Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – Whose story is it anyway by Norah Colvin


This is the second post from the archives of  educator and storyteller Norah Colvin and this week Norah shares her own experiences of telling real stories about family to young children, not just their immediate family but passing on living history about those relatives we have met but the younger generation may not have.

Whose story is it anyway by Norah Colvin

Nor and Bec reading
Children love stories. They love being read stories and beg for them to be read, over and over again.

Equally as much, if not more, they love being told stories, especially stories of their own lives. They beg for them to be told over and over, listening attentively and with wonder as their own stories (her story and his story) are being revealed. They commit these tales to memory so that eventually it is difficult to distinguish the genuine experiential memory from the telling. Even as adults they seem to not tire of hearing tales of the cute things they did when they were little, or of shared experiences.

They also love being told stories of their parents’ lives. These are the stories that help define them and their existence: how they came to be. The stories tell of times gone by, and of how things used to be. They marvel that their parents were once children and try to imagine how that might have been.

My daughter would often ask for stories about herself, her brother, myself or other family members. One day when she was about six, she asked again, ‘Tell me a story about when you were a little girl.’ Before I could respond she jumped in with, ‘What were the dinosaurs like?’ She was teasing, of course, and her comedic timing was perfect. A story was created, one that has been shared many times.

History is a story, though at school I never saw it as such. Had it been a story of lives, as its name implies, I may have been interested. But history at school was a list of wars and dates, and kings and queens to be memorised and regurgitated for a test at the end of the term. There was no story, no human emotion, no semblance to any narrative that may have lured me in.

I hope that today’s students of history are not required to commit sterile lists of facts to memory without the stories that would give them meaning and significance, some human element to help the information stick.

History, as a subject, had always been relegated to high school. It was not a discrete part of the primary school curriculum, though aspects were explored in other subject areas such as ‘Social Studies’ when I was at school, or more recently ‘Studies of Society and Environment’. With the introduction of the new Australian Curriculum,  History is now a stand-alone subject.

As an early childhood teacher I was a bit terrified that young children would be required to memorise lists of seemingly random facts and dates. I’m pleased to say that, for the early years anyway, this is not so. Children in the early years start by exploring their own history and the history of their family, considering similarities and differences between their lives, the lives of their parents, and of their friends.

I applaud this as an excellent starting point. I believe, when working with children, connections must always be made with their lives and what they know. What better starting point than investigating the traditions of their own family and culture.

In Australia, as I am sure it is in many other places, a great diversity of cultures is represented in each classroom. Encouraging children to share similarities and differences of traditions with their classmates helps to develop understanding of each other’s traditions and beliefs, which in turn fosters respect and empathy. For this purpose, I developed some materials to make it easy for children to share their traditions. These are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

 

 

Mem Fox has written a beautiful picture book Whoever you are that I love to share with children when discussing their cultures and traditions. It explains in a simple and beautiful way that although children around the world may live in different houses, wear different clothes, eat different foods, for example ‘inside, their hearts are just like yours.’ Mem Fox explains the story on her website.

I also like to sing I am Freedom’s Child by Bill Martin Jr.; and in Australia we have a great song that tells about our different beginnings, I am, you are, we are Australian by Bruce Woodley.

What got me thinking about history in particular for this post is the flash fiction prompt posted by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications. Charli’s challenge is to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that considers history, near or far.

This is my contribution

washing 1949

Washing day

Her freckled, calloused hands were red and chaffed as they gripped the wooden stick and stirred Monday’s sheets in the large copper pot heating over burning blocks of wood.

The children played in the dirt nearby, scratching like chickens, hopeful of an interesting find.

The dirt embedded under her torn and splitting fingernails began to ease away in the warm sudsy water as she heaved the sodden sheets and plopped them onto the wooden mangles.

The children fought to turn the handle, smearing dirty handprints on the sheets.

She sighed, and hung them over the line. One chore done.
©Norah Colvin

About Norah Colvin

I am an experienced and passionate educator. I teach. I write. I create.

I have spent almost all my life thinking and learning about thinking and learning.

I have been involved in many educational roles, both in and out of formal schooling situations, always combining my love of teaching and writing by creating original materials to support children’s learning.

Now as I step away from the classroom again, I embark upon my latest iteration: sharing my thoughts about education by challenging what exists while asking what could be; and inviting early childhood educators to support children’s learning through use of my original teaching materials which are now available on my website http://www.readilearn.com.au

Connect to Norah via her websites

Website: www.NorahColvin.com
Website: www.readilearn.com.au

And social media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NorahColvin
Twitter 2:  https://twitter.com/readilearn
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008724879054
Readilearn:  https://www.facebook.com/readilearnteachingresources/
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/norah-colvin-14578777

My thanks to Norah for reminding us how important it is to pass on this living history from generation to generation. I know she would be delighted to hear your experiences about learning family history and comments. Thanks Sally.

