Open Collections

UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

In the presence of each other : a pedagogy of storytelling Kuyvenhoven, Johanna Claudia 2005

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata

Download

Media
831-ubc_2005-105232.pdf [ 16.64MB ]
Metadata
JSON: 831-1.0055624.json
JSON-LD: 831-1.0055624-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 831-1.0055624-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 831-1.0055624-rdf.json
Turtle: 831-1.0055624-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 831-1.0055624-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 831-1.0055624-source.json
Full Text
831-1.0055624-fulltext.txt
Citation
831-1.0055624.ris

Full Text

IN THE PRESENCE OF EACH OTHER: A PEDAGOGY OF STORYTELLING by JOHANNA CLAUDIA KUYVENHOVEN BA, Western Michigan University, 1975 MA, Trent University, 1995 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Educational Studies THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA November, 2005 ©Johanna Claudia Kuyvenhoven, 2005 Abstract In the Presence of Each Other: A Pedagogy of Storytelling During a day in school, many stories are shared orally between children and their teacher. In order to learn about what happens during storytelling and better understand its role in classroom learning life, I took a seat in a grade 4/5 classroom from September 2002 until February 2003. In my ethnographic study, I learned about one teacher, Linda Stender's intentional use of storytelling to teach. It included times during which children told and heard stories they remembered and other times when she told stories to explain a point. She also told longer stories to listening children sprawled on the floor. Storytelling was a unified pedagogy. Linda taught children an ability and knowledge body that is particular to sharing a story aloud. Storytelling pedagogy was developed and enacted by means of three related, specific participations. In the first, participants listened and told during social awareness. They developed language abilities, social facility and knowledge as well as vocabularies for storytelling. In the second, mindful interaction, participants used a story as a "thinking place." Storytelling was the means to illustrate information, explain abstract concepts and connect ideas to their applications. In the third, children participated in deep imaginative engagement. Children entered private imaginative space where they engaged story-world life. This participation taught imaginative abilities, the particular knowledge gained through human experience, empathy for others and enriched their self-understanding. This is new theory. In the presence o f each other, a teacher taught and children learned within the circle of a storytelling in three ways: social awareness, mindful interaction and deep imaginative engagement. i i i Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Figures vi Acknowledgements vii Chapter One: Three circles of participation during storytelling 1 Storytelling is used to teach 1 Introduction and preparation: 2 Storytelling as pedagogy in eight chapters A storytelling has many forms 4 Storytelling: Unity in diversity? The struggle to find 5 a connection between stories and tellings New theory: A conceptual frame for thinking of storytelling 8 Figure 1.A. Three Participations: Social awareness, 16 mindful interaction and deep imaginative engagement Chapter Two: Rationale and literature review 17 Introduction 17 A Teacher who was a storyteller in school 18 First Nations of Canada: First Teachers of Storytelling 22 Literature Review: Introduction 24 Storytelling-Teachers write About storytelling: Justifying Delight 25 Narrative not Storytelling: Scholarly writers don't use the "S" word 32 Chapter Three: Designing an ethnographic study of storytelling 40 Models for this research project 40 Linda Stender, the storytelling-teacher 42 The site: A classroom, school and neighbourhood 51 Ms. Jo in the classroom 55 The researcher as study instrument 57 Interviewing children 62 Researcher's reflective journal as data 66 Bringing it all together to learn about storytelling 68 Chapter Four: An ever present participant in storytelling: 69 The classroom Introduction 69 Noisy children and joyous collisions: Classroom sound-scape 70 The classroom landscape: The material of school 76 iv Chapter Five: Storytelling participation in social awareness 82 Introduction 82 Conversation for storytelling: Linda plans class meetings 82 Skinny stories, allusions and reminders: Storytelling in conversation. 86 Riddles and jokes: Traditions of storytelling in social awareness 110 Storytelling in social awareness 117. Chapter Six: Deep imaginative engagement during storytelling 118 Introduction Getting ready to open Linda's gifts and find wonder 119 Imagination: "You have dreaming to know what to do." (Kyla) 121 Postures of storytelling participation in deep imaginative engagement: 123 Stillness Getting there from here: Imagining pictures and falling into presence 132 Inside imagination: Outside of time 142 Children bring the inside out: Getting the details of the story-world right 145 Fragile borders: The story-world held in deep imaginative engagement 150 Deep imaginative engagement: An experience of Wonder .162 It's about love, restfulness and possibility 164 Storytelling: Engaging with Wonder 168 Chapter Seven: Storytelling for mindful interaction 171 Introduction: Participations and the question of order 171 Storytelling for mindful interaction is different 172 The flying head: Storytelling to understand a concept 177 Mindful interaction for reading: Getting children addicted to the book. 181 From "being there" to writing 186 "It sticks more than words." Storytelling to remember 193 Chapter Eight: three participations: One storytelling pedagogy 202 Discovering and uncovering the pedagogy of storytelling 202 Still more to leam 203 Storytelling participation in social awareness 207 Storytelling participation in deep imaginative engagement 208 Storytelling participation in mindful interaction: Storytelling to teach 210 Some implications of Linda's pedagogy for storytelling in schools 211 The story's ending 220 References 221 Appendices 241 Interview guides used with Linda Stender, (3. A) 241 September 2002 and January 2003. Classroom observation guide (3.B) 244 Dates of interviews with children (3.C) 246 Interview guide used with children (3.D) 247 The classroom (4.A) 249 Class meeting. Agenda and outline used by children (5.A) 252 Additional: Storytelling topics during classroom meetings and conversations (6.A) 254 Storytellings in the classroom: A l l . (6.B) 255 Languages spoken by children in the classroom (6.C) 256 v i List of Figures Figure 1.A. Storytelling Pedagogy: Three Participations p. 16 Acknowledgements M y study of storytelling in school conjured its own rich oral tradition into being. So many people talked and spent time with me during my study. Now, with gratitude and delight I remember those who helped me write what we learned and knew together. I begin by acknowledging the children and their teacher, Linda Stender. They opened their classroom and themselves to my research. I worked hard to honor this great gift. M y thanks, too, to the school community of other faculty, staff, teachers and parents who made me welcome. M y study was helped by many storytellers. Anne Anderson, Nan Gregory, K e v i n MacKenzie, Kate Stevens, K i r a V a n Duesen and The Vancouver Society o f Storytelling inspired and challenged me. Others did so from beyond Vancouver's mountains: Jan Andrews, Jennifer Cayley, K a y Stone and those of The Toronto School of Storytelling. M y beloved company o f the Storytellers o f Canada/ Conteurs du Canada, encouraged me to learn about storytelling in school. I was also taught by storytelling friends as Yagbe Tarawale and Karanke Marah from Sierra Leone, and Pennishish, Cree elder and storyteller. Finally, I owe much to my dear, wise friend, Karen Lander who has been with me, telling and listening throughout my studies. M y father, Andrew Kuyvenhoven prepared me with a childhood brimming with stories. M y mother, Klaz ina Heerema taught by eloquent presence and motherly wisdom. M y three children: Rachel, Jessica and Joshua with their spouses Fredrick and Gregory, forbore my distractedness, listened, talked and advised me well . I acknowledge them because they supported me, but especially because they were also my teachers. I am thankful for the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) who gave me the funding I needed to take up full time studies. M y many thanks also go to Dr. Julie Cruikshank and Dr. Kieran Egan who helped me bring my studies to the question. Finally, abiding thanks to my excellent committee. M y supervisor and guide was Dr. Al l ison Tom, ethnographer and educator. She helped form and direct my study. Dr. Jo-ann Archibald is a storyteller and scholar of the U B C First Nations House o f Learning. She brought deep understanding of the cultural contexts and the storytellers and listeners' relationships. Dr. Maureen Kendrick brought her rich breadth o f experience and understanding born in her studies o f children's play, their lives inside stories and their work to read and write. There are many others who are not named here. Learning may seem a solitary activity, but is deeply rooted, formed and nourished by the community of tellers and listeners, readers and writers with whom I studied. To all o f you: Thank you. Y o u gave me the educator's delight: to learn with you; and the storyteller's fabulous privilege: to tell our stories. 1 Chapter One Three Circles of Participation During Storytelling Storytelling is used to teach. Linda Stender, the classroom teacher with whom I studied, depended on storytelling to do much of her teaching. A s she wrote in her journal after a day spent with her grade 4/5 students: None of us, least of all me, know at the start of the day what little gem w i l l inspire enough interest to spark the story. But something usually does, and it usually happens during class meeting. Thursday, for example, Marcus came in with a "Fantastic Fact" about the miracle of the salmon returning to their birth place to spawn after 4 years away on their own in the wide Pacific Ocean. His parents had helped him with the facts, but it was so wonderful how the few statistics that they'd recorded on a bit of paper blossomed into their wonderful adventure... o f the bruised and wounded, blood red salmon battling their way upstream to lay their eggs and die. The kids fleshed the story out. "The male salmon's mouth forms a hook." "Its teeth become fangs" and then, that led to fishing stories and falling in the river stories and before you knew it, it was 10:00 and Marcus was beaming and everyone had plans to go to the Adam's River Site on the internet and to the library to follow the story even further... In the best of all worlds we could have allowed that story to lead us, even for several weeks, through science study of the salmon's life cycle, through some social studies stories like Dune 1 tells of the coastal fishing industry, some Paul Y e e 2 stories of the abuse of the Chinese cannery laborers and some Coast Salish legends that reveal how the salmon is honoured in their culture and on and on and on (October 20, 2002). Linda and the children often and regularly told stories to each other in the classroom where I conducted my ethnographic study. It happened in conversations and during her direct instruction over the various disciplines. It happened in more heightened ways when she told the kinds of stories Paul Yee writes: folk tales and myths. Although my study focuses on her teaching practice with storytelling, she used many other kinds of activities and learning events to teach. Linda used a complexity o f strategies, materials and experiences. However, as she said, "In the best of all worlds we could have allowed (a) story to lead us" through learning. Linda was a storyteller who was teaching. Thus, 1 Dune Shields: a Vancouver storyteller, writer and retired fisherman. 2 Paul Yee: West Coast writer. Some of his work includes Tales From Gold Mountain (1989), Roses Sing on Snow (1991)and Ghost Train (1996). His work is characterized by descriptions and plots concerning Chinese immigrant experiences in Canada. 2 when I wanted to learn more about storytelling and its place in teaching and learning, I joined her in her portable classroom at Queen Elizabeth Community Elementary School in New Westminster, British Columbia. There, I listened and watched Linda Stender and her students tell each other the kinds of stories she wrote about in her journal. I wanted to find out what happened when a story was told in school. Introduction and preparation: Storytelling as pedagogy in eight chapters. When I write "storytelling" I always mean an event during which a story was shared from memory. In Linda's classroom, a teacher and children remembered when they told a story. A s Linda's journal entry suggested, storytelling events were smaller or larger and could be centered by rather different kinds of stories. They happened at any time of the school day and were used to varied purposes. But, in every case storytelling demanded participant's abilities of memory, oral language and social interaction. The story's meaning or significance was established within the circumstances of the event and participant's embodied expressions. A story was spoken and heard and not read or written, among those who shared each other's presence. M y observations, participation and learning were concentrated on and directed by the kinds of storytelling events I just described. In the first of eight chapters, I introduce the new theoretical framework I developed and used to organize my description of storytelling in Linda's room. Three kinds of participation, each entailing particular abilities, knowledge and learning relationships were enacted during storytelling events. Over the course of the following chapters I elaborate and confirm my theory of storytelling in three circles of participation with observations, experiences, participant's testimony and my discussion. I show that storytelling is a pedagogy comprised of abilities, understandings, and learning outcomes specific to storytelling participation. In chapter two I outline the rationale for studying storytelling in school. I begin with my personal experiences as these urged me to learn more about storytelling. Then, I review professional literature about what happens when a story is told. M y review of scholars, teachers and storytellers' works suggest my study was necessary. There are unanswered questions about storytelling. Storytellers who practice their passionate art in 3 their classrooms and scholarly educator-theorists who explain its role in schools have contrasting understandings of what storytelling is, as well as its roles and significance to education. The literature review demonstrates the usefulness of my study to current scholarship and my study answers some questions. This chapter also helps my reader position my study and findings amongst other works. In chapter three, I describe the research methods, relationships and understandings that informed my conduction of my study. I explain the principles which guided my planning and how I engaged ethnographic methods to learn more about storytelling as it is used to teach. I describe how I found and chose Linda Stender. I outline the varied sources of data I took from the site: observation and field notes, journals, interview transcripts, and personal experience. I discuss the theoretical understandings which guided my listening, watching and participation. Chapter three establishes the reliability o f my findings and explains the means by which I learned about storytelling. Before entering the immediacy of storytelling events, I pause to describe the classroom in chapter four. Importantly, storytelling includes more than the three more obvious members. The fourth, the classroom, contextualizes and critically informs understandings of what happened when a story was told there. The educational intentions and social life there as well as the physical landscape affect and shape storytelling. In chapters five, six and seven I describe ways of talking and listening as they were demonstrated and explained to me by participants. In these chapters I detail and explain what happened during storytelling in Linda Stender's classroom. In chapter five I describe stories told, heard and used in social awareness. This participation was most frequent in conversation, play and such lively interactions as riddles, jokes and chanting. In chapter six I explore and describe children's participation in deep imaginative engagement. It was visible in the still postures of listeners, audible in the deep hush that surrounded the teller's voice and expressed in the testimonies of listeners afterwards. It happened more commonly during Linda's telling of folk stories. In chapter seven I discuss participation in mindful interaction. Such interaction was most commonly enacted during the teacher's deliberate instruction. Children used storytelling intentionally to understand math, guide reading and writing, or make applications to lessons o f history or social science. 4 In chapter eight I explain how these understandings affect our uses of storytelling to teach. M y thinking about storytelling, as a pedagogy o f three participations for specific abilities and understandings, is a new contribution to scholarship. Such a frame is necessary. Although there is much help for storytellers who wish to use their abilities to teach and professional educators who confirm the importance of storytelling to learning, there is no comprehensive and focused way to think about storytelling across the day in school. I expect the descriptions, transcriptions and my recorded classroom experiences w i l l compel educators' and theorists' reconsideration and understandings of what happens when a story is told in school. I also expect my frame for thinking about classroom storytelling may be challenged, amended, augmented and the like. I hope so. A storytelling has many forms. Before I embark, let me just point out briefly that when we read or talk together, sets of meaning-making strategies are activated by understandings of genre and context. M y readers' expectations about a scholarly dissertation may need to be readied. M y identity and writing-self that is also a professional storyteller,3 affects the forms I use to communicate understandings. Sometimes the form of a story guides my writing and I work to evoke rather than explain storytelling. Other times my more scholarly voice explains, reflects, argues and makes my conclusions more explicit. However, my storyteller and writing selves are firmly and necessarily together. I weave experiences and understandings into one body of writing. Initially I experienced these identities and voices as exclusive of each other. That was not only my idea of it. The literature review confirms the separation is common. Other professional writers are split between those who storytell in school and those who are located beyond the circle of listeners and tellers. A t the end of my writing, I hope the reader has found my two voices: the storyteller and scholar's are inseparable. A unified understanding about storytelling experience and its nature as a teaching and learning event in the classroom were best established this way by me. 3 By this I mean that I am paid to storytell at festivals, conferences and schools. 