What’s Next After #100DaysOfZerusAndOna

If only the different phases of a project could feel as a clear sequence of sun salutations.

The #100DaysOfZerusAndOna challenge is being a great way to brush up my sketching and drawing skills. It turned out to be a great way to see some real progress, not only about the drawings but also about the whole project in general.

This challenge will be still my main focus until the end of March but I am already thinking about how to prepare myself for the next phase (or «pose» if you take the sun salutation metaphor in ;). This time I would like to brush up my story telling skills, so I started to do some research about the topic. (Lately little boy’s nights are better and longer than they used to. I decided to risk some sleeping minutes at the end of the day and do some reading. Yay!)

Learning Through Story Telling

During my time teaching programming at CodaisseurI always organized my classes around stories and I knew that I wanted to bring something from that experience into Zerus & Ona. The only difference this time is that my audience is a bit younger.

Snapshot of the whiteboard telling stories about Rails.

Doing some research about storytelling in education, I discovered Kieran Egan’s work, who emphasises on the uses of imagination in teaching and learning. I am feeling inspired by a couple of his books: An Imaginative Approach to Teaching and Teaching as Story Telling. Some of my favourite quotes so far:

“All knowledge is human knowledge and all knowledge is a product of human hopes, fears, and passions.”

“Engaging the imagination is not a sugar-coated adjunct to learning; it is the very heart of learning. It is what brings meaning and sense and context and understanding to the knowledge we wish to teach.”

“We use stories constantly in our daily lives to give emotional meaning to what would otherwise remain, as it has been eloquently put, “just one damn thing after another.” Stories shape events into emotionally meaningful patterns.”

Using A Framework

One of the main challenges I am facing when coming up with stories is how to collect, organize and structure the different ideas as they come up.Kieran Egan suggests a framework that teachers could refer to when planning their classes to engage students’ imaginations and emotions. And I am also thinking of using it to start building up some stories.

Based on all what he proposes, these are the aspects that I decided to take into account:

1. Locating emotional meaningWhat is emotionally engaging about this topic? How can it evoke wonder? Why should it matter to us?

2. Thinking about the content in story form: How can we shape the content so that it will have some emotional meaning? How can we best bring out that emotional meaning in a way that will engage the imagination?

And there are different things that can help with that:

2.1. Finding binary oppositesWhat binary concepts best capture the wonder and emotion of the topic? If this were a story, what would the opposing forces be?

2.2. Finding images, metaphors, and dramaWhat parts of the topic most dramatically embody the binary concepts? What image best captures that content and its dramatic contrast? What metaphors can be used to enrich understanding?

2.3. Locating material that can provide opportunities for gossip and play:What content connected to the topic can help us to enliven and enrich children’s understanding by providing some gossip that they can engage in? What aspects of the content can be used for some form of game or fantasy play or role-playing?

2.4. Suggesting the mystery behind the topic: How do we give children some sense of the mystery attached to this topic?

And after that…

3. Bringing the story to a satisfactory endHow does the story end? How do we resolve the conflict set up between the binary opposites? How much do we explain to the students about the binary oppositions and how explicit should we make them?

4. EvaluationHow can we know whether the topic has been understood, its importance grasped, and the content learned?

So Now What…

On one hand I have ideas and on the other a framework to follow, but… how do I bring them together?

I made a template, printed it several times and placed them around the house, in my street bag and folded a couple of them inside little boy’s daddy agenda (yes, he has some of the greatest ideas and yes, he will be sketching too!).

This template allows us to collect ideas in the form of the framework mentioned above, together with some basic storytelling principles and enough space for notes and sketches. The best thing is that we don’t have to do it in any specific order because we realised that sometimes a story would spring from a metaphor, or from a mathematical explanation, or even from some gossiping.

I spread out these pages around the house to collect ideas anytime.
I can’t wait to see some of them filling up! Can you?

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