Creative languages such as music, storytelling, digital narrations or games, literature, cooking can facilitate communication between adults or elder people and the young, in the informal setting and atmosphere of a shared activity.
The LLP-GRUNDTVIG Multilateral project “ALICE _ Adults Learning for Intergenerational Creative Experiences” (2011-2013) provided – through piloting designed by trainers and trainee together and implemented by trainee adults with children – proof of how adults could find themselves at ease with creative languages and activities – though not previously used or trained to tool them – and find them useful to establish an effective and pleasant communication with the young.
As in a Grundtvig project should be, though there were many levels of training, therefore of learning (the trainers first, then the trainee adults, last but not least the young who took part in the creative activities) the main focus was on the non-professional training of adults. The trainees were parents or grandparents of children or teenagers, volunteers implementing activities with children, and their technical goal was to learn how to plan and implement a creative activity to be implemented by together with the young ones, under the tutoring of the project’s trainers. The specific pilot this learning path refers to is “Granma’s Story Time”, and it is described in the words of the trainer who implemented it:
“The activity is carried out in a local kindergarten, in the countryside area of a small Council, where Italian and some non-native children aged 3-5 play together and are guided by the educators to a pre-literacy approach. Altogether the pupils are 54, with four educators. There is also a girl with special needs; she has a support teacher.
- I knew one of the educators because we had been colleagues. I knew that she was interested in experimenting new didactic strategies and approaches. I explained her the importance of intergenerational relationship in informal education, and how informal education can be perfectly fit and integrated with formal education. She suggested to involve Anna, a still young and recently retired widow grandmother who was still lively though sometimes depressed because she didn’t feel useful anymore.
- In agreement with the kindergarten educators I chose the Grimm’s fairy tale The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids as basis for our activity. Besides children’s narrations, in the planning of the activity drama and some musical devices were added as creative languages. The story has been adapted and reduced in some parts, so to keep high and lasting the attention span of the children.Children could have the chance of listening to the story told by a person who transfers emotions in narrating. Being a grandmother and not an educator, she could use simple words and informal phrases which could be more easily understood by young children.
AIM of the activity:
to teach children aged 3-5 to cope with human strong emotions such as:
♦ fear of the unknown and unexpected;
♦ fear of mother’s loss
They would also learn how important is to cooperate with peers in problem solving
Specific GOALS for both children and adults:
■ improve skills in L1 as through playing some bits and dialogues, using correct Italian and appropriate tone;
■ improve manual skills in helping teachers in preparing prompts and costumes;
■ increase awareness of the others’ ability and individuality as well as of one’s own individuality and talents in playing a role.
The impact could also be:
► awareness of the potential values and skills of the group as well as individual;
► awareness of the importance of adults in any environment and specifically in the educational one to communicate and witness values;
► involving adults and in particular the elder in a lively and active group so that he/she can still feel part of a community which rely on his/her experience.
A basic feature is the cooperation with an elderly grandma – more laid back and informal than the one with the teachers – who brings with her a caring and peaceful atmosphere.
The context of the sessions
Sessions were implemented at the kindergarten: during school time when children were also involved; during the educators’ planning time when it was the case to assess the activities, and implement or plan the following ones. If needed I also met the teachers or Ms Anna separately to discuss and plan their time and role in the activities.
Activities and Resources
Part 1, dur. 45 min.: Warming up. I introduce myself and granma Anna with a circle game: “I’m Anna and I clap my hands”. Then I ask Anna to introduce herself and explain why she is there.We previously agreed that she wil ask a feedback from the children, with simple questions such as “Are you happy I’m here?”, then promise some pleasant surprise to warm the atmosphere up.
Resources: a specific story-time corner in the school building, where we all can sit in circle.
Part 2, dur. 1 h.: Information. Anna tels the tale “The Wolf and the 7 Kids”. She explains that we are there to enjoy a story-time together and play with grandma Anna. Children are also asked qustions to help them express how they feel. As some get emotional aand scared because of the wolf character, they are asked to repeat this character’s sentences with a deep “wolfy” voice, so that they can ward off fears.
Resources: illustrated book with an abridged version of the tale.
Part 1, dur. 15 min.: Warming up. Anna with other adults gathers the children in a circle. The drawings they made during schooltime with the educators on the theme of the tale are shown one by one and commented by the children themselves. The workshop activity of the day is introduced .
