Stories are valuable in so many ways: as a tool and vehicle for development and articulation, for the practising of new words and language and of voicing aloud things they see, perceive, dream and fear.
Wonderment and worry are dominant themes in the stories our young children tell.
When a child recreates conflict, he or she can do so in the mind of a Big Bad Wolf.
When they need to work through anger or jealousy, they can turn to the safety of the role of somebody else far away in a world where resolution can be achieved.
Storytelling has always been the medium through which adults pass on messages to our children,
“The world is a complex and dangerous place”
“Beware the Big Bad Wolf.”
But it is also a world where we want our children to revel in joy and
When children tell stories to an audience of peers, together they can help bring them to life. The roles are given voices, the voices are given choices and the choices themselves are given a dialogue through enquiry.
Below is one example of a story my children have asked to have written down for sharing with the class. The stories are influenced on the most part by familiar and well-loved books and fairy tales, but interwoven among the familiar are things that puzzle the audience: strange behaviours and strange happenings in unfamiliar worlds that need clarification and analysis. Through philosophical facilitation, we are able to ask questions that explore the nature of life’s mysteries.
Why do bad things happen?
Why are friends so important?
How will we ever know what is real?
And in the following example ;
Is it ok to eat little girls?
Little Red Riding Hood . Shauna- aged 3.11
“Little Red Riding Hood got some flowers and she forgot to give them to her grandma. She wanted to give her some cup of tea. She said, look a big, big, big Queen. Goldilocks wanted her to see her duck but her duck was too busy eating food and she said what do you want to eat? I want some food but what big ears you have and then the crocodile camed and did a big roar. What did you eat for your tea today crocodile? But he wanted to be friends but he couldn’t find any so Goldilocks said to him do you want to eat me? But she quickly got on his back and fell so sleepy she laid back on the crocodile.”
When we shared this story the children were encouraged to ask questions or invite comments about what happened in the story.
In order to do this we created a story map. We all sat around a large roll of paper. The children and staff then drew and talked to each other conversationally about the parts of the story they wanted us to think about more.
The following three observations based on the children’s talk and illustrations were the most recurrent and obviously interesting parts of Shauna’s story.
• Why did Little Red Riding Hood forget about flowers?
• Why didn’t crocodile have any friends?
• Why did Goldilocks want the crocodile to eat her?
Using the prop from the storycorner that Shauna had used in her original tale I took the role of a very hungry crocodile and asked the children if I was allowed to eat Goldilocks because she wanted me to?
After the wonderful and imaginative dialogue the children told many more crocodile stories in their play. I provided further opportunities to facilitate this. For example, a crocodile dressing up costume, green plasticine with toothpicks and small world swampy water play with figures and crocodiles.
The children brought crocodiles into their roleplay and outdoor play for many days and sometimes many weeks later. They built crocodile traps and played cooking for crocodiles in the mud kitchen. We turned the climbing frame into an enclosure for escaped crocodiles and spent hours chasing escapees.
But all the time hope I the children were wondering….
“Should I really be eating little girls? “