When I first started Roots & Wings, a colleague of mine told me about learning stories. A learning story is a powerful assessment tool (from New Zealand) that shows the awesomeness of your children while making visible the power of play. The stories are positive and written directly to the children. They typically capture a moment in time and illustrate how much the teachers value the children. The stories can be written directly to one child or a group of children. I added learning stories to my mental rolodex for when I would have more time to reflect on my teaching. Now is that time and I wanted to share my first learning story that I wrote to a group of children in my class.
Dear preschool explorers,
We have been to the creek many times throughout the year, but this last time was different. As we went across the bridge, you ran to our special spot to get down to the creek bed bottom. You have strong bodies and you got down all by yourself today! Most of the time, we start our walk on the creek bed bottom. Today was different. I can’t remember who climbed up first? From the photo I think it was Anders. Then soon Amalya and Sage followed. Next came Leighton, Felix, and Hazel. You had to climb over a large branch and then uneven grass which was tricky! This was a new experience for you to climb on the side of the cliff. This was also a new experience for me to watch you climb on that side of the creek! You were curious so you kept walking along. Then it came to a part where it was a bit steeper and you had to be aware of your friends crossing your path.
There was one part that was muddy and harder to climb back up. I heard Hazel say to Leighton:
“Here, Leighton grab on to this stick. I can pull you up” - Hazel
Hazel, I’m proud of you for helping your friend. You thought of a solution to get her back to the top with you.
The other experience that stood out to me was the day Amalya wanted to share her love of climbing mountains with you. Before we went to the creek that day, we talked about having a partner and we need to stay with our partner to help each other. I had set out the ropes and let you decide how we might practice climbing the creek bed cliff.
“I think one person can try to pull up the other with the ropes.” - Amalya
“Yeah, let’s try that!” - Felix
After a little practice, you got the hang of it! I heard kids laughing and giggling trying to get pulled up. I saw Leighton fall and get mud on her pants and hands. She said:
“Ms. Megan, look.I’m all muddy” - Leighton
But then Leighton with a face of determination, you got right back up and tried again. I saw Lucy trying to help Will and she was so supportive.
"Will you can do it! Just grab the rope if you can" - Lucy
All of sudden, we heard a small crash and Felix tripped over a small branch and fell down. I saw Amalya run over to him.
“Felix, are you ok?” - Amalya
“Yes, I’m ok Amalya. Thanks.” - Felix
Amalya, I can tell you care about your friends and the safety of our group.
What learning was happening?
I had so fun watching you explore a new path at the creek! This was a new experience for me and it was my first time to try that path. You were curious and wanted to take the risk you were comfortable with. I can tell this group of children loves to be outside and exploring. You have strong bodies and are learning how to balance on uneven ground. You are using new muscles to pull yourself up. I can tell you care about your friends and are there for them if they need help.
I can tell you love exploring and adventures! I’d like to take you on longer nature walks through the creek bed. There is a loop that is about a .4 mile. When you get past the waterfall spot (where we usually turn around), the landscape changes and we are likely to see more animal tracks and other treasures. That said, I would feel better about taking the class if I had a volunteer to help. Perhaps, I can post a schedule for 11am nature walks (once a week) and see if parents can volunteer to join us? I know it would be fun to keep up these walks as the seasons change.
The last part of a learning story includes a parent’s response to the story. This is an important part of the story and I value your input. When you write your response, if you can please write directly to the children. This is my first time writing a story like this and there is no right or wrong way to respond! Thank you!
“Dear preschool explorers, It makes me so happy to hear about all of your winter exploring! You are all so strong and capable and curious when it comes to navigating and exploring outside in the cold of winter. It makes me want to explore with you and climb up mountains and find animal tracks. It looks and sounds like so much fun! - Sarah”
“Dear Explorers, You are so kind to help each other during your explorations. You are very blessed to enjoy such fun adventures with your friends! - Ariel”
“Dear Preschoolers: What a wonderful winter adventure! It sounds like you had so much fun exploring, problem solving, and helping each other. You have inspired me to try walking in the creek bed rather than on the trail next time. I would love to come walk with you one day. You can show me all of your favorite spots and treasures. You are a very special group of kids and I love all of you so much!” - Sharla