Resources: The story-time corner, children’s drawings.
Workshop activity 1, dur. 20 min: As the children are quite young and their attention span short, Anna introduces them a game: “Who’s Afraid of the Big bad Wolf”, to lead them in the tale them into the matter of the fable.
Resources: playground area
Workshop activity 2, dur. 25 minutes: Anna attracts the children’s attention and suggests them a role play of the tale they heard in the previous session.
Children may come up with their suggestions. Anna divides the pupils into groups and assignes them their roles in the “play”. The 3-year olds play the trees, flowers, mushrooms in the forest. The 4- and 5-year olds play the main characters: Mother Goat, the 7 Kids, the Big Bad Wolf, the baker, the sweet shop assistant, the shop customers. The 3-year olds are just miming their role, and producing sounds with their voices or feet. The older children actually play roles, with lines, mimicry and appropriate actions, with the support of the adults who wil help them understand with sketches as well, as children are too young to be able to small to read.
Resources: pen and paper to jot down roles, dialogue, and a sketch of the storyboard
Assessment, dur. 30 min.: Anna and her trainer reflect on the learned lessons and knowledge/skills achieved. We give each other feedback on the quality of the activity.
Personalization, dur. 30 min.: Anna asks her trainer and the educators specific questions to better her management and choices in her upcoming activity with the children. On request of the trainee, who expresses her need for some theoretical study on the activity she is implementing, we examine together a selection of useful websites or books which might suit her.
Part 1, dur. 15 min.: Warming up. Anna recalls with the children the activities in sessions 2, and introduces workshop 3.
Resources: the story-time corner where all sit in circle
Part 2, dur. 10 min.: Information. Anna explains the goals of next workshop: children are going to split in two groups, one will prepare the prompts and helps educators to draw, cut and stitch costumes, another wil rehearse their lines action with Anna and her trainer.
Resources: prompts, coloured paper and stationery, photocopy of the tale “The Wolf and the 7 kids”
Part 3, dur. 1 h. 25 min.: Workshop 3. Anna and the trainer organize the rehearsal of the role play
Resources: songs/music tracks and a player
Part 4, dur. 2 h,.: Assessment. Anna, the educators and the trainer reflect on the knowledge/skills achieved. They give each other feed-back on the quality of the session, also with the help of a competence scheme and a list of questions prepared by the trainer as part of her QA work. Part 1, 2 abd 3 of this session wil be repeated without the supervision of the trainer – as it is not needed anymore – as many times as needed to have everybody satisfied with the collective delivery of the tale.
It was interesting to observe the interplay between the educators and grandmother Anna, who at the beginning did not feel at ease with each other very much, yet became very friendly and collaborating as the activity was shaping up, and as each of them recognized the cultural background and valuable experience and skills of the other. As time went by and collaboration unfurled, interplay and consideration of values and competences of both participants, educators and grandmother, grew and grew. Anna became so self confident and was so able to integrate in the school setting to the point that she was asked by both teachers and children to take part to the final performance as well – which she did, as narrating voice -, something which was not in the plans at the start.”
- Bibliography / Web resources consulted
Bettelheim, B. (1976) The Uses of Enchantment. The meaning and Importance of fairy Tales, New York: Vintage Books
Bottigheimer, R. (1987) Grimms’ Bad Girls and Bold Boys: the moral and social Vision of the Tales. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
Calvino, I, (1995), Perché leggere i classici, Milano: Oscar Mondadori
European Commission (2011) Early Childhood education and Care: providing all our children with the best start for the world of tomorrow, at http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/education_training_youth/lifelong_learning/ef0027_en.htm (last retrieved on January 15, 2015)
Piumini, R. – Costa, N. (2010), Il lupo e I sette capretti, Ed. EL
Winnicott D.W. The child and the Family, London: Tavistock
Wright, A. (1995) Storytelling with Children, Oxford University Press
http://escouts.eu/ (last retrieved on January 15, 2015)
Project SOL : http://soundsofintent.org/ (last retrieved on January 15, 2015)
http://www.paroledautore.net/fiabe/classiche/grimm/settecapretti.htm (last retrieved on January 15, 2015)