5 Storytelling: Unity in diversity? The struggle to find a connection between stories and storytellings. A l l the storytelling events in Linda's room can be considered as one of three interrelated participations. M y realization was born out of a struggle to find connections between profoundly diverse but phenomenologically similar events. The struggle itself suggests much about the nature of stories, storytelling and ethnographic studies. Let me tell the story of how I came to understand and then develop a way of organizing and thinking about storytelling in Linda's classroom. A s might be guessed, much storytelling happened in a room where a teacher and twenty five children lived and learned together. Hundreds of stories were told in "face-to-face" situations over the five months I spent there. Although I could identify these as all "storytellings" there was significant variation. They contrasted in shape, arrangement, content and applications. They happened in such dissimilar situations as a math lesson, Halloween party, current events and after a fight. The ways in which tellers and listeners participated also varied. A story told during the lively exchange in conversation or play was not like the silent intensity of listeners during a folk tale. Some storytellings took as long as it takes to speak a sentence and others took as long as twenty-five minutes. Story subjects ranged from a math problem, historical events, movie retellings, personal memories recounted, hockey goal, home gossip and folk tales. Some storytellings were rehearsed and others were spontaneous. Some belonged to a deliberate teaching intention and others depended on various tellers taking parts. While I experienced these all as "storytellings" my transcripts, field notes, observations and reflections challenged me to show similarity. I struggled to organize and relate them to each other. I searched for a regular characteristic or some pattern. I developed several approaches and organizational frames. They could be categorized by subject, form, context, tellers or listeners. They could be arranged by the sort of lesson in which storytelling happened. I organized them as they illustrated, motivated or contextualized information. A t one point I organized them by experiences of listening and telling. However, all these means of organizing the data failed to hold significance that resonated with my experience. 6 I re-examined my idea that a "storytelling happened." I realized that my search was guided by an assumption, a premise: diversity did not signal disparity. I realized I assumed materials under my study were all related. They were all storytellings. W h y did I think so and why did I experience them all as "a story"? I realized that in spite of many other ideas about how I might identify "a story," 4 the clue that alerted me in every case to a storytelling was a felt pause. I experienced a nearly palpable shift in the a stream of talk and activity in the classroom. It was true in every case: in the tellings of anecdotes, book retellings, jokes or a teacher's illustration for a lesson. It was true for the short fragmentary stories told by children during conversation and of the times when children sat and lay about on the floor. Whether it was the teacher teaching, children socializing, or in the midst of group learning work, a storytelling created a felt break in the stream of activity. I had noted a "pause" in the first week of my study - unaware that I would (much) later come to think o f the "pause" as a story's signal of its entry and dam-like quality on the flow o f other kinds of talk and motion in the room. In my reflective journal I wrote: During the conversation about safety on the playground, one of the children, Tych 5 said, "Last night there was a fight at the football field. These guys who were playing football f i rs t . . . " A t once the class fell silent. He had moderate attention when he began, but now nearly the whole class turned to look at him. They all turned fully towards him and, everyone looked at Tych waiting for more. A t first Tych faltered under the intensity of attention. He stopped momentarily, his voice cracked and then he plunged on. "Two guys got this little k i d . . . " He seemed suddenly heartened by the attention he got. He spoke more loudly and filled in spaces between phrases with gestures. I was struck by the profound influence on our way of being in the room, my "experience" of what we were doing shifted oddly when Tych told us about the " k i d " who was beaten, football player who rescued him and the police who came. He finished rather abruptly and awkwardly, "So, uh, we just went back." Whi le he was recounting the story, we all listened to Tych. The class wasn't exactly noisy when he started talking. But it was suddenly really quiet. N o one whispered or rummaged in their desks or turned pages or was swinging her feet or tapping his fingers or dropping things etcetera, etcetera!! When he was done, there was sort o f a return to "normal" (September 6, 2002). 4 Consider that such diverse resources as Kermode's The Sense of an Ending (1967), Cruikshank's The Social Life of Stories (1998), a reading through Eagleton's Literary Theory (1998), Barton's Stories in the Classroom (1990), or Ricoeur's Oneself as Another (1992). These do not establish a concise definition of what we might mean by "a story." 5 As my chapter on methods will elaborate, all children's names in this dissertation are pseudonyms. 7 A t that time I guessed the subject of a "football player and fight" were keys to catching children's interests. I wondered whether students were "quiet" because Tych brought something of "shared interest" into the conversation. However, that pause in either conversation or other activity was a usual affect of storytelling. It happened when the teacher started telling Rumplestiltskin, when the principal dropped by to talk and began telling the class about an experience he had on the playground, when a child told others about a time she fell into the river, and so on. So, although "shared interest" could explain the sudden moment of silence Tych created with his story, it is inadequate to account for all those other times during which the entire class paused and turned to listen in different postures and changed ways from just moments previously. I realized that the "pause" marked a shift o f language from explanation, instruction or description to storytelling. The speaker switched communication from one way o f thinking and talking to another: A s Bruner explained, participants switched to "narrative thinking" (Bruner 1996: 39. Italics his). Prior to that moment, they were in another mode of thinking. Egan might say that Tych and his listeners slipped into "mythic understanding" (1997) when they depended on imagination to enter the story with Tych. He called on their shared interest in human concerns (Frye 1963: 54). The demand of a storytelling changes participants' ways of listening and thinking. The moment of "change" impresses a felt difference in the experience of talking and listening. Curiously, in spite of the considerable body o f literature about the specific qualities o f a story, the experience or quality of "pausing" and then "shifting" is hardly remarked. Yet, the phenomenon is a common experience when storytelling "interrupts" such talk as a lecture, conversation, directions or explanations. M y experience of the "pause" alerted me to teller's and listener's participation with the event. Storytelling forced them to shift the way they interacted with each other and the communication. A l l of us, in the classroom, changed the way we listened, thought, and (even) physically responded when a storytelling interrupted other kinds of talk and work. M y attention was thus drawn to the nature and experience of our participation during a storytelling. I re-examined the data and studied to learn what "changed" in our relationship when we were in a storytelling. What had participants 8 shifted into? Thus, I went on to study from the inside out. I kept my focus within in the "pause" to learn more about what was happening there. When I reorganized the data (again) and studied the many experiences, story forms and interactions, the subjects and contents of stories and so on, I concluded that tellers and listeners participated in three related but distinct ways within the pause, the circle of storytelling. They participated there in social awareness, mindful interaction and deep imaginative engagement. New theory: A conceptual frame for thinking of storytelling. Diverse storytellings can be organized and described as one of three closely related ways of listening and telling a story together in the classroom. A s I w i l l show, each way is closely related to the other, but carries its own particular and necessary abilities, intentions, learning roles and understandings. After I briefly outline these, I give an example of a classroom storytelling event to extend and explain three participations during storytelling. The first is storytelling experienced in social awareness. Listeners or tellers are responsive to the presence of others while they participate in the larger circumstance which includes a story being told. The storytelling includes the circumstances and presence of others. Such participation is most evident and usual in conversations and play. The second kind of participation during storytelling is mindful interaction. Participants respond to the story and the teller in a thoughtful interaction. They bring intentions, questions, posit applications and so on to their participation with storytelling. The circumstances affect the storytelling, but are much diminished as active components. The teller and listener are in closer and more exclusive participation together with a story. Interaction between teller and listener with a story is most usually evidenced when an example, anecdote or illustration i f given during teaching. It is disclosed by questions and discussions afterwards. Finally, the third kind of experience during a storytelling is deep imaginative engagement. The presence of the teller and even the listener's own self-awareness are diminished. The listener is nearly subsumed into the story. Imaginative participation was most tangible in the intense silence of listeners, fallen 9 "under the spell" of one of Linda's storytellings. A l l the storytelling events I observed and recorded in the classroom "fit" one or more of these descriptions. It is possible to generalize these three engagements as typical of three usual situations in Linda's classroom: social awareness happened in conversation, mindful interaction during direct instruction and deep imaginative engagement during more formal, performative events. However, all three participations may be experienced within one telling. In the following example taken from my observations of children listening during a storytelling, I watched Leon move from one kind of participation to the next while he listened to Linda tell the story of the "Three Golden Hairs." During that event, all the children were on the floor, filling the space in the middle of the classroom. I listened to the story as well as I could with my divided attention, most of which was given to Leon. The following account is taken from my classroom observations: The class is sitting on the floor in front of Linda. She is telling the story o f "The Three Golden Hairs." Leon is not visibly attending Linda or working with the class to participate. He's at the edge of the group. It is a rather usual and common mode of "being" for him in the classroom. I am guessing he positioned himself as much as possible out of Linda's sight. But I can see him very well . He looks around at children near him. They don't look at him. Then he attends to his running shoes. He first picks dirt out from the treads of his shoes. Then he pulls up his pant legs over his knees. He pulls his ankle socks up as high as he can get them to stretch. He pulls his pant legs down again. He takes an eraser out of his pocket. He smells the eraser. He begins erasing parts of the floor. He breaks off bits of the eraser and sticks them in the treads of his shoes. He pulls his pant legs up over his knees again. He runs his hand up one side of his shin to his knee, circles his kneecap and then down his shin, up and down, again and again. Then he tugs his pant legs down again. He curls his fingers around the desk leg beside him and runs his hand slowly up and down it. He plucks at the plastic casing at the base of the leg. He was busy, all the time. In the meantime Linda is telling the story. During the time, more and more frequently I see Leon's eyes flick upwards at his teacher. I 'm not sure i f it is interest or whether he is simply checking to see i f she observes his "inattentiveness." When Linda was five or perhaps even seven minutes into the story she came to the king's fury and horror at discovering that the youngest "stupid" son o f the farmer had just been married to his daughter. Linda says, "Then the king roared, 'I don't want my daughter to marry someone so stupid and slow. '" 10 At that moment, Leon seems to slide out of himself, out of the present place and far away into the story. His movements cease. He sits, perfectly still. One knee up, foot flat on the floor, the other leg ranged crooked over the floor. His head is cocked, lolling slightly to one side. His body leans against his desk leg. His eyes are fastened on his teacher, yet not on her either. Within a moment he resembles the other children. All of them stilled by the story. It is hard to describe his posture. Words like trance and rapt come to mind. But the children are strongly focused, deeply attentive and concentrating. They willingly hang on Linda's words. Shadows of their responses to the story-events chase across their faces. I wonder what snapped Leon into the story. I don't think I will ever know. But I do know, that, like me, he went on to follow the young man in the story: a loser, a boy who was stupid and slow. But, that boy beat a giant, tricked a king and ghost, won riches, a good wife, friendships and a kingly seat! (October 10, 2002) Leon showed at least two different postures of listening. One was a posture of not-listening, and the other of full absorption. But it does seem likely that there was an in-between-stage or participation with the storytelling. His regular glances at Linda and verbal silence suggested he was listening at the same time that his hands and body were busy touching and playing. If he was not listening with "half an ear" I cannot account for his ability to attend the story which had advanced by at least 5-7 minutes. If he was not listening, how could he have absorbed enough of the story's setting, cast and dilemma necessary to understanding and participate during the rest of the story? Thus, he showed at least two and more likely three kinds of participations with the storytelling. In the beginning, Leon's attention was given to the strategy of his seating arrangement, his personal comfort, and things around him. He showed he was aware of others' presence and himself among them. He experienced himself as part of a whole circumstance of people, sounds, and sights in the physical place of the storytelling moment. He was also aware of himself. Thus, I describe him as participating with a storytelling in social awareness. In chapter five I'll describe storytelling in social awareness as it happened during conversations. Although many storytellers and writers might not think of conversation as carrying storytelling, Linda did. She considered classroom conversations as possibilities for teaching and learning with storytelling. She designed opportunities for talking with stories to facilitate learning. One of these was the regular class meeting held at least three mornings weekly. When children exchanged personal anecdotes, retold news events 11 and elaborated on hear-say they were aware and open to each other. Thus, stories and exchanges more typical of "social awareness" took place during conversations, when riddles and jokes were shared or during storytellings that incorporated chants, audience activities or other listener responses. The quote I used earlier suggested that Linda imagined a situation in the "best o f all worlds" wherein all teaching could be led by storytelling. She confirms my observations of Leon. Participation began in social awareness; the participant went on to develop abilities or readiness for more mindful interactions with a subject of study and then more or less came to a the kind of deeper imaginative engagement demanded by myth. Leon showed the same sort o f a "progress" from social awareness to deep imaginative engagement. In spite of strong evidence for understanding it as a progression, a participant can stay within just one or two such participatory frames during a storytelling. The second kind of participation, mindful interaction, was admittedly much less visible in the example I gave of Leon's participation. However, because he eventually became fully absorbed by the storytelling, it seems sure that his experience included listening to the story with more attention his actions might have indicated. A s he gradually excluded the presence of others and began giving less attention to himself and what he was doing there, he may have begun a kind of dialogue with the storytelling. Leon, or anyone o f us listening to Linda's telling, might have mentally interacted with such responses. He might have thought something like I would have: I don't know if I'm really interested in this. That guy in the story reminds me of someone. I wish that she wouldn 't look at me when she talks. I saw a movie that was kind of like this story. Huh, it's just not possible that king would let his daughter just marry just like that... A listener mindfully interacts with the teller and story. It was most evident in Linda's deliberate uses of stories to teach. She nourished such participation in her classroom teaching strategies. A t least one storytelling a day was imbedded in a lesson in any one o f the variety of subjects. It got children's attention for a topic, made the abstract concrete, gave a math problem its pragmatic, made a social studies point pertinent or created an environment for a fact. Her work was consistent with much academic writing about storytelling. It can be found in work like M c E w a n and Egan's 12 Narrative in teaching, learning, and research (1995) or in many of the storytellers' articles in Tales as tools (1994). Storytelling offered a sure and quick means to drawing the children into a subject of learning. They usually listened attentively and demonstrated their mindful interaction questions, nodding gestures of affirmation, notes and drawings. Often these events were first inspired by stories told during class meetings. For instance, after Buzz told about the men who died climbing Mt . Everest, "the highest mountain in the world," Linda pulled down the map and went on to tell about Hilary and his mountain climbing. Children studied the map while she talked and went on to consider the complexity of borders between India, Nepal, Pakistan (Sept. 24, 2002). Linda used storytelling to encourage children's mindful interaction with a subject for learning. Thirdly, and finally, Leon participated with the story in deep imaginative engagement. His final posture is the sign of it. A t some indefinite moment Leon seemed to forget about himself, his present circumstances, his eraser bits, knee or pant legs. In fact, he even seemed to pay no real attention to Linda. He was thoroughly absorbed by his experience with the storytelling. He was engaged with a king, a boy, and a place beyond the room we shared. He was fully involved with the story inside his imaginative life. L ike the other children he participated with quiet intensity in slack, dreamy postures. They saw kings and water ghosts instead of the classroom and, as their interviews testify later, they were aware of neither themselves or each other while in deep imaginative engagement. That experience is perhaps the most familiar and popular picture of what it is to listen to a storytelling. Linda's teaching work of the "Three Golden Hairs" is also what springs most quickly to mind when we think of "storytelling." She used her memory and storytelling abilities of gesture; expression and eye contact with her children who usually sat or lay sprawled about on the floor. Let me give just one more example of three participations held during a storytelling. The following account is taken from Linda who wrote in her reflective journal about a weekend event with M e m Fox, an author-storyteller.6 In the following account, three participations are evidenced. Initially Linda was aware of herself among 6 The event was hosted by Kids Books, a local Vancouver bookstore. Fox is an award winning and well known Australian children's book writer also well known for her storytelling. 