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Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – One Picture for a Thousand Words by Jennie Fitzkee


Welcome to another post from the archives of Jennie Fitzkee. Jennie has enjoyed a career as a pre-school teacher for over thirty years, and has some inspiring posts that reinforce that the ability to read and books, are two of the best gifts we can give our children.

In today’s post Jennie shares the connections that she was able to make between reading Little House on the Prairie and her own grandfather from a similar era and his experiences of mining. Living history is so important to record and to have a connection with someone born in the 1890s to learn first hand what life was like, especially if you can pass it on to a future generation… spanning the past and present…

One Picture for a Thousand Words by Jennie Fitzkee

image

Our final chapter reading book this year at school was Little House on the Prairie.  The last chapter that we read was ‘Fresh Water to Drink’.  Pa and his neighbor, Mr. Scott, were digging a well.  Pa was careful to lower a candle each day into the deep hole to make sure the air was safe.  Bad gas lives deep under the earth.  Mr. Scott thought the candle was ‘foolishness’, and began digging without sending the candle down into the well.  The rest of the chapter was an edge-of-your-seat nail biter.

I love this chapter.  So did the children.  I realized I could connect what happened down in that well to something real; a portrait of my grandfather as a little boy wearing miner’s gear, including a candle on his helmet.  My grandfather and his father had mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  I grew up with their stories and photographs, including this portrait.

I brought it to school the next day to show the children.  “This is my grandfather”, I said.  “He went deep under the earth, just like Pa and Mr. Scott.  What is that on his head?”  Children couldn’t sit.  They jumped up, pressed against me and each other, all wanting a closer look.  “That’s fire!” someone said.  “No, it’s a candle” said Owen.  “A candle is fire.” said Miles.  “What did he do?”  Ah, those wonderful, spontaneous questions that spark the best learning.  This was ‘a moment’, fifteen children eager to hear more and learn.

I told them about mining, going underground, and about the candle.  I then showed them the Garth Williams illustrations in the chapter ‘Fresh Water to Drink’, with Ma and Pa turning the handle of the windlass to get Mr. Scott out of the well, and Pa digging the hole that is as deep as he is tall.  We talked about how hard that would be.  We imagined what it would be like inside the hole:  Dark or light?  Hot or cold?  Then someone asked, “How old is your grandfather?”

I was connecting generations and connecting learning.

I’m in mid-life, where I have a strong, real link with the past and also the present.  My one arm can reach and touch my parents from before 1920 and my grandparents from the 1880’s and 1890’s   They were just here ‘some years ago’.  My other arm can reach and touch my children and grandchildren, and all the preschoolers I teach.

I find this mind boggling; I’m equally part of the past, a long line of family history, and part of the present, teaching children and learning.  I want to connect all the lines.  I want people to know that I was there with Nan who was born in The 1880’s, and with Lulu who was born ten years later.  I want people to know that I understand life from that point forward.

More importantly, I want my preschoolers to have a firsthand piece of history.  It is a ‘real’ way to enhance learning.  That happened with my Grandfather’s portrait.

©Jennie Fitzkee

About Jennie Fitzkee

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about.

I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

Connect to Jennie

Blog: https://jenniefitzkee.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennie.fitzkee
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jlfatgcs

My thanks to Jennie for sharing this post from her archives and it would be great if you could share how far your personal connection to your family stretches in each direction.

My parents were born in 1916 and 1917 and I met my grandmother who was born in 1890 the youngest in my own family is 12 years old so that is span of 129 years of living history.

If you would like to share your stories about family, including our fur babies.. then please take a look at the details.

Posts from Your Archives and the theme this time is all about family.

  1. Personal memories of childhood or teens that are still fresh in your mind.
  2. Family history, stories of your parents, grandparents and further back if you can.
  3. Fur family past and present.
  4. Favourite recipes.
  5. Memorable holidays.
  6. Places you have lived.
  7. Memorable homes you have lived in.
  8. Grandchildren tales.
  9. Any family related post – education, health, teen years, elderly care, lifestyle.
  10. Please remember that there are some younger readers who visit.

I think you get the idea.

The aim of this series is to showcase your blog and any creative work that you do from books, art, photography and crafts. You pick between one and four links to posts that you have written for your own blog from the day you started up to December 2018, and you simply send the link to those blogs to sally.cronin@moyhill.com

You have to do nothing more as I will capture the post and images from your blog and I will then post with full copyright to you.. with your creative work and your links to buy and to connect. I might sometimes need a little more information but I am quite resourceful in finding out everything I need.

So far in the Posts from Your Archives from September 2017, there have been over 700 posts from 200 + bloggers that have reached a different audience and encouraged more readers for their own blogs and current posts.

Previous participants are more than welcome