Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Empowering Children to Think Critically and Tell Stories

One of the most powerful strengths a teacher can facilitate within her students is giving children a voice. In Negotiating Critical Literacies with Young Children, a teacher explains her experiences with a kindergarten classroom. She takes us through the process of setting children up for critical thinking, and exposure to intense literacy, and the opportunities to use their well-develop literacy skills. The chapter encourages teachers to answer children's questions with a challenge, instead of a blatant answer or another reframe of their own questions. These methods are usually, harmless, but they also do not grow children in their critical thinking and literacy skills. Instead, if we answer children's questions by pushing them to figure out the problem, challenge it, and create a change, we are setting the stage for a rich literacy experience and exponential growth. The example provided takes us through a kindergarten class's frustrations of being excluded from a school-wide cafe, which has been reserved for first-eighth grades. When a child asks the teacher why they are not allowed to go, she responded by asking "what can we do to change the situation?" This simple change in diction and attitude towards the capacity and willingness of children to make change happen creates an incomparable change in environment and exposure. The children are not required to work together, debate, reform ideas, and reshape opinions to come to a common end. The suggestions provided by Negotiating Critical Literacies with Young Children allow teachers to foster a meaningful, rich, and relevant environment, that does not limit able children to surface level topics, but digs deeper and enriches their literacy functions on the way.

Children's storytelling capacities can be imperative to their literacy development, and success as a reader. Teachers have the chance to create an environment that supports children as writers, provides the tools for storytelling, sets the stage for what a story includes and embodies, and celebrates children's final creations. In Castle in the Classroom, Georgia Heard explains how she facilitates writing in her own kindergarten classroom. Instead of simply reading children a story, providing them blank booklets and writing materials, and saying "go," Heard has an elaborate, carefully planned out list of activities and lessons that educate children about what stories can mean, what they can include, how they can be told, what they can say, and how they can say it.

This type of background includes lessons in:
- Stories Have Settings
- Stories Have Characters
- Stories Have a Sense of Time
- Stories Have Problems
- Stories Have Solutions to Problems
- Writing Descriptions of Settings
- Writing Character Descriptions and Dialogue
- Writing Golden Lines
- Exploring Story Planning
- Exploring Story Writing
- Writing Story Titles

Not until a teacher has successfully introduced and integrated these concepts together, does she expect children to be equipped to produce a full story. When a teacher brings children through the process of understanding storytelling through these interactive, fun-filled lesson plans, children get to the last three steps, and they are flourishing with ideas and plans for their own storybook. When the rough plans have been created, using many mediums for illustrations, teachers can formally publish the books for each child. This culmination project leaves students with a beautiful piece of their learning from many weeks of study, work, and determination. Castle in the Classroom provides teachers with explicit instruction to create storytelling mentalities within each of our students, and the manner in which to introduce concepts to empower children in storytelling.


  1. I love your emphasis in your first paragraph on the teacher's belief in her students. By responding to their question in the way she did, she showed them that she believed in their ability to make a difference in their school.

  2. I really like your last statement that says teachers "introduce concepts to empower children in storytelling." What the children want to write about is all of their own but if teachers want their students to attain and maintain the benefits of the process of writing a story, it is good to guide them in that direction.

  3. It is important for teachers to nurture a child's questions and curiosities and create an environment where teachers are facilitators and guide children to find the answers to their own questions. It teaches children how to be independent and it shows them how to find the tools they need to answer their own questions.

  4. Children need to feel like their ideas matter. Teachers need to show children their thoughts are important. I really like how the children see their efforts produce positive feedback in the chapter you read.

  5. TEachers and parents forget that simply telling a child to write a story without providing the proper information about stories and their parts is not helpful to a child who is trying to learn how to write and read. Children need the tools to create these kinds of things and once they have them is when they can truly work to their fullest potential