Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Learning Story: A Boy, The Good Shepherd and A Story

Some time ago, I wrote about Learning Stories and Our Boy Who Drew A List.  Since then, many Learning Stories about Luke, Nina and Jack have gone undocumented.  However, the learning never ceases and my observation of it brings such joy.
Last night, while I was taking time to purge a pile of paper, I ran across a picture Luke had drawn at the beginning of the month.  It made me smile and reminded me of a story I have been meaning to tell.
  A Boy, The Good Shepherd and A Story
I was lying on the couch one evening, not feeling very well, as Daddy took care of the dinner dishes.  Luke, who had been busy drawing something in order to keep himself somewhat calm and quiet, came over to me.  He crawled up onto me with a paper in hand and asked, “Mommy, can I tell you a story?”
When I said, “Of course, I would love you to.” Luke settled in, stroking my hair with one hand as he held his picture with the other.  He began to narrate the following story about a picture he had drawn. 
"Luke’s Sheep (Because the Shepherd’s Named Luke)"

by Luke Stanger, as narrated to Mom on 10/1/2011

There was once a shepherd. He had one, two sheep and a lamb.

Well, the Mom and the Dad black sheep were lost in the forest. Well, a huge open-jawed eagle came swooping for their baby and, all the sudden, they ran back into their pen.

Well, out flew the tiniest duck in the world from inside a huge egg. He was looking to see if the eagle was around.

Then, with a startle, the shepherd flew his spear at the bird. (The shepherd was holding his staff.) The spear hit the eagle. The eagle fell onto the ground and had a big bloody body.
As Luke told the story, his voice and hands became increasingly animated and expressive.  His tender stroking of “sick Mommy” made way for his enthusiastic storytelling.  Still, he remained seated close to me, making eye contact occasionally.
Since I had a computer nearby, I asked Luke if I might record his story.  He smiled and handed me the computer.  Then, he began his story again, pacing his telling of it so I could type the words.  When his story was nearly done, I asked him what happened to the sheep and the shepherd and how they felt.  He replied:
The sheep felt good because the baby was saved by the shepherd.

The shepherd hugged his sheep.
When I read him back what he had narrated, he stopped me at one point in order to correct a sentence.  He told me that he had made a mistake.  He did not mean, “Then, with a startle, the shepherd flew his spear at the bird. It was an eagle.  He wanted the story to read with the line, “Then, with a startle, the shepherd flew his spear at the eagle.” After making the correction, he asked me to reread him the story.  He smiled with satisfaction as I did.
I set the computer aside and hugged Luke.  He gave me a strong squeeze back.  Then, Daddy came into the room.  As Daddy sat in a chair nearby, I mentioned that Luke had written a wonderful story.  While Daddy was commenting back, Luke walked over to him, drawing in hand.  Luke climbed up into Daddy’s lap and asked me to read his story so Daddy could hear it.
What It Means

Luke, it warms my heart to have experienced this moment with you.

You saw that I was not feeling well, so you tried your best to remain peaceful during our after-dinner hour by busying yourself drawing.  I know that night time can be a difficult time for you, because you feel energetic and wound-up despite it being “wind down” time.  You made such a good choice to channel your energy into the creative pursuit of drawing and telling a story.

I am touched about how you shared your illustration and story with me.  Often, when you aren’t feeling well, we snuggle, I stroke you hair or skin, and I tell you a story.  You offered to do the same for me, showing tender compassion.  It can be difficult to think about others and how we might make them feel loved and cared for.  You did that.

As you told me your story the first time, you proved so many things.  Your story contained a definite beginning, middle and an end.  It also contained conflict and drama.  Plus, it was told using interesting, specific vocabulary.   Both your illustration and your words demonstrated that your talent as an author-illustrator.  They also informed me that you are synthesizing the Good Shepherd parable we have talked about before. 

When you told me your story for the second time, you showed an understanding of phonemes, or the sounds and pieces of words.  You broke longer words up into parts and spoke at a pace that you felt I could type at.

Then, when I read your story back, you chose to change the word “bird” to “eagle”, which showed me that you know how to revise stories to make them even more interesting and understandable.  Your attention to detail is interesting.

Finally, once you had created your story and narrated it to me, you sought to share it with your father.  Inviting others to enjoy our creative works shows confidence and initiative. 

It is a joy to watch your skills and creativity unfold, as well as your compassion and sense of self and others.  It is also wonderful to see how you integrate the principles of our faith – of the Shepherd protecting His sheep into your work and play.

Opportunities and Possibilities

You demonstrated initiative, creativity and compassion in so many ways through creating and sharing your story, Luke’s Sheep. 

I wonder if you could think of other ways to show love, kindness and caring to those around you who are feeling sick or unhappy…  I wonder if you could do the same for people you do not know.  Might you draw pictures, write stories or create other works to share with them?  Could you dedicate some time to simply being present with folks who aren’t feeling their best, sharing your time and smile with them?

I also wonder if we could continue to encourage your interest in writing and illustrating stories?  Might we make a notebook of your creative works?  Could we make a book?  Would you like to publish some online?  Might we collect all your work in one place and occasionally choose which ones you want to enjoy just for yourself, as things to draw or write, and those you would like to share with others?  Maybe we could look into working with other children on a creative writing or illustrating project.  Sometimes working together with others in a creative circle or workshop can be fun and inspiring.

Finally, I wonder if you would like to explore the Good Shepherd parables and other faith stories in other ways.  You seem to enjoy the parable Boxes we make.  Might we try collaging, painting, sculpting or other artwork about faith stories?  Would you like to write your own faith stories book?

Possibilities are endless.  Your imagination and talent are limitless, too.  I know sometimes it’s fun to just play, create and explore with no particular purpose in mind.  At other times, doing so with a reason in mind or to share with others is great.  However you wish to continue creating, Mommy and Daddy are here to support you.

Thank you for sharing your story and your caring with me,

Why Learning Stories?

Learning Stories are an effective tool to encouraging parents and educators to take time to observe children, reflect on what children are doing and facilitate opportunities for future learning.  For more information about them, Learning Stories Examples is a great place to start.  Typically, Learning stories have a number of photographs in them and at least one of the child, but since I was not feeling well when this story unfolded, I did not take any photos.

If you’ve written a Learning Story about your own child, I would love for you to leave a link in the comments below.  Also, please share your tools and approached for observing and reflecting upon the growth and learning of the children you care for.

P.S. We'd it if you'd consider helping us win $250 in sensory stuff by voting for us through leaving a comment at our entry at My Special Needs Network.

This month’s S-O-S Best of the Best (BOB), which will be live on the 15th, features special moments in our day to day lives as folks facing special needs.  Contributions include thoughts and stories about simply being a family and enjoying our children just as they are.  In other words, instead of focusing on the usual therapies, methodologies and schedules that families with special needs must contend with, they celebrate the joy that unfolds in life daily.   Luke’s imagination, desire to synthesize and expand upon learning though hands-on activities and willingness to share his gifts bring smiles to our family on a regular basis.  I share the Learning Story above as a part of BOB in hopes that it will encourage others to reflect upon the simple, yet special moments of life with children, how they learn and how we learn from them.  I encourage you to try utilizing Learning Stories in your own parenting or teaching journey.

This post is also being shared at Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers since moments like the ones described above, and the time to reflect upon them as has been done with this post, are things I am thankful for.  What a gift our children are and what responsibility, grace and joy we are given in observing, responding to and reflecting upon their growth.


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