13 others. She went on to express her mindful interaction with the stories and storyteller-Mem Fox. At the end she alluded to the deep imaginative engagement she always hopes for: the "calm" of a story. She wrote: Mem Fox was fabulous... I noticed our settling in as Mem prepared to speak, the whispered rustlings of all those bodies as we sought physical comfort now so that no external bits would later interrupt our concentration. Rather like the way you arrange yourself in your seat before a long plane journey. And then that "charge," that energy that seems to be exchanged between teller and listener just before the story begins. And Mem Fox didn't disappoint. She shared her personal story, punctuated with wonderful loving tellings of her picture book stories, layer upon layer, like your onion, Johanna. And when she shared her picture book stories, she told them. She didn't read them. She held the text in her hand, but never once did she divert her attention from us to sneak a peak at it. She knew her story. She had painstakingly crafted each sentence, writing and rewriting until the "tune," as she described it, was absolutely right. How often in school, do we encourage repeated tellings and retellings so kids can appreciate the "tune" of a story? How often do we allow them to linger over a much loved and familiar tale? I'm certainly going to slow down with that picture book project we're preparing for the grade one buddies. Mem Fox also demonstrated, with great humour and charm, the difference between a story told as an act of love and one told as an act of education. Another thing to be mindful of not to interrupt the flow in order to satisfy our own compulsion to teach. Let the story do it for Heaven's sake. Well good thing I went to Mem Fox as there hasn't been much story in class on which to reflect. When things get crazy busy, the first thing to go is the calm of a story (September 26, 2002). Linda's journal entry shows a kind of progression of engagements. She began by describing herself as "settling in" to listen. She was fully aware of herself as being among others and in the midst of an event. Other people were whispering amongst themselves and making noises. She needed to make herself comfortable in order to listen. Linda described that "settling in" as time spent establishing her "physical comfort" and "preparation for a journey." She began her listening participation in social awareness of her fellow listeners, herself among them and of her storyteller. Then she recounted her mindful interactions with Mem Fox. Her thoughts ranged from the teller, books, a conversation with me, and connected ideas she had about storytelling. It was a 14 mindful interaction in which she seemed to let go of the earlier social, physical considerations of her participation. She actively, personally engaged herself with the story and teller in the second kind of participation possible with a story. Finally, she alluded to her goal, why she had come to the event. She had embarked on a "journey" which she hoped would reach "the calm of a story." She wanted the deeply imaginative and curiously restful engagement with a story. In the third kind of engagement with a story participants are wholly absorbed by the story, or, perhaps more accurately, busy absorbing the story. N o longer aware of either oneself or circumstances, participants enter story-life. Leon showed this very well . He slid into stillness and intensity inside the circle drawn by a storyteller's voice. In the two examples I gave, participants seemed to move from an outer circle of listening towards the story, moving closer and closer and finally being swept into the story. Indeed, this is the case in most storytellings where listeners experience the deeply imaginative engagement. However, although these examples suggest participants progress from one stage to another, it is a mistake to understand it that way. In later chapters I show that three kinds of engagements are neither levels nor a kind of three-step-advancement had during storytelling. Listeners may hold any one kind of engagement with a story and maintain or enjoy a fully satisfying, learning experience with a story. Kinds of participation are complementary, independent and interdependent. Each engagement with a story, whether it is social, mindful or deeply imaginative, has a particular part in the pedagogy o f storytelling while dependent on the others. In my dissertation, I call these participations during a storytelling: circles o f listening and telling. Figure 1 . A , at the conclusion of this chapter, suggests a way to think about participations and storytelling experiences. The figure expresses the understandings about storytelling I just discussed. Later chapters evidence, elaborate and explain these fully, but let me briefly outline why the figure was drawn as it was. Three circles are one bounded sphere containing all possible participations. It is a unified way of teaching and learning entailing three main aspects. In it, children learn abilities and develop understandings specific to their practices of telling and listening to stories. The outer wall o f the sphere is porous to indicate that participation with a story in social awareness is more permeable to its circumstances than the other two circles. The 15 event and story shared are inextricable from a situation that includes company and a circumstance. Thus, the boundary is soft and open to the larger context of life in a school. The second circle, o f mindful interaction with a story is less porous. Participation is threatened when interruptions, shifts of subjects, sudden intrusions or new stories enter in the midst of participant's interaction with a storytelling. A listener is less aware of his or her company during mindful participation. The storyteller and listener are in close interaction with a story. Finally, in the center, the participant is in deep imaginative engagement. He or she experiences the story personally and alone. Other listeners and even the storyteller disappear from primary awareness. The center, as I have drawn it, is not permeable to its situation. In fact, as Chapter Six elaborates, deep imaginative engagement is destroyed by interruption. Thus, the figure shows a solitary listener, enclosed within a boundary: Alone in a storyworld. The diagram is meant to help bring the parts as well as the larger concept into accessibility. However, the diagram has at least one significant limitation. A sense of regular progression, a kind of "rule" might be taken from it. Admittedly, listeners often do move from one kind of participation to another. I also feel quite sure that it is nearly impossible to reach deep imaginative engagement without having begin at the outer edge of the circle and moved inwards. However, in the chapters that follow I challenge my own and the reader's thinking by organizing my discussion to begin in social awareness, move to deep imaginative engagement and then "back" to mindful interaction. There are several reasons for breaking the order of the circles in my discussion. First, each circle of participation with storytelling has its own integrity. While I am firmly convinced of the complementarity and dependence of participations on each other, I have also come to realize the critical differences and independence of each. Each demands abilities, knowledge, story genres and experiences particular to itself. I highlight this by separating discussions and breaking the hierarchy. Secondly, the history o f thinking about storytelling in school typically dwelt inside the circle of mindful interaction. Yet, storytelling depends on social awareness and deep imaginative engagement to nourish and facilitate mindful interaction. B y examining it last of the three, I set mindful interaction in the thick and elaborated context of the other two. So 16 doing, I show its dependent relationship with other circles, emphasize the integrity of each participation and prevent establishing the idea of progression. Storytelling Pedagogy Three Participations Figure 1. A 17 Chapter Two Rationale and Literature Review Introduction The understandings I just discussed and diagrammed, were developed over the course of my research in Linda Stender's Grade 4/5 classroom and during my studies of the data afterwards. However, questions and concerns which directed me to take a seat in her classroom were formed over two decades of conversations, teaching, storytelling and reading. In this chapter I describe the reasons which compelled my study of storytelling in school. Although a chapter concerning a study's "rationale" usually contains a scholarly history of writings about the subject, I include my personal experiences of teaching, storytelling, traveling and friendships. These are not only pertinent to my studying this subject, but they powerfully directed my urgency to learn more. Thus, I begin by describing experiences which provoked my interest and urged further study. I also discuss what I learned from other storytellers in diverse traditions about the significance of storytelling to education. These data, more phenomenological and ineffable, provide significant rationale for study. Then I turn to professional literature about storytelling. After reviewing literature concerning the roles and reasons for incorporating storytelling in school, I conclude with renewed urgency for further studies. First, the literature taken together is in significant conflict concerning what is meant by "storytelling." The conflict includes the role of storytelling in children's learning. Secondly, writers neglect the experience and nature of participants' engagement during a storytelling. Thirdly, a growing gap between storytellers and scholars, or those who practice storytelling in schools and those who write and think about it, is evident. It is necessary to bridge the theory and practice of storytelling. The following review demonstrates an urgent need for further studies and a better understanding of what is happening when a story is told in school and why storytelling should be part of classroom learning life. 18 A teacher who was a storyteller in school M y work to learn more about storytelling in school was primarily motivated by the children and young adults with whom I learned and shared stories during my years of teaching in elementary and secondary school classrooms. These experiences of listening to stories and telling them kindled my curiosity and interest in the nature and effects of storytelling in the school classroom. Over and over storytelling made my teaching successful, relationships satisfying and the work pleasurable. M y desire was fueled and intentions strengthened to understand my experience and examine its implications. M y use o f storytelling to teach was not sudden. In a sense I grew into it. Although I am a voracious reader of stories, I especially love to hear a story told. M y delight was nourished by many people and events in my life. When I was a child my grandmother told stories of "the war" and their immigration from Holland. M y extended family shared and gave me a great number of family-life storytellers and stories over the time o f my growing up. M y father told traveling stories in the station wagon to keep six children happy and quiet. During my early schooling I was lucky enough to have a few teachers who were storytellers. I think of Mrs . Van Belle in Grade 6 who told the history o f Canada like one fabulous adventure story. In all o f these and other storytellings, my hearing stories in the company of a teller, provided camaraderie, senses of self, worlds of wonder and places of replenishment in my life. M y classroom use of storytelling to teach was strongly influenced by those senses. I wanted the children in my classroom to have opportunities to feel like that: happy about being there. I am also a teller. A s a mother I regularly told my children stories from books or from my head. M y children grew up in the midst of literature and folktales spoken to them, as well as lore about tooth fairies, trolls and such. These were events of important play. In it we learned about each other, our shared world and what it was to be human. I told stories at the playground, family reunions and other similar events. A s I look back to the storytelling I did then, I realize still-present and treasured affects in our relationships. I was a storyteller before I knew about it as a more formal discipline and art. Two formative events made me think of storytelling as formal art and, more importantly, as a usual role within a community. The first was my experience o f l iving in a small village in Sierra Leone, West Africa for four years (1981-1985). While I learned 19 the language, managed my family's daily life in the village and facilitated the start up of the Kuranko Literacy Project1 I also learned about the place of the storyteller in that community. In a community where there were no electronic technologies and little use for literacy, the storytellers had a high profile. I grew to understand Yagbe Tarawale's and Mamorie Marah's roles as both ordinary and extraordinary as they remembered on behalf of their communities. They were more than "entertainers." I was struck by the significance of those nights when stories were told and people talked and argued together before and afterwards. Storytelling addressed questions of legal procedures, contractual questions, record keeping and peace making, and entailed a formalized idea of cultural entertainment. Significantly, I learned that "talk in the air" was more substantial than my Western cultural idea of print and books suggested. That experience bears on my understandings today. The second was my meeting and joining the Toronto School of Storytelling after I returned from Sierra Leone. I met storytellers like Alice Kane, Dan Yashinsky, Celia Lotteridge, Linda Howes, Kira Van Deusen, Kate Stevens, Jan Andrews and many others who introduced me to storytelling as a public event in Canada.3 They also taught me much about the craft of storytelling and the relationships of a storyteller with her listeners. Through them I learned about formalized storytelling in Canada. I began reading books about storytelling and subscribed to the Canadian journal of storytelling, The Appleseed Quarterly. These two events had a strong bearing on my teaching work. In the meantime I was teaching. Increasingly, I intentionally used storytelling. For the first six years it was part of my work in grades two and three. Particularly in language arts, storytelling connected stories to print and motivated reading and writing. However, it enriched studies across all our subject areas. It helped me explain things that were too hard to do any other way. It focused students' attention on a topic, engaged students with 1 Based on the work of Paolo Freire; currently adult literacy classes are still regularly run and held in more than 17 locations in north-east Sierra Leone. The project is directed by Karanke Marah. 2 Yagbe Tarawale and Siri Suwari were the women's storytellers. Mamori Marah, the chiefs son and storyteller told stories with the kind of authority of a teacher and judge or formal arbitrator. .They are from Badala, Sierra Leone, 1981-1985. A l l three of these tellers died during the 9 year civil war there 1993-2002. In that village alone over 600 lives were taken. 3 A l l members of the Toronto School of Storytelling then and current members of Storytellers of Canada which formed later. I am a co-founding member of that organization. 20 each other, their teacher and topics of study. It made the classroom social situation more amenable to learning tasks. It brought good talk, laughter and pleasure into the room. Later, I began teaching literature and language arts to grades 9 through 13 in Ontario. I did not storytell, in my sense of it, during that first year. Initially I was uncertain about how it fit into my curriculum. With younger children, the established relationship between storytelling and literacy supplied rationale for its practice. But that reason evaporated when I faced students who could read and write. Storytelling did not easily become part of my strategies designed to meet new curricular objectives. I also wondered i f storytelling was "childish" in high school. Most troubling, I found that I had a new reluctance to tell stories. I felt personally vulnerable to student-listeners who were more critical and indifferent to their teacher than younger students. I wasn't alone in my reluctance. M y students also seemed quite unenthusiastic about opportunities to tell a story. But one day storytelling came into my classroom, accidentally. I had come back from The Toronto Storytelling Festival at which I was a featured teller. Just before class one of the young men said to me, "Hey, I saw you in the paper. I heard you were storytelling." "Yes , " I said. He asked, " Y o u get money for that?" I answered him, feeling a little uncomfortable about this question, "Yes ." He promptly demanded, "How much?" When I told him, he was deeply impressed. "Just for telling some kids some stories?" " W e l l , no," I said, "they were nearly all grown-ups." Surprised, he burst out, " N o shit! So, how come you never tell us any stories?" 'Why , ' indeed. I felt a sudden pang of confusion and shame. Could I tell him that I was simply scared? Instead I said, "Wel l , the rule in storytelling is that i f I tell you one, you have to tell me one." The usually unreceptive senior English classroom changed. Every class began with a small story, a joke, or a remembering. It became possible to learn and work together in ways that eluded us before stories were told. Specifically, I began learning, all over again how to teach and weave storytelling into our learning lives together. Thus, in secondary school, too, storytelling interactions encouraged student participation in study topics, nourished the classroom social climate for learning, created springboards to understanding and enriched my curriculum. Again, it brought good talk, laughter and 21 gladness into our room where we learned together. I began to find the ways storytelling fit in my higher level classes. I was excited to find that storytelling crossed ages and interests i f the storyteller opened herself to new stories and circumstances. I was reminded that storytelling was not tied to particular disciplines. But my experience also showed that storytelling was a relationship that carried more risk and vulnerability than I knew. During all that time I worked to better understand and practice storytelling in school. I became a member of Storytellers of Canada, The Toronto School of Storytellers, and the National Storytelling Network (U.S.A.). I took workshops. I met with other storytellers who taught in schools. I read works by storytellers and teachers about using storytelling to teach. A l l these discussions and readings encouraged me to continue using the flexible, engaging power of storytelling to teach. I was convinced by my reading, the testimony of other teacher-storytellers, and my experiences that storytelling was important to learning in school. I also became a storyteller-performer on stages from Fredericton to Vancouver, Montreal to Toronto. A l l these experiences of teaching and storytelling, inside and outside the classroom convinced me not only of its efficacy for teaching, but also of its profoundly affecting power to make learning relationships stronger and create pleasure in the circumstances we shared. Yet, my readings and conversations during that time did not adequately explain my sense of significance about experience inside the circle of storytelling. Whether a student or I told a story, something happened that wasn't properly named or explained. I was perplexed about how hard it was to bring my knowledge and abilities grown within storytelling experiences into the frame of formal curricular guidelines and expectations at school. I was also puzzled when I considered that although many people experience storytelling as critical and fundamental to teaching, the vast majority of teachers did not deliberately include storytelling. If storytelling-teachers experienced it as a kind of panacea, the key that unlocked the classroom to learning, why wasn't it common in school? I was determined to learn more. 22 First Nations of Canada: First teachers of storytelling In 1995 I completed a Master's Thesis, The Storyteller and Indigenous Canadian Oral Narratives: A study of the relationship of contemporary storytellers to the remembered indigenous oral narratives. That study formed my first academic learning about storytelling. I explored contemporary storytelling in Canada with tellers who drew from traditional oral narratives. I listened to, visited with, interviewed and read the work o f three tellers who showed three very different relationships with the stories they told or wrote. I met all three of these tellers at various storytelling festivals across Canada, such as in Toronto, Whitehorse, or Ottawa. The first teller was Pennishish (Mr. Louis Bird), a Omushkigo-wak Elder (James Bay Cree). He showed me that his stories are deeply embedded in his landscape that is remembered and present. Today, his storytelling continues to offer listeners a means to contemporary survival. He tells stories to re-appropriate land and a life-way lost to hydro dams, the effects of changed economies and lifestyles. B y storytelling he keeps historical, spiritual-mythic, geographic and other knowledges alive. These can only be kept existent and connected to tradition by his retelling. He emphasizes the critical and dependent relationship between a story and its formative language. To this day he is a mentor to me in my learning about storytelling. The second teller with whom I studied was Esther Jacko, of the Anishinabe (Ojibwa) at Bi rch Island, Ontario. She explained that her traditional narratives restored her changed home and language to herself. The myths, history and folk stories she tells • explain who she is in ways that are true and meaningful to her. Her storytelling is how she relocates her sense o f displacement and loss into belonging in time, place and people. L ike Pennishish, her work emphasizes the interdependent relationship of a story, its language, land and speakers. Finally, the third teller was a writer, Robert Bringhurst who is outside the tradition of stories with which he worked. He was translating Skaay's Haida epic oral literature at that time. 4 Bringhurst brought traditionally oral narratives into the present from the transcripts and recordings of anthropologists who worked with storytellers in 1901. He acknowledges the inadequacy of his translations when he writes, "Haida 4 See A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World 1999. The story he was working with when I met him is on pp. 76-99. 23 literature is oral. B y definition, therefore, it is something printed books cannot contain" (1999: 14). His work is a model of scholarly, expert and committed effort to bring stories into the present from dusty shelves holding anthropologist's transcriptions and records. Yet, his efforts have proven contentious and troubling as his translations also called up questions about ownership as these concern oral stories and the people to whom they belong. If told stories are socially held, communal property, may one who does not reside with its landscape and people take up the story? Charges of appropriation have dogged Bringhurst's work . 5 I have summarized my master's study in a tiny nutshell. I learned much about storytelling but concluded my study in some perplexity. Three tellers, in varied ways demonstrated that storytelling is deeply imbedded in social, linguistic and geo-physical, contexts. A story's significance can not be separated from the circumstances and time of its telling. Storytelling is a cultural, dynamic relationship centered and stabilized by a story. The First Nations storytellers I learned from, consistently and persistently taught that storytelling is a learning event and communicates a body of knowledge dependent on presence. When I took these understandings back into my teaching work I found I had two sets of relationships in mind that felt oddly exclusive of each other. On the one hand there were writers, readers and books. In school, storytelling's main function was to facilitate literacy abilities. Stories were in books. Storytelling was an optional strategy and its role lacked the centrality on which Louis Bi rd or Esther Jacko insisted. However, on the other hand, there were storytellers. They held the stories in memory and shared them in the air. Stories were a dynamic, social and live connection that depended on the teller's voice and body as well as the listener's responding presence. M y study with Pennishish and Esther Jacko suggested that i f storytelling as deliberate practice was absent in learning, critical social, intellectual, spiritual and geo-physical knowledges were missing. Storytelling was not one strategy or a means to reading. It was a primary 5 See "The myths and the white man: experts on the stories of the Haida First Nation are infuriated by Vancouver poet Robert Bringhurst's new book." Globe & Mail, Nov 15, 1999, p.C3; and Anne Moon, Whose culture is it, anyway?, Times Colonist (Victoria), June 20, 1999, p. 10. 24 learning act. I struggled to work out two understandings about uses of storytelling as complementary, but experienced them as conflictual in the school setting. These experiences and interests formed the main reasons for my application to study. In September 1999,1 took up Ph.D. studies at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Educational Studies. I went to find out what happened during a storytelling in school. What is its role in classroom learning? Literature review: Introduction Professional literature about storytelling has exploded into the foreground today. Almost every discipline imaginable has developed a department, study method, conversation or emphasis for storytelling. However, it is not usually named "storytelling." More often it is called "narrative" or cast into a pair of words in which "narrative" identifies its storytelling aspect. Thus, narrative inquiry, narrative pedagogy, narrative mind, narrative genres and the like, proliferate the literature related to storytelling. Sobol describes the situation in the inaugural issue o f the Interdisciplinary Journal of Storytelling Studies: [in the last 30 years] practitioners and scholars across a wide spectrum of social, artistic, religious, therapeutic and academic fields have been vigorously reclaiming the powers of storytelling as fundamental to their work. In homiletics, narrative theology (Frei); in medicine, narrative medicine(Charon, Frank, Mattingly); in history, narrative historiography (White); in the social sciences, postmodern or reflexive ethnography and "thick description"-a conscious struggle with and surrender to the imperatives of narrative genres in fieldwork reporting (Clifford, Geertz, Tyler); in communication, the narrative paradigm (Fisher, Langellier, Peterson, Sunwolf); in business, narrative management and the narrative organization (Demming); in psychology, narrative therapy (Kleinman, Polkinghorne, Sarbin); in education, narrative pedagogy (Egan, Paley); in cognitive science, narrative thinking and narrative mind (Bruner, Schank); in humanistic psychology, personal mythology (Bond, Campbell, Cousineau, Larsen, McAdams, Stromer); and in postmodern visual and performance art the self same narrative turn (Bonney, Gray, Mi l le r ) -a l l these emerging fields and more have laid claim to the power of story. Yet many influential practitioners and theorists in these parallel movements would not wil l ingly be caught in a storytelling festival crowd; they might only use the word "storytelling" in unguarded moments, or to express a deliberately distanced, manipulative or ironic folksiness (2004: 1-2). 25 The situation has created ambiguity about what can be meant by "storytelling." Its relationship to "narrative" and variety of applications in teaching create confusion for readers who cross disciplinary borders. The confusion described is just as evident within two closely related fields immediately relevant to work by storytelling-teachers and scholarly writers who both write about storytelling in school. They have developed two main and distinguishable bodies of literature. Storyteller-teachers write from within classroom practice. They regularly emphasize the startling effects of face-to-face shared, oral stories. They describe how and where they use this kind of storytelling to teach as well as their reasons for choosing it. However, this literature taken together, demonstrates a persistent inconsistency between the fundamental rationale for their practice and other reasons given to urge uses of storytelling. The second group of writers, mostly scholarly researchers and theorists emphasize why storytelling should be used. Using the word "narrative" to include more than a storytelling, they nest it within a larger context of conversation, instruction and print practice. Thus, two different ideas about storytelling practice, rationale and educational significance are in development. I w i l l discuss each of these in turn. Storytelling-Teachers write about storytelling: Justifying delight. Many storytelling teachers today are guided by a tradition articulated by Sawyer in The way of the storyteller (1962[1942]). According to Sawyer, storytelling is first and always a spoken story: The "instrument is our voice that we work with . . . the spoken language -words" (131). She goes on to describe how the storyteller is one who brings a story into her own imagination. She shows how storytellers must become familiar with the story, use intelligence and imagination to engage with it, and go on to tell stories with the "power to blow the breath of life into them" (142). Sawyer concludes her chapter about "preparation" with the teller's goal: To be able to create a story, to make it live during the moment of the telling, to arouse emotions - wonder, laughter, joy, amazement - this is the only goal a storyteller may have (148). Although Sawyer's storytelling experience was informed and contextualized by a childhood and cultural experience uncommon to a cross-section of, say, readers from the 26 Toronto or Vancouver school boards, her model for storytellers continues to guide current practice. Sawyer and Shedlock (1915), two popular speakers and librarians created a standard for storytelling. I pause briefly to remember that the "standard" is formed within English speaking Western traditions. With a thoroughly diminished oral tradition of their own (Benjamin 1968:83-110), Western storytelling is an art and practice that relies much on such models as Sawyer's. Tellers, mostly o f European heritage and steeped in literary traditions draw from published work of world folklore. It is an intentionally shaped and nourished "tradition." Kay Stone outlines and describes this in her extensive study of the history o f organized storytelling in Canada: The regular use of folktales in library and school contexts provided the initial pattern for the evolution of storytelling as an organized activity; folktales and traditional storytelling were (and still are) held up as models for competent storytelling. In this context the term "traditional storytelling" was loosely used to describe non-theatrical presentations; "authentic oral narrators" were extolled as the "real" storytellers... (1998: 4). Today Sawyer and Shedlock's model is practiced and developed in English, American and Canadian libraries, schools, playgrounds and churches. It is a tradition of storytelling directed by writers and draws its storytelling material mostly from books. It is a well developed cultural tradition that can be identified by established characteristics: Organized storytelling usually took place during the day and in a pre-designated place with a somewhat formal arrangement: children sat on the floor or in chairs and the storyteller stood or sat alone in front of them, more firmly separating the single teller and the many acquiescent listeners. These sessions often lasted from thirty to sixty minutes and were scheduled in advance (Stone 1998: 18). Lest her readers conclude that preparedness precludes spontaneity in such organized events and wonder about its "vibrancy," Stone continues: Librarians and teachers . . . bring the printed word into full and vibrant lives. Such tellers kept storytelling alive and very dynamic for more than a century and provided the firm base on which organized storytelling continues to grow and blossom (18). Significantly, storytelling in Canada and the United States is led by this tradition of practice in schools and libraries. In more recent years a growing number of festivals and regular groups have developed related storytelling traditions outside more institutional 27 settings. However, even there, Stone's description of organized storytelling in Canada as led by literary traditions with folktales and directed by an idea of time and space, still aptly describe an ongoing, present tradition of storytelling in Canada. There are many other "storytelling traditions" that exhibit features quite uncommon to organized storytelling in Canada. For example, Bordahl's The oral tradition ofYangzhou storytelling (1996) or Archibald's study with several Canadian First Nations storytellers (1997) contrast strongly with Sawyer's idea of storytelling. I cannot explore these differences now, except to alert the reader to at least two significant ones as these concern thinking about storytellers who teach. First, the tradition of "organized storytelling" is just one tradition among others. The tradition heavily i f not exclusively, influences and directs ideas and practices with storytelling in schools and libraries today. Nourished by journals, magazines, professional organizations, annual conferences, festivals and hundreds of groups across Canada, the U.S . and many European countries, this tradition "continues to grow and blossom" (Stone 1998: 18). With rare exceptions, (e.g. Sards 1993) most works about storytelling in schools are written by writers in the tradition Stone describes. Even though festival directors, teachers and librarians invite "multicultural" storytellers into the room or onto the stage, the tradition of organized storytelling directs participants' interactions. The second point concerns the "surprise" of new storyteller-listeners. New participants express an amazement that is not read in the literature about or by participants in other storytelling traditions.6 In a strongly book-centered tradition of stories, new storyteller-teachers are startled by the power of storytelling. They experience storytelling as extraordinary. Storytelling, within a Western European tradition that draws from print resources, is less acquainted with what it's like to hear and tell stories with each other. The echoes of the "amazed" children Sawyer referred to earlier, are read in the accounts of storyteller-teachers who write about that moment of storytelling in their classroom. M y own account is similar to these. Something remarkable and specific happens when a story is told. A s teacher and storyteller Dai ly writes about her conversion to using storytelling: 6 For example, note the interactions among storytellers with whom Basso studied (1996). 28 On an impulse I simply put the book down and told the tale instead. The effect on the students was startling. A look of deep, hushed attention came to their faces, and when the story was done, their interest in the art activity was higher than usual (1994: vi i) . From this experience Dai ly went on to become a well known storyteller and writer. Thus, my choice o f the word "conversion" is deliberate. The theme of being "startled" into changing one's practice runs through the rapidly growing body of work by storytelling- teachers. Teachers, who didn't used to storytell, discover a new way of doing their work. Teaching is transformed by the use of storytelling to meet needs not satisfied in other ways. Their classroom practices and situations improve. Storytelling affects the ways they meet their curricular goals afterwards. A s B . Rosen wrote about teaching her challenging classroom of east London adolescent boys: (I) spent a lot of teaching years up to that point trying to eliminate pain and switch my pupils on. A n d that was precisely what I was up to in taking storytelling into the classroom" (1988: 29). In her account, And none of it was nonsense, she details her full integration of storytelling to positively affect all her teaching and children's learning. L ike Rosen, other storytellers write with enthusiasm about satisfying teaching experiences, warm reception in the classroom, children's strongly directed attention and their experiences of pleasure. Storyteller-teacher Flora Joy writes: Walk into practically any classroom and say, "Students, get out your textbooks," and hear their moans and groans. Walk into the same classroom and say, "I have a story for you," and you wi l l hear a completely different reaction. Teachers and storytellers need to empower themselves with stories to help them with practically every aspect of the curriculum . . . and when they do, they'll watch their students' motivational levels soar, (quoted in Mooney and Holt 1996: 149): A similar account or pattern can be read through much of the literature. Accounts begin with the surprise created by Dai ly 's "deep hushed attention." Teachers are delighted to discover their students unified in uncommonly glad attention and quieted. Afterwards, children direct themselves with "motivational levels [that] soar." The whole experience is markedly different from usual classroom life characterized by "pain," "switched off students," and "groaning." Pleasure and harmony replace frustration and conflict. M y own experience confirms these accounts. 29 The positive affect is not the expressed primary rationale for the inclusion of storytelling in teaching. Although the wonder of the experience was fundamental to effect change, it is only weakly translated into a reason for adopting storytelling. Writers like Jennings (1991), Gil lard (1995), Hamilton and Weiss (1990), Ross (1996) or Rubright (1996) compel teachers by other reasons instead. Their experiences sensed as something important and singular that happened is expressed in many ways, such as students' successful reading and writing progress, a strategy that motivates learning, children's vocabulary development, and stronger subject engagements. The primary reasons for the adoption of storytelling, that is, experiences of deep connection, uncommon enjoyment of a story, and the pleasure of being together with it, are subsumed to the long lists of benefits of storytelling to teaching. Storyteller-teachers, across grade levels and subjects of study, show the ways that storytelling positively affects their work. Jennings outlines a typical list o f reasons and applications of storytelling for classroom learning (1991: 3-16): Storytelling makes meaning o f experiences, structures thought and extends self knowledge; it (re)instates a form of communication familiar across cultures and ages; it develops and extends oracy. Storytelling prepares students for writing, models story forms, develops thinking skills, stimulates talk, develops self esteem and social skills. It shapes ideas and experience into meaning and provides active participation in literature and language sessions. Another storyteller-teacher writes that it "attunes the ear to language . . . build(s) language skills of repetition, rhyme, counting, time sense and sequencing in a meaningful and relevant context" (Mason 1996: 19). Hamilton and Weiss's teaching guide for storytelling discusses how storytelling stimulates imagination, develops a love of language, motivates reading, improves listening skills, and creates sets of references for a classroom subculture (1990). Cabral writes that storytelling helps children "think critically about ethical and moral issues" (1997: xi). Barton and Booth write that through storytelling children may "gain an understanding of the complexity of our emotional responses" (13) . . . "when we share stories . . . we are building . . . an opportunity for the children to become connected, to become members of the story community" (1990:34). This 30 literature convinces readers that storytelling is a flexible method that powerfully and positively facilitates teaching and learning. It meets the need of many educational goals. 7 These are significant, compelling reasons for the uses of storytelling. However, careful readers w i l l notice that writers outline the benefits of a method. Having first described storytelling as fundamental and leading their teaching practice, they rationalize its place as offering a means to effect purposes other than storytelling experiences. In spite of v iv id glimpses of the effect of storytelling enjoyed for its own sake, my readings persuade me to conclude that storytelling is the best instrument for doing what else needs to be done in school. A s the National Storytellers Association's publication of essays suggests, storytelling is using Tales as tools (1994). While these show how to implement storytelling in the classroom, outline its many benefits, the fundamental rationale for storytelling itself is absent. It is a fine tool; it may be the best one, but it is optional. Yet as I've shown, teachers did not adopt storytelling to increase children's literacy levels or advance problem solving skills. These were beneficial side-effects. Storytelling changed something important in their teaching. They would not teach without storytelling, ever again. The experience of a storytelling fundamentally changed an understanding about their work. The precise nature of that experience and the ways it fits into other classroom learning are not clarified. A lvey (1974) came to similar conclusions much earlier. He concluded in his outline o f the history of storytelling that storytelling was an act that demanded training and its own theory for practice. A s he wrote, "storytelling was enlisted as an ancillary o pedagogical device to aid in the education of the young" (1974: 33). His point is supported by a review of course listings across Canada and the United States. "Storytelling" is absent from teacher training education courses. Yet, surely it is a common part of teaching interactions and thus, a necessary ski l l . The lack o f attention persists even though research supports the role of storytelling in early literacy teaching (Barton 1986, Beck and M c K e o w n 2001, Cullinan 7 These are some of the writers who help teachers practice storytelling in their classrooms: Barton 1986, 1990, 1992, 2000; Blatt 1993, Crosson and Staily 1988; Daily 1988, De Vos and Harris 1995, Gillard 1995, E. Greene 1996, Hamilton and Weiss 1990, Jennings 1991, Kinghorn 1991, Lipman 1994, 1995; Livo and Reitz 1986, 1987; Pellowski 1991; Ross 1996, Rubright 1996, Thompson 1993. 8 Alvery wrote his dissertation in 1974. The storytelling revival was already underway. As the National Storytelling Network explains it, storytelling as a phenomena in the U S A was "ignited" by the 1973 Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough Tennessee. See www.storynet.org 31 1992, Farrell 1994: 39-42, Peck 1989, M . Rosen 1989). From Kindergarten through grade 2, much storytelling happens. After grade 3 or 4, storytelling by itself in the classroom is uneasily considered. It is going "off track" educationally (Mooney and Holt 1996: 144-5). The missing academic approval or theoretical ground for storytelling in school is felt by storytellers. Storytellers realize a kind of uncomfortable conflict between their motivation and their rationale. Already, long ago, storytellers' standard-bearer Ruth ' Sawyer realized her own strongly held purpose and practice with storytelling did not fit those held by educators' use of it for other purposes. Storytelling was subsumed to meet other educational needs: I am decrying .. .the telling of stories to impart information or to train in any specified direction. The sooner this unhampering be accomplished the more positive and direct w i l l be the approach to our goal, which I take to be creative. . . . it has been with a kind of horror that I watched eager and intelligent young minds being thumb-screwed under the belief that storytelling could not stand alone as an art, that its reason for existence depended on some extraneous motive. (1962,1942: 32). More than 50 years later, a new standard bearer for storytelling, Margaret Read MacDonald writes similarly. 9 After she describes storytelling as a significant experience and a necessary pleasure created in school, she concludes, addressing the storyteller-teaeher, " I f you must justify storytelling in the curriculum." Then she goes on to list the reasons I outlined earlier (MacDonald 1993: 43). MacDonald is pragmatic. While on the one hand her sense of storytelling experience is demeaned by its role as an instrument, she appreciates the rich variety of applications and positive outcomes that allow its practice in school. Although the "reason for its existence" in a storyteller-teacher's classroom can't fully justify its place there, many good reasons still let it in through the back door and into school children's lives. MacDonald plainly acknowledges what storyteller-teachers know: they do not storytell or story-listen in order to learn how to read, figure out math, remember history or improve their art work. Participants want to 9 Her 60 published books and many more articles for storytellers, have encouraged storytelling and storytellers in schools. Every storyteller I have met within the tradition Stone described, knows of this tireless teller, writer, teacher and advocate for storytelling. 32 be inside the circle of storytelling. It's an experience that convinced hundreds of teachers to radically change their teaching practice. Thus, although this body of literature shows the many ways storytelling benefits learners and teachers, it fails to put its finger on the nerve of what is happening when a story is being told. A t the end my study, I felt like Rosen did: For a number o f years I have been chasing the huge literature that has accumulated around narrative, and looking at narrative in the classroom. I've learned many things in the process. A s I consumed scholarly books, research papers and articles, and grappled with complex theories of narrative, I became increasingly aware that as yet no major work has appeared which presents a coherent educational theory of narrative. Even more significant, perhaps, we have no full accounts of narrative in the classroom by teachers who believe in it as a pillar of the curriculum and who have translated that belief into practice (1988: 164). Following my readings, however, my question about the role of storytelling in school remained inadequately answered. Roney, in his Performance handbook for teachers concludes more recently: "little research exists" and even "far fewer studies [examine] the effect of storytelling on the cognitive and affective aspects of a children's growth towards literacy" (2001: 116). M y study was thus urged to work towards an answer for the same question Avery, Rosen and Roney ask. Unt i l then, storytelling remains an optional, handy, and impressively effective: tool. Unt i l then, storytelling-teachers are simply exercising a preference and pleasure. Narrative not storytelling: Scholarly writers don't use the "S" word. Curiously, the literature written by scholars based mostly in university settings make nearly no reference to the body of literature I outlined in the last section. Just a few writers are referenced with any regularity in both bodies: Barton and Egan. A gap exists between two bodies of literature that need each other's complementarity in order to best help children learn with storytelling in school. In this section I describe a gap between storyteller-teachers and other educators who write about storytelling in class. Writers situated beyond the circle of storytelling in the classroom present a rather different picture. Their emphases are diverse. In the first place, the word storytelling is 33 uncommon. More usually it is "narrative." Thus, using narratives teachers understand themselves better as practitioners (Connelly and Clandinin 1988, 1999; also: Anderson 1995, Doecke 2000). Narrative conversations develop stronger communities of learning in the classroom and address diversity in the room (Antikainen, A . , J. Houtsonen, et al. 1999. Bowers, C. A . and D . J. Flinders 1990; Kyratzis 1995). Narratives of experience, storybook reading aloud, and occasionally "storytelling" are main strategies used to teach children to read and write (Barclay 1995; Fisher, Flood and Lapp 1991; Mason and Al l en 1986; Mi l le r , P. J. and R. A . Mehler 1994; Peck 1989; Sulzby and Teal 1983, 1991; Thompson 1993). Conversation for learning domain knowledges (Applebee 1996) is teacher directed talk about literature, the "grand narratives." There are also some accounts written by teachers who encourage children's storytelling, like K . J. Martin (2000) and Moss (1997) but do not storytell in the way storytellers like Sawyer or Jennings whom I described in the last section. It is possible to think o f diversity in at least two ways. First, it indicates the complexity of "a story" or narrative as communication. Secondly, it confirms storyteller-teachers' demonstration of the tremendous flexibility o f storytelling to meet many diverse educational needs. However, it also reflects confusion in the field about what can be meant by "storytelling" and "narrative" or what might be the best way of using these. M y review to learn about the role and nature of storytelling in school brought me to the same conclusions as Klechterman when he reviewed submissions to the thematic issue of Teaching and Teacher Education: Narrative in teaching, learning and research. I found "a lack of a coherent frame within which the different contributions were situated" (1997: 125). There was also inadequate attention to the differences and similarities of what can be meant by "narrative" as these surely affect learning and teaching. More scholarly literature conflicts with storyteller-teachers' writings in two important ways. The first concerns the definition of storytelling, the second concerns the absence of the "startling" experience of unified and intense postures of listening. In the first, although storytellers are quite unified by what they understand to be "storytelling," scholarly researchers and writers are neither unified nor definitive. While storytellers always mean a face to face event, a story told orally in each other's presence and from memory, scholarly writing wi l l not yield such a straightforward answer. The umbrella 34 word "narrative" means any activity centered by a story, read aloud, silently or in the course of writing work or a discussion. It is conversation in which anecdote sharing and storybook retellings are included. A n y interaction that might include a story is narrative. Thus, oral narrative under study in education is a field that relies on [oral] language and dialogue, using metaphors, stories, biographies, autobiographies, conversations, exemplars, reflections, interviews, case studies and teachers' voices (Ornstein 1995: 2-23). Secondly, the experience of the long pause or listener's hush is absent in this literature. The nearly breathless sort of pleasure and relishing of the moments inside the circle of a storytelling is not in Applebee, Connelly and Clandinin, Egan, nor in any of the essays found in the thematic issue of Teacher and teacher education: Review of Narrative in teaching, learning and research (13[1] 1997). That "hush" is the experience that transformed teachers into storytelling teachers. It is easily argued that storyteller-teachers and scholarly writers are busy with different "things." Scholars have taken up narrative, not storytelling. Narrative is a prodigious variety of genres, themselves distributed amongst different substances -as though any material were fit to receive man's stories. Able to be carried by articulated language, spoken or written, fixed or moving images, gestures and the ordered mixture of all these substances; narrative is present in myth, legend, fable, tale, novella, epic, history, tragedy, drama, comedy mime, painting (think of Carpaccio's Saint Ursula), stained-glass windows, cinema, comics, news item, conversation (Barthes 1982: 251). Thus, a story is one part of a bigger category or language of telling. A told story cannot be separated from all the life ways and interactions which make the story what it is. Thus, scholarly work offers a much wider context of what is happening when a story is told. It widens the area of focus to include the context which encourages, informs and fully facilitates storytelling. Thus, one might consider narrative as the class and storytelling a type or example. Storytelling might be like one tree in a forest called "narrative." Writers need not separate storytelling or take a narrower view. It is included in the larger event, one tree in a forest of trees. But is storytelling indistinguishable from events, exchanges, language and relationships in which it is nested? The answer is unequivocal: No . The children and their writing storyteller-teachers all experienced storytelling as profoundly "different" 35 from other talk and activity. M y classroom study bears out storyteller-teachers' senses that storytelling was the difference they needed. Further, a strong body of literature insists that a told story is not like written ones; and a story is not the same as other kinds o f talk. Although it may be located within a larger context, an ebb and flow of narrative life in the classroom, the pause and attention given during storytelling participation with a story needs a more rigorous accounting. M y experiences, readings and study establishes that the "difference" is significant enough to warrant attention to uses in teaching. M y critique of scholars' work concerns a collective neglect of the experience storyteller-teachers and their listeners describe. Equally troubling is the nearly full disregard for several established points. First, writers share a stunning failure to account for the difference between oral and written stories. This has been well established by such writers as Cohen (1989), Finnegan (1996), Goody (1987), Innis (1999), Havelock (1986), Lord (1968), Ong (1982) or Sarris (1993) among others. Although spoken and written stories appear to be about the same thing, they are unalike in critical ways. Secondly, writers give weak attention to the particular pause made by "a story" in the midst of other interactions like conversational exchanges, study-talk, instruction or explanation. The difference is not only that a storytelling is oral but also that the language o f a story itself is not like other kinds of talk. A story is syntactically distinguishable and is guided by different semantic rules (Frye 1963, Martin 1986, Lopez 1988, Ricoeur 1992, Taylor 1987: 215-292). The flow of conversation is interrupted by the inclusion of a story. Participants change their listening relationships and meaning making ways when they participate in a storytelling. Scholarly writers like Barton, Roney and Egan do acknowledge these differences. However, it is quite fair to say that on the whole, these are exceptions. Generally, scholarly educators writing about "narrative" do not account for the difference of orality/aurality. They do not apply the implications of a boundary held around a story as a "creation of coherence" (Linde 1993). There is little help beyond the professional literature concerning Responsive Reading Theory (Fish 1980, Iser 1980, Rosenblatt 1995) to help teachers account for and work with two distinct streams of meaning-making activated in the classroom when a story is told. But even in this field, writers discuss relationships with print literature, not told stories. 36 Urgency to teach reading and help children develop literacy abilities and mastery within educational disciplines suggests the vitality and importance of storytelling in early school years. Storytelling helps establish phonemic awareness and understandings about the relationship between print and speech (Farrell 1994: 39-42, Kinghorn and Pelton 1991). Since a reader's comprehension "depends on knowing between 90 and 95 percent o f the words in a text" (Hirsh 2003: 16), educators know they depend on talk for print abilities (Wertsch on Vygotsky: 1988). Early classroom life includes storytelling to develop vocabulary and language ability. Although a significant emphasis is placed on the incorporation of oral and aural work with stories, an idea is cultivated that no significant difference separates storytelling and story reading. In much of this literature, "storytelling" is regularly substituted for "storybook reading aloud" or even "writing stories" (see: Copeland and Edwards 1991; Fisher, Flood and Lapp 1991; Mason and A l l e n 1986; Snow andNinio 1986; Sulzby and Teal 1983, 1991). The practice o f reading aloud, or "storytelling" as these writers call it, is a primary means for teaching children to read and write. A s Rubright, a storytelling-teacher also wrote, "storytelling [is] a key alternative method to approach the teaching o f reading and writing" (1996: xvii) . Thus, storytelling for literacy learning is methodologically and theoretically justified in the curriculum. Storytelling successfully facilitates literacy teaching. It is a popular and proven strategy. A s Heath's ethnography demonstrated, when children go to school they come with oral narrative language understandings and meet school print-literacy practice (1983). Two cultures and languages meet. Storytelling is a fine way to bridge them. This is born out in such studies as Dyson's Writing superheroes: contemporary childhood, popular culture and classroom (1997). Where storytelling motivates writing and learning, teachers may find an apparently perfect bridge between home lives and classroom life in which children must learn to read and write. Storytelling and literacy form a dependent and highly complementary relationship. However, in writing about storytelling for literacy, persistent appropriation of "storytelling" to mean reading, writing, journaling and comprehension work develop an understanding of storytelling in school as firmly aligned with teaching for print literacy ability. Such an idea is strengthened and complicated by work which suggests 37 "storytelling" is a stage, or rather an earlier "category" of new readers' text engagements in the process o f emerging literacy abilities (Sulzby 1985). 1 0 Two main ideas limit our understanding the particular contribution of storytelling to learning. The first is (again) failing to differentiate oral from print storytelling; secondly, that storytelling is a kind of engagement left behind in learning to read. In one idea it is a stepping stone to literacy, in the other, it is a stage children "grow out of." Although I have oversimplified the case, it is fair to say that these ideas shape understandings about the place of storytelling in school and divert attention from storytelling itself. Indeed, the relationship between storytelling and literacy is richly interdependent and of mutual benefit. However, some aspects are less benign. A t least three main and troubling consequences may fall from these practices. First, replacing "storytelling" with "reading and writing" activities suggests they are interchangeable. Not only are they treated interchangeably but books replace storytelling in school. Storytelling develops into reading. Perhaps this is why storytelling as formal classroom practice is generally abandoned by the end of grade one or two, when children have learned how to read and write. Secondly, professional educators' lack of appreciation for the difference that is a story told from memory and a set of particular abilities is evidenced by the lack o f attention to it in teacher education programs. Even in such work promisingly titled: Teaching as storytelling, Egan writes, This is not a book about how to teach using fictional stories, nor is it about how to tell stories effectively. Rather it is about how to use the power of the story form in order to teach any content more engagingly and meaningfully (1990: 2. Italics mine). A teacher who uses this model necessarily tells a story even i f it is not a "fictional story." In a publication all about storytelling to teach, Egan inadvertently suggests that "knowing how to use the power of the story form" is adequate to effective storytelling practice. In contrast, storyteller-teacher's work, my experiences and study in Linda's room all show that telling a story demands particular abilities weakly related to instructional or Sulzby does not use the word "stage." However, the categories of engagement do clearly show a progression in the level of attentiveness and engagement with print on the page. For this reason I assign "storytelling" as occupying a step between pictures and print. 38 explaining sorts of teaching talk. A story told from memory demands particular cognitive facility, language abilities, social interactive skills and a repertoire. It demands aesthetic senses of presentation and imaginative power. Storytellers' extensive body of work that outlines storytelling as a professional ability and knowledge body bear this out. 1 1 Persistent assignments of storytelling only to develop the connection between oral language and written words, motivate reading and writing and raise children's literacy abilities limits the use of storytelling and its place in school. Thus, storytelling is an educational practice consigned to early school activities for learning to read. It is left behind with the other things of childhood: like the sandbox and play centers. A n d when it is re-integrated as such work as Egan's might promise, the purpose of the event is directed from the outset beyond the circle of telling and its quality of engagement is threatened by disregard for skil l . The third consequence of undifferentiated attention to storytelling is a failure to attend and nourish storytelling. Throughout school experience storytelling events are in tight alliance with print. Social and oral activities like dramatic play, retellings, presentation assignments and storytellings are regularly followed by print outcome assignments. A liaison in which storytelling is in service to print is further established by evaluative practices that are inevitably text based. Persistent subsuming of storytelling into print practice threatens a devaluation of storytelling as a practice of its own integrity. A s this value translates into practice, it seems likely that children's facilities with print stories are developed at the expense of oral/aural abilities with stories under such conditions. They become less and less at ease telling a story (Benjamin 1968:83-110). Additionally, children who do not reach a competent facility with reading, find that stories are locked out of their classroom experience. This is a sad consequence. M u c h of the pleasure that might be had is made hard to get. Access to story participation is guarded by print. A s I discussed earlier, I learned "the hard way" of the bitterness engendered by no stories in my high school English class with so-called "general level students." M y attention was finally wrenched to the consequences of life in school There are too many detailed descriptions and guides to storytelling as knowledge and craft to mention. I offer a few: Blatt 1995; Cox & Albert 2003; Crossan 1988; De Vos and Harris 1995; Gillard 1995; E. Green 1996; Jennings 1991; Lipman 1995,1999; Livo andReitz 1986; Macguire 1985, 1998; Pellowski 1988, 1991; Roney 2001; Ross 1996; Rubright 1996; Sawyer 1942; Stone 1998; Zipes 1995. 39 without stories. These consequences challenge current educational practices that devalue or homogenize face to face storytelling in language arts and other curricula. In summary, two conversations, one by scholars and the other by storyteller-teachers are in separate development. They have both done much to encourage storytelling in school. Together they enumerate the diverse ways in which teaching and learning benefit from storytelling. However, although both groups of writers "justify" the use of storytelling, neither establishes what is happening during the storytelling event. It remains an optional method or a strategy of choice. At least one significant question remains at the conclusion of my reading. What do we mean by a "storytelling in school?" Two bodies of literature brought together can only be reconciled through an study to answer to that question. I hope I am not misunderstood. In spite of the gaps and conflict between two sets of writers I recognize their common intention. They storytell, teach, research, write and share their hope to enrich and affect children's learning. However, those goals are threatened by continued separation of writing-conversations. Practice without guiding theory risks unconsidered practice; instrumentalizing storytelling threatens its practice. Learning theories are developing in isolation from classroom practice. Such isolation is partly responsible for a definition of storytelling in academic literature so general that it fails to distinguish a story from other communications or acknowledge the appreciative hush of faces turned to a teller. 40 Chapter Three Designing an ethnographic study of storytelling in school Models for this research project To learn about and define storytelling in school, I planned and conducted a ethnographic research project; I was guided by several models. The first was Rosen's And None of it was Nonsense (1988). She gives an account of her practice and experiences of deliberate and frequent uses of storytelling to teach reading and writing. Rosen was a subject-participant and observer in her classroom study. She recorded her storytelling sessions, studied children's retellings, writing, and learning. The result is a rich description of storytelling practice, reflection and response. I sought out a teacher who practiced storytelling like Rosen so that I could observe a teacher who used storytelling to teach. I looked for someone who would tell folk stories in class as part o f her teaching like Rosen but might be different in other ways. The second work was Dyson's Writing superheroes: Contemporary childhood, popular culture and classroom literacy (1997). Dyson was an participant observer in a classroom where a teacher taught reading and writing through the inclusion of popular media culture stories. Because she was not the subject of her own study, her emphasis is on classroom life and children's interactions with each other. Her ethnography is thick description and context that invites the reader into the classroom. B y sharing her observations of children's interactions, talk, and movements we learn about what happened there. I intended to observe, participate and write from a similar position. Thirdly, Heath's classic ethnography, Ways with words is formative to my thinking about the meeting o f home language and print traditions in the classroom (1983). She alerted readers to the ways in language developed at home and in neighborhoods beyond the school affect children's life in the classroom. In particular, she demonstrated the large role o f storytelling in children's lives. A few other works led me to conduct my study in the ways I did. I interviewed children for several reasons, but principally because of Matthew's The Philosophy of Childhood (1994) 1 and Sutton-Smith's The Folk Stories of Children (1981). Matthew's 1 And his later work, Dialogues with Children (2002. 41 work showed how much children's explanations and comments offered new ways of thinking about traditional subjects. Sutton-Smith's work invites the reader to listen to stories as children tell them. In both works, children's stories and explanations articulate, contextualize and elaborate the subject under study, while they are also the subjects of study. Further, van Manen's emphasis on relationships and experience in Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy helped me include my own experience in self-disclosing ways (1990). M y participation as a listener, who was affected by life in the classroom contributes further to learning about what happened when a story was told there. Finally, two other works significantly directed my project planning. Cruikshank's Life lived like a story shaped my understanding of stories (1990). I realized a story told is inextricable from the teller's experiences, social life, history beyond one's own life, the landscape and the relationships with a listener. Her work directed me towards tentativeness and expanding my sphere of observation in the classroom. Egan's The educated mind: How cognitive tools shape our understanding helped me prepare to listen for stories in school as learning work (1997). He helped me situate myself in the classroom as a place where learning was happening. A l l these were primary models and influences. Readers familiar with these writers w i l l see their tracks. I am much indebted to them. Many others influenced my thinking, planning, research and study. Their names and work are acknowledged throughout my writing and found in my final citations. However, ultimately and profoundly, Linda and the children critically directed my research, taking up growing and influentially informative roles as we worked to learn about storytelling in school. In this chapter I articulate my research methods and reasons for my conduct. I show that I developed a reliable bank of information to offer cross-referencing, good variation of points of view, other voices and diverse interactions. I w i l l begin by explaining how and why I selected Linda Stender, the teacher. I go on to describe the site, a grade 4/5 classroom and explain why it was a good choice for studying classroom storytelling. From there I discuss the various means and methods I adopted to obtain apt data for studying storytelling at school. In all this I work to give my reader confidence. M y study was ethically conducted, grounded in established ethnographic and qualitative study methods and verified in every possible way. 42 Linda Stender, the storytelling-teacher I 'm someone who tells stories and someone who believes in that form for learning . . . and . . . helps kids make meaning. I try to get them to tell their own stories, like anecdotes... So they can create listeners around them. (Linda Stender) I began by looking for a teacher who was a storyteller. If I were to observe classroom events like the ones De Wit described as Children's faces looking up (1979) and in a classroom where Dai ly 's "startling" effect guided practice, I needed a teacher who would and could storytell in those ways. I asked Anne Anderson, the director of the Vancouver Society of Storytelling ( V S O S ) 2 to let the membership know I was looking for a storytelling teacher with whom I could study. I sent an announcement to the Toronto School of Storytelling and the Canadian journal of storytelling: The Appleseed Quarterly in A p r i l 2002. A t two teacher's conferences I made the same announcement. I told storytellers I met at storytelling festivals that I was looking for a storyteller-teacher and asked them to "pass it on." B y word of mouth and by formal announcements in newsletters and email, I called for a teacher who would be interested and wi l l ing to open his or her work to my study. I had more than a dozen respondents. M y selection of a teacher was guided by several criteria. First, the person should think of herself as a storyteller. Secondly, I needed a teacher working in a classroom where students were beyond the work of early learning to read and write. A s I've shown, most work about storytelling is guided by that concern (e.g. Jennings 1991, Dai ly 1985, Gil lard 1995, Kinghorn 1991), so, I looked for a site where storytelling was less guided by the teaching of reading. Consequently I did not select any of the teachers who expressed interest and worked in kindergarten or grade 1. Thirdly, I wanted to observe interactions across a full day of learning activities, situations and subjects of study. M y readings insisted on a thorough connectedness of affect and motivation between storytelling and varied subject matters. I needed to observe life in a classroom where listeners and tellers moved from subject to subject, across varied activities and interactions. Thus, neither did I select a teacher who worked in a classroom where rotation meant changing rooms and teachers. Further, in high school a single subject 2 Vancouver Society of Storytelling. This group of 165 members hosts bi-monthly storytelling events, offers workshops and special storytelling events. It hosts an annual storytelling festival. It's office is in Vancouver, 1141 Cartwright Street, Granville Island, Vancouver. Is an active participant organization, and member of Storytellers of Canada. See www.storytelling@intouch.bc. 43 emphasis like English would diminish my ability to see storytelling in varied learning situations and shared by the same people in the same place. These criterion guided my selection. When Linda Stender approached me it was evident that she epitomized all the criteria. She was the kind of teacher and classroom grade level I sought. Linda usually taught grade four. Even i f she was assigned to a grade 5 classroom in the year of our study, both levels were well suited to the project as I planned it. She was also a storytelling-teacher who was a long time member of the Vancouver Society o f Storytelling. She attended workshops on storytelling through the National Storytelling Association 3 and others in Canada. Linda's participation in storytelling was deliberate and thoughtful. In 1993 she wrote an Honour's level paper about storytelling in her classroom, entitled, " A Case for Narrative: Beginning, Middle and End." In these ways Linda demonstrated her commitment to a practice of storytelling as done from memory in face-to-face aural engagements. She described herself as a teacher using storytelling. She told folktales and also "use(d) stories by-the-way in the school day" (June 7, 2002: conversation). Thus, she was similar to Rosen in many ways., Her practice of storytelling was intentional, reflective, and directed to teach language arts, create pleasure in the classroom and positively nourish the situation of classroom learning across disciplines. From our initial meeting and subsequent conversations in person and by phone, I felt sure that I would find storytelling in orality as described by Ong (1982) and Sawyer (1962); in social life as described by such folklorists as Sutton-Smith (1981, 1997) and Cruikshank (1998); and also used as a teaching tool as described by,such professional educators as Egan (1990) and by The National Storytelling Network ( N S N , 1994). I anticipated that Linda's practice would let me observe and participate in a specific classroom practice in ways Dyson did in her site (1997). Linda explained her storytelling as integrated across curricula and classroom activity but, significantly, her descriptions suggested that she both created the kind of events Sawyer and Dai ly described in my last chapter, and also 3 National Storytelling Network is a 32 year old U S A organization based in Jonesborough, Term. It has 8 special interest groups associated with itself; hosts a yearly storytelling festival which draws nearly 10,000 visitors, and an annual storytelling/storyteller conference at which issues are discussed and workshops are offered. See: <http://www.storynet.org>. 44 paid attention to children's participation as storytellers as these are described by such storyteller writers as Barton (1990) and Hamilton and Weiss (1990). Thus, Linda was the kind of storytelling-teacher I looked for. A s we explored the potential for my studying with her and established a relationship, I became increasingly confident that she offered a situation where I could observe a practice in which storytelling was both normalized and deliberate. A s I got to know Linda I realized that she was a good choice for other reasons. She was also a teacher who could withstand the pressure of an observer in her room. A s my previous experience in high school suggested, as well as my longer experience with workshops, teachers and festivals confirmed, storytelling as "performance" entails a measure of personal risk. M y previous work with student teachers and teachers showed me that observation can be experienced as threatening and inhibiting. Linda's long t experiences o f performance at festivals and in workshops as well as a teaching career now near retirement, suggested she was up to the challenge of my scrutiny in the classroom. She had confidence about her practice and storytelling. She was also very interested in the research project. Thus, she was eager for me to jo in her in the classroom. Before confirming the selection, I met with her school principal, M r . Knox, and the School District's superintendent, to determine whether they would be interested and open to my work in Linda's classroom. Having presented my proposal and then received their tentative permission, I began my planning for the research project guided by Linda Stender and her grade 4/5 classroom. In August of that year, Linda Stender, her school and school board gave permission for my study on their receipt of my successful application and permission to conduct research under the guidelines of the University o f British Columbia Ethics Review Committee. I interviewed Linda twice. First, immediately prior to our study in the classroom and finally at the conclusion of our time together (Appendix 3 A ) . The first interview helped us create a stronger starting point. She introduced me to her understandings about storytelling and classroom practices with it. The final interview offered a forum for lingering questions, clarification and an opportunity to bring our study to a sense of conclusion. 4 5 Linda invited me because she wanted to know more about her practice. During our first interview, she expressed curiosity about the effects and relationship of storytelling to her work. She hoped to better understand her practice and express the importance o f using storytelling to teach. Perhaps, like MacDonald, she too needed to , "justify" storytelling in her classroom. Linda: I'm using you as a way of showing that... (she struggles for words) W e l l you know that... when you try to convince people that you need to do it this way? [She is talking about using storytelling to teach.] W e l l , I think, I believe there's tons of ways [to teach]. Some people might not base their classroom on story in the same way that I might but there's still amazing things happening there . . . I 'm someone who tells stories and someone who believes in that form for learning . . . and . . . helps kids make meaning. I try to get them to tell their own stories, like anecdotes... So they can create listeners around them. I want to be able to choose, become conscious . . . Y o u need to help me with this. I haven't got there yet, where I can help the kids understand what they're doing. I don't think that they know that or I haven't thought of ways. M e : Is it necessary that you are conscious of that? Y o u , the teacher? Linda: Yes, because it helps me to see that there's growth. That's where the... I say I don't believe in measurement... but I'm still wanting to know that they are spending a year and they're going to be more expressive . . . I'm sort of just taking a chance now. I don't have structure. I don't have a conscious structure to do this [storytelling in her practice]. So maybe that's some place that you can come in and show or discover ways o f . . . or you can identify structure that is there. M e : That you aren't aware of? Linda: Because i f you are going to tell about it, you want other people to learn about the value of storytelling... When I read over the transcript now, I am struck by her struggle to express her sense that storytelling is important. She needed a rationale or clarification about its role in her teaching work. She expressed hope I could help her understand her practice better. She wanted me to untangle how learning happened in her teaching practice led by storytelling. She suspected that some sort of "structure" under-girded or supported her uses of storytelling, but did not know what that was. She had an expectation that I could help her uncover the unifying rationale for her uses of storytelling. She wanted these to be revealed in such a way that "other people" could "learn about the value of storytelling." 46 Her expectation may have been difficult for me to honor at that time, but it was fair. Because I am a researcher, engaged with a PhD study on a topic of mutual interest, Linda could anticipate expert abilities and a research outcome. But, I could not reassure her beyond my commitment to study; nor could I give her any promise about the outcome for which she hoped. I did not know whether we would find such a "structure." Neither did I know whether the kinds of storytelling she described were related, or even what I would "mean" by storytelling, and so on. In the beginning, I felt awkward in the face of my sense of gratitude to Linda for opening her work and personal life to me. I was anxious that the benefit o f my work could be experienced as mutual. I gained a rich site for research, one that promised me the coveted place to learn about storytelling. I worried about what I offered Linda in return. M y preparatory readings offered me reassurance that the process of research and our collaboration would lead to the kinds of understanding she wanted. Studies like Elliott and Woloshyn's suggest an outcome, in research relationships such as ours, o f eventual balance and mutuality. A s they found in their studies with classroom teachers: There was an expectation that we would provide teachers with insights about how a particular theory was best translated into effective instruction. They in turn would provide us with information about how that theory could best be applied in the classroom. We were continually surprised however, at the breadth, depth and new directions that unfolded for us (2001:180). From the outset of my research on site, I was committed to working closely with Linda. Given her interests, questions and reflective practice as well as her prior scholarship, we were co-researchers. I envisioned a study in which we were team members [who] share all aspects of the research project, including ideas, design, implementation, data collection, analysis and writing and who collectively own the data and share the responsibility and accountability (Toepel 2001: 64-65). W e were both learning about storytelling in the classroom. But we could not share "al l aspects of the research project." There were several important differences. We did share the work of designing and implementing ways in which I could participate. She shared in my data collection through her journal writing, deliberate conversations and the like. She read much of my writing. But, there were some things we did not share. I could not share the full transcripts of children's interviews with her and she could not share her 47 parent teacher interviews nor the particulars of her more personal interactions with children. We also had differing sets of responsibilities. Linda answered to her school and teaching contract. I answered to my supervisor and worked under the guidelines of the ethics review application. Linda was responsible for carrying out such tasks as lesson preparation, teaching, evaluations, record keeping and so on. I had to make and write up observations, conduct interviews, transcribe and so on. Our tasks were not only dissimilar, but it was urgent that under no condition should I detract from her ability to teach the children. A s I planned how we would work together, it was obvious that she could not fully share such research tasks as analysis; Linda's workload was heavy enough (Yamane 1996). Since we both wanted to understand the nature and role of storytelling in school we had a "shared research interest" (Behar 1998:21). Thus, we hoped to collaborate with each other while keeping to our own tasks. We "share(d) an interest in the research but were responsible for single tasks" and worked "together in an effort to accomplish the tasks" (Toepel 2001: 65). One characteristic of such a researcher relationship is that just one of us carried responsibility for the research: me. Although Linda's influence may have been limited over "the project's design, direction or interpretation of findings" (Toepel 2001: 65), no part of my work was unaffected by her participation. A l l its outcomes are particular to her presence and influence. B y her sharing her work, life and experiences, Linda enlarged the study beyond my own abilities and potential for learning. A t the same time, I designed the project, determined its direction and interpreted the data. I carry all responsibility for the final description. Our different positions and responsibilities developed a potential threat to our relationship. Several risk factors needed my attention. First, our collaboration was vulnerable to shifting power relationships and senses of ambiguity about that. I am a recognized storyteller, an academic and experienced teacher. A s her transcript showed, she hoped I would bring an expertise to bear on our working together. However, my starting position in our research project was uncertainty about the nature and role of storytelling in school. Under Linda's hopeful gaze, I worried about disappointing her. In fact, my "expertise" insisted I begin with as few assumptions and understandings as 48 t possible. I needed to approach my study with questions, not answers. I needed to emphasize my inability to be the "expert" she sought. Conversely, although I might have held a kind o f "expert" authority as an academic researcher, Linda held that position in her classroom. I came into the class on her permission, she had responsibility for her students. She was the students' and site's gatekeeper. During our working together tension between these two positions surfaced. I found I needed permission to move about the room and reassurance about where I seated myself. I struggled against the sense of being an intruder. Linda also experienced discomfort about my presence and sometimes felt it as an intrusion. She struggled with self consciousness and doubt about her performance storytelling and teaching in front of me. After one class session, while we discussed her storytelling she finally said, with some frustration, that she wanted my critique or affirmation about her storytelling ability. She needed me to tell her that she was doing well and giving me what "I wanted." Neither of these assurances was difficult to give. A s the following chapters confirm she was an excellent storyteller and a masterful teacher. She gave me and my readers gifts of deep understanding about storytelling. Her frustration alerted me that I should work harder to be more visible and expressive about my appreciation of her skills and abilities. A shared research project meant working for a successful partnership to answer mutually held and personal questions. I was guided to develop our relationship using Tom's descriptions and outline in Building collaborative research: Living the commitment to emergent design (1996). Having established the outlines of the research project I opened it to Linda's presence and response when we began to share the study in her classroom. Our collaboration needed us to be aware and responsive to our differences. We needed ways to deal with potential conflicts, to check for assumptions and maintain transparency about "how-it-was-going." We needed regular means to respond to our experiences and re-think our ways of working together during our study. Thus, I communicated often about my work in progress. I wrote notes, shared entries from my reflective journal and suggested dinner together. I invited her questions, concerns and comments about my presence in the room. I was committed to disclosure of my practice to her and full accreditation of her contribution to the study. I made sure I 49 expressed my felt appreciation and encouragement for Linda's complementary contributions to the study. Linda wrote a reflective journal to open a window to her inner experiences of classroom work and interaction with me. She committed herself to pausing with me before and after the school day. Before school started she outlined her intentions for the day and highlighted any concerns or items of which she wanted me to be aware. At the end of the day we usually took 5-10 minutes to clarify any observations, questions, concerns that might have come up during the day. In these ways we worked for regular communication and anticipated potential misunderstandings. Thus, our collaborative study in which we co-researched the role and nature of storytelling as we each needed to know about it, was characterized by regular, satisfying and helpful dialogue. Before I conclude, I need to point out that I also chose Linda because she was a storytelling teacher, an experienced professional. In her classroom work, storytelling was just one strategy or one kind of activity among the many she directed. She used videos, charts, overheads, textbooks, handout pages, discussion, art-response, visitors, teaching objects, chart paper, the blackboards and her own teacher-talk to teach. She directed children across subjects of study and activities that included current events, math work, spelling, language study, spelling, computer lab work, physical education, French language, science experiments, biology, environmental and social studies. She was attentive to children's learning styles. To that end she created situations in which children worked alone, in pairs, in assigned groups or in chosen groupings. They engaged in role playing, gave presentations and conducted surveys. Children read, drew, talked and wrote under her direction. In short, Linda used every means at her disposal to make her classroom a place where children learned. But, as she said in the interview before I met her in the classroom, storytelling guided her practice: It (storytelling) informs my practice, knowing about the power of story, or knowing how enjoyable it is, then.. .it's not necessarily conscious, but it's like ... you know, the alphabet. You know /a/ says "eh." In the same way you don't think about the alphabet while you read, I don't think about storytelling while I teach. It informs my teaching or the things I do. It's a knowledge base (September 2, 2002). 50 She depended on storytelling in her teaching work. In our first interview I heard her talk about her storytelling work in ways that echoed the storytelling-teachers I discussed in the last chapter. When she needed to quickly draw the children into shared, purposeful learning engagements she used storytelling. On every day that I observed the class, she used storytelling in some way and more than once to teach. For her, storytelling was the tool of choice: I think in storytelling you can do a lot of quick lessons. It's a very efficient kind o f teaching tool. Stories are fast and they're complete to themselves (September 2, 2002). She repeated the point made by other teaching storytellers. Storytelling created the situation in which attention was united in a hush for a told story: I think it was recognizing that it [storytelling] was different than anything else. There was a silence that happened. A n d as I grew older, that silence grew more and more important to me. I found I couldn't get attention any other way. . . (laughs) (September 2, 2002). Linda was convinced by her experiences inside and outside the classroom that storytelling brought children together across interests, abilities, languages and cultures. For many of her teaching goals it was the best way to facilitate their learning. Because Linda believed storytelling was efficient, enjoyable and strongly engaging for learning, a lot of storytelling happened in her classroom. She intentionally created situations and opportunities for children's storytelling by inviting their anecdotes and retellings of events or books. She used stories to teach about graphing, recount historical events, and explain such things as migration or the origin of a holiday. Sometimes, during language arts period, Linda told a story instead of reading it. Only in the last instance did her more expert ability perhaps differentiate her from other teachers. I also suspect her conviction led to more storytelling than is usual in a grade 4 or 5 classroom. In these ways, Linda met the criterion during my planning; and fully exceeded my hopes in the course of my study with her. Now, in my writing, she offers us the means to examine how a storytelling-teacher fully integrates her understanding with her professional tasks. In this, she has offered us her very self. 51 The site: A classroom, school and neighbourhood In preparation for taking my seat in Linda's classroom I learned what I could about the site in which I would conduct my research. I was engaged in ethnographic research where the context is inextricable from the participants and events under study. A s Feld and Basso write, location is "the most fundamental form of embodied experience- the site of a powerful fusion of self, space and time" (1996: 9). Thus, I prepared to learn about the classroom as a fully participating presence. This point is perhaps especially significant to learning about storytelling. I know of no discussion about storytelling, oral traditions and social life that omits the l iving formative aspect of its physical circumstance (e.g. Cruikshank 1990, 1998; Connerton 1992; Lopez 1988; Portelli 1997; Robinson 1992; Sards 1993). These works insist that a told story cannot be separated from the full situation in which it happened. In my dissertation I want to facilitate my reader's ability to bring these parts together into a full complexity. A s much as possible, I draw the space around the circle of storytelling before going inside. The school is located in New Westminster, southeast of Vancouver and built along the Fraser River banks. The town is built over the sides of hills, on the river flood plain and over Lulu Island that splits the river. The school, Queen Elizabeth Community Elementary, is on the island. Trees, parks, small streets with modest homes surround it. Most children walk to school. Their neighborhood includes a few shops, a community center, and a school. Spagnol's, the nearby grocery story has a postal outlet. It also serves prepared takeout foods, greeting cards and hardware. It is a favored local hangout and was frequently referenced by students in the room. Although the area around the school is rather quiet and tucked away from the rest of the city, it 's impossible to shake awareness o f the traffic and industry that surrounds it. Just 500 meters east of the school, Highway 91A joins Surrey to Vancouver. The sound of the heavily used thoroughfare is audible on the playground or an open classroom window. Its traffic matters to the school teachers and children. Teachers and residents time their coming and going to work and home by tuning-in daily for the Queensborough Bridge crossing prognoses. On one day a teacher was late by nearly two hours because of a traffic jam. A t another time, a parent of one o f the children at school was killed in an accident on the bridge. In these and many other ways, the highway had a kind of presence at school that was felt. To the west 52 and north o f the school, the Fraser River runs. It is flanked by several large industrial enterprises. One of these is Scott Paper Products. The river carries a constant traffic of ships, log booms and barges. During my time at school, references to the river, boats, talk about accidents and fishing, working relatives and so on, reminded me often of its role in the lives of students who lived and learned in our classroom. These and many other aspects of the landscape formed contents of discussion, affected movements at school, gave points of reference and so on. I explored the demography of the school district. The following statistics show that Linda's school had a high proportion of non-English as first language speakers. New Westminster a city of about 53,810 (2001 statistics), has nine elementary schools and one high school. It is part of School District 40 (SD 40). The district can be characterized in several ways among the other 58 districts in British Columbia. In the first place, it has one o f the fastest growing school populations in the province. Between the 2000-01 and 2001-02 school years, SD 40's elementary head-counts went up 2.9%. It is a full percentage higher than any other school. 4 The figures may explain why S D 40's class sizes were larger than 41 of the other 58 school districts. However, the student-educator ratio is one of the lowest in British Columbia to accommodate the high demand for special needs in the school. 5 Most of those needs are directed by language concerns. The population of SD 40 is linguistically diverse in higher proportion than other school districts. In New Westminster, 27.58% of the residents speak languages other than English or French in the home. 6 The district's linguistic diversity is most highly represented at my study site, Queen Elizabeth Community Elementary School. Ful ly 34.9% of the students came from non-English homes, compared to 14% of students in the rest o f the district and just 9.6% of all provincial students.7 A s of September 30, 2002, more than a third (35%) of the of students registered in district as E S L students went to 4 British Columbia. Ministry of Education. Data Management and Student Certification Branch. 2001/02 Summary of Key Information: Elementary and Secondary Enrolment (headcounf). Standard Report: 1580. Feb. 2002. 5 Linda Stender in conversation, February 28, 2003. 6 Statistics Canada. Statistics Canada. Community Profile - New Westminster. February 2003. 27 Feb. 2003. <http://wwwl2.statcan.ca/english/profil01/Details/detailslpopl.cfrn>. 7British Columbia. Ministry of Education. Standard Report # 1586 C. K-12 Data Reports. Headcount Enrolment in ENGLISH AS A SECOND L A N G U A G E by Gender. Grade. School and District November 22, 2002. Feb. 26, 2003.<http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/kl2datareports/02sldtxt/1586c.txt>. 53 Queen Elizabeth Community School, although only 13% of all elementary school children attended that school in the district (see previous footnote). The school itself is set in the midst of many non-English speaking households, a high proportion of immigrants and residents who think of themselves as temporarily settled. They are preparing to live somewhere else. A s I learned about the site, I initially felt some concern about how well the outcomes of my research in an exceptional classroom could be generalized. Linda's classroom was characterized by uncommon diversity. Not only was it a split class, but also the social, economic, linguistic and cultural diversity was in higher proportion than provincial and national averages. I was concerned these extremes might affect some of the transferability of my study to another situation. However, the specific profile emphasizes a reality about social groups. Every classroom is a "unique, dynamic, and complex" social setting (Hatch 2002:9). I realized that my task was not to study a classroom that could be any classroom. A s Lincoln and Guba write, it is "not the researcher's task to provide an index of transferability - rather to provide sufficiently rich data for readers" (1985: 316). Thus, my task was to "create for the reader or listener the sense of having been there," and make it "possible to carry away applications and understandings into the particulars of their own work (Guba and Lincoln 1981: 149). M y challenge was to describe this room, these children, this teacher and myself as we engaged with storytelling and learning together. Thus, I worked for the kind of outcome Hatch described: Qualitative reports are usually complex, detailed narratives that include the voices of the participants being studied. They build the case for the researcher's interpretations by including enough detail and actual data to take the reader inside the social situation under examination (Hatch 2002: 9). The reader's experience of "being there" had to be established by authentic description and consistency across the data. That quality would invite other teachers and researchers to "decide the extent to which finds from one piece of research are generalizeable to another situation" (Cohen, Manion and Morrison 2000: 109). It seemed to me that Linda's classroom offered rich possibilities for thinking about storytelling. First, a multi-lingual membership would draw strong attention to the uses and needs of spoken language in school. In the company of new language users, 54 verbal language interaction would be highlighted. Secondly, the diversity in the room offered a good context for considering and placing the uses of multi-cultural stories (Jobe 1993), which is a subject of urgency and even contention in language arts today (Archibald 1997, Bosma 1987, Blatt 1993). Thirdly, storytelling as a community interaction to jo in disparate experiences and worlds (Cruikshank 1998) might be especially observable in a room where children came with dissimilar languages, cultural lives, and ability levels connected for the common purpose of learning together. I realized that study with Linda's classroom might help our learning more about Canadian Q schools where 27.1% of residents describe themselves as immigrants. A s I continued reading and considering the appropriateness of the site to my study, I found strong support for my study among children of diverse origins, ages, languages and social memberships. Not only might I learn more about what happens when a story is told in a classroom, such a study promised related outcomes of value to educators. On September 4 t h , 2002,1 took a seat in Linda's grade 4/5 classroom. A t the time there were 26 children. One was transferred the same day. Over the course o f five months two children moved away and one joined the class. Ten of the 27 children spoke English as a first language. However, just two children were born outside Canada. The figures suggested immigrant children were raised in the language community of their parents in Canada. First languages in Linda's class included Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi , Spanish, Tagalog and Farsi. Eight of the children described themselves as multilingual. For instance, one child was conversant in Tagalog and Ilocano, another in Urdu and Punjabi, another in Hindi and Punjabi. Eleven of the children spoke Punjabi and were able to communicate with each other in that language. Other cultural backgrounds included German, Polish and Spanish. Although nearly two thirds of the class spoke English marked with dialectical difference and several children worked with limited vocabularies, all the children seemed able to express themselves comfortably and as necessary in English in the classroom. Statistics Canada, February 2003. 55 Ms. Jo in the classroom I planned for the position I would take in the classroom. I wanted as much access as possible to children's ordinary conversations in class and wished to develop relationships that facilitated my interviewing later. I deliberately established an identity that placed me outside the usual roles of adults carrying school's authority. I did not want to be experienced as a teacher or adult-in-charge. To that end, Linda and I decided I would be named "Ms . Jo." B y using my first name I was not like a teacher, by using " M s " I acknowledged my adult status. On usual days I arrived twenty minutes before class started, caught up on news, received an agenda for the day from Linda. I asked for ways in which I could facilitate tasks of the day and usually performed these outside of classroom hours. We agreed I would not take up such teacher tasks as marking, monitoring behaviour, leading group work, storytelling, reading with children or supervising activities. I did mark work that used an answer sheet since this task was also performed by any capable child in the room. I helped with clean up tasks, decorated bulletin boards and made folders for art. But as much as possible I avoided positions that were teacher-like. I had no illusion about the ability of adults to "blend into the social world of children" (Mayall 2000: 121). Mayal l writes, "according to my information from children... a central characteristic of adults is that they have power over children" (121). Children frequently looked to me for direction, worried about my response when they had behaved "badly" and came to me for solutions for conflicts and the like. In response I usually directed them to Linda and just as often directed the question back to the child. I needed to establish myself as «of-a-teacher. I often felt uncomfortable. I knew I could ease Linda's demanding and busy teaching life by supervising a study group in the hall, responding to reading journals, taking up a language arts lesson or directing group project work. I often felt irresponsible, sorry that I could not substantially reciprocate in our relationship by offering her more tangible benefits. Sometimes my non-teacher position was complicated by other teachers who assumed my (teacher) complicity by audibly sharing complaints about children's behaviour in the hallway or playground. However, because I am an experienced teacher, I could compare the kind of relationship I experienced with children as unlike those I had as a teacher. There was a 56 particular sort of ease o f access, a quality of conversation and disclosure I did not enjoy as a teacher. Relationships were not complicated by the possibility of evaluation or anxiety about academic consequences. B y the conclusion of the study, it was clear to me in student interviews, being not-a-teacher offered me a relationship that opened conversations o f personal fhoughtfulness and spontaneity I did not experience as a teacher. M y determined efforts were encouraged by experiences in which I was invited into children's talk about Power Puff Girls, the man in the garage next door, fights on the playground, hopes about soccer games and the like. Those experiences mitigated my senses of awkwardness being between a teacher and student in the room. During class time I wrote notes about what was happening. I used a simple three ring notepad. When I got home I could tear off the pages on which I'd made notes and return to class without the risk of losing or compromising other field-note sets. I worked through the list I'd made prior to entering the study and added items as they became necessary (Appendix 3.B). One day I would focus on the room layout, on another I 'd study the organization of books or children's postures during listening. I found new topics of study. These included felt interruptions in a school day and questions about the roles of holidays in shaping school experiences. Children sitting beside me would be curious about what I was doing and would look over my shoulder, ask me questions, and even pass me notes with questions and comments or funny pictures. I did not hide my work. I allowed their attention but did not nourish talk about it. A n y personal remarks or reminders I made for myself were noted during recesses on the back pages or in coded reminders on the side. M y observations were written up within a day or two of every school day observed, knowing that time would diminish my capacity to accurately and fully record the v iv id intensity of the day. M y recording of classroom observations opened the activity of the room into view. It made patterns of interaction, sets of references, and unfolding stories accessible to study. Classroom observations drew me into deeper acquaintance with the life in the room. The work of observing taught me to listen. A t the end of classroom research I had fully annotated and recorded observations made of thirty full school days. There were other days in which I visited to obtain an interview, watch a program, or help with decorating for a school event. 57 The researcher as study instrument A research project and its conclusions are uniquely shaped by the researcher. M y choices o f conduct affected my study and critically inform readers who learn from it. A s Peshkin explains it, the "unique configurations" o f site, researchers and situations . . . profoundly affect the conclusions that can be drawn from the study (1988: 55). I have disclosed some o f those "configurations" already but need to clarify other choices and positions I took to make my work as transparent as possible. The first concerns the ways in which I fused observation and participation. In other words, I explain how I experienced the phenomenon of storytelling in the classroom while observing and examining its character. The second concerns the ways in which I used my prior knowledge about storytelling while striving for a definition of it. Professional literature about research prepared me to face some difficulty in bringing two kinds of being-in-the-classroom together. A "fundamental tension" is initiated by ethnographic research that is "irresolvable;" a researcher exists "between the need to separate oneself from the world and to render it up as an object of experience" (Moore 1999:7). Such research demands being in two positions at once. Patton writes, Experiencing the program as an insider is what necessitates the participant part o f participant observations. At the same time, however, there is clearly an observer side... [The researcher works to] combine participation and observation so as to become capable of understanding the program as an insider while describing the program for outsiders (1990: 207). I prepared research methods to ensure I developed two kinds of data. I needed methods to facilitate data for "observers." Thus, before the classroom would become too familiar and "breed inattention" I emphasized observation (Berger and Kellner 1981: 34). For the first month, while I acquainted myself with the children and school life, I looked at interactions, social and learning engagements, children working and a teacher teaching. I took inventories of the room, mapped the furniture, was strongly attentive to movements and routines of teaching and learning tasks. I observed children working singly and in groups. I took detailed notes of conversations, storytelling engagements, and other interactions. I moved my seat each week, to create a new view and experience new company near by. After the first month I began interviews with children. M y set of 58 questions used with each child and the later work of transcribing these kept my attention focused outside my own experience, more observational than participatory. B y October, I began to emphasize my experiences of participation at least one of the two days. I planned methods which facilitated my absorption into storytelling events and more experiential interactions. I did things like sitting amongst children on the floor without a notebook, sliding into the story during storytelling and taking part in conversations without recording them. I sat in my desk and listened to children and their teacher talking. It meant a stronger emphasis on my reflective journal writing where I considered my experience afterwards. It also meant flurried writing at noon hour and jotting keywords on notepaper and working to recapture my senses of phenomena later. Although every day in the classroom included both kinds of research experience, I deliberately alternated and emphasized one approach over another for my attention. Thus I worked to bring participation and observation together in the study. However, I never quite resolved the tension Moore named earlier (1997:7). A s time went on, I often felt caught between two positions, experienced as "inside and outside." When I had planned my research I anticipated a rather evenly distributed and balanced stance with two ways of researching. Increasingly I realized I could not give "equal" attention to both ways. They were too unlike, there was no such thing as "equal." I had to learn to better admit different qualities of experience into one learning-about storytelling in school. Dissimilar relationships, settings, interactions, record keeping and action characterized each position: observational and participatory. Thus, bringing observation and participation together was not a matter of equal time or a 50/50 balance. Rather, I had to bring two ways of listening, thinking, and being into one understanding. M y notes and data from varied positions and experiences had to challenge, complete or enlarge the other into complementarity. When they did not, it suggested I had made a mistake or had missed an understanding. Alternating my position over the course of my study was complicated by my growing interest and involvement in the teacher's and children's lives. M y growing friendship with Linda, empathy for teacher's work and especially my deepening involvement in children's classroom lives increasingly threatened my ability to observe wel l . Children's growing freedom to confide in me, ask questions and play with me 59 sometimes obstructed my ability to see bigger pictures. Freedom to shift my attention from experience to observation was sometimes inhibited by social expectations to "join in . " M y increasing fondness for the children I spent so much time with, and delight in classroom life made sharper observation an act of rigorous self discipline. A s I became aware o f my increasingly qualitatively directed participation, I worked to balance and acknowledge it. When I found it difficult to step into the role of observer I wrote about it in my reflective journal. A t other times I directed my experience and attention by meticulous note taking of classroom events. Such fusion of researcher with the site is a commonly acknowledged understanding. M y experience is characteristic of qualitative studies: In qualitative work, it is understood that the act of studying a social phenomenon influences the enactment of that phenomenon. Researchers are part of the world they study; the knower and the known are taken to be inseparable (Hatch 2002: 10). Thus, the reader and researcher both know that observational data was missed during participation and experiential data was missed during periods of observation. Woods called the researcher's anxiety the "elsewhere syndrome." Researchers experience their work as always missing something important happening somewhere else (1986: 46). M y awareness o f the conundrum before sitting down with the children in Linda's classroom meant I had methods that would best integrate observation and participation. During my research my head knowledge became bodied understanding. It was one thing to read about it, it was another to undergo "fusion." A t the end of October, in the midst of costumes, decorating the classroom, and children eager to be "next for the interview," I experienced a sort o f crisis. I wondered about my ability