Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Telling True Stories

It has become a habit for the children to ask me at lunch time to tell them a story about what I did the day before. This started on a day I told a true story during lunch about how I locked myself out of my house the previous day while leaving a pot of rice to cook on the stove. The silence in the lunch room as I recounted how I unsuccessfully tried to climb in through the tiny bathroom window, from where I could see the smoke starting to rise from the burning rice in the pot, how my feet got murdered by mosquitoes as the daylight quickly faded, how I had the (brilliant) idea of turning off the gas tanks therefore cutting the gas from the stove. It was one of the best true stories I've told this year and I often get asked to tell it again.

I am impressed at how much attention a good true story will garner from the children. It is hands down the best way to get their undivided attention during a group meeting. And they remember every detail- as I find when I review the story with them through the "Question Game". At night, I'm often thinking way back into my past trying to find a good story to tell them about when I was their age, how I saw things, mistakes I made, things I found valuable.

It reminds me of the importance of oral tradition as a way to pass on culture, values, and beliefs. Also, how in a world that overly stimulates the visual sense, what a treat it is to listen to a good story and find that the pictures from the story start to appear in your own mind!

I love stories and am a huge fan of podcasts such as The Moth, This American Life, and Selected Shorts , particularly the first, where people tell stories live and without any notes.

Touching back on training and the purposes of a true story in the classroom, they are a great way of modeling to a child how to express ideas clearly and in logical sequence (and the concept that stories HAVE ENDINGS.) And what I see most clearly reflected back to me from our own work with true stories, they are a preparation for the child to tell their own stories in oral or written form.

I also love it when I get my own story told back to me, from the point of view of a child. It's as if sometimes, just because you were able to imagine you were there, the story becomes your experience too.


Montessori Print Shop said...

We have just stumbled across your blog from another blog. Thank you for sharing some wonderful stories of the children in your classroom. Please drop our blog and store ( and enjoy the free Montessori materials we list each and every month! Keep up the great work. All the best.

Abigail Miller said...

I really loved your post. In this world where everything is increasingly visual (most children see, rather than hear, most of the stories and tales that they are presented with through DVDs, movies, television, and computers) it seems particularly important to ensure that they are exposed to stories (and other auditory preparation) like these. Thanks for the reminder!

I wanted to ask you about the "Question Game" that you mentioned. That is not something I am familiar with and it was not discussed in my Montessori training.

Susanne said...

Hi Abigail,

Thank you for your comment. The Question Game is in the part of our Language Album titled "Language Training." Basically, after reading or telling a story, you get the children to retell the story by prompting them with specific questions that follow the story from beginning to end. It is like a reading/listening comprehension exercise that highlights the elements of a narrative (it has a beginning, middle, end, a title, characters, actions...) The children really like it, and it usually surprises me when they can answer questions about very detailed aspects of the story.

Laura S. said...

Hi Susanne,
Thank you for your post! I really enjoyed discovering The Moth (I too am a big fan of This AMerican Life). Yes - young (and old!) people love a story. The times I've told my students even a familiar story such as the three little pigs, I'm surprised by how attentive they are. They love the spoken word. I think they love the intimacy (and eye contact) of having a story told to them. I'm inspired to find ways to incorporate story telling into our classroom. I found a website with a basic description of storytelling for teachers of young children that I thought I'd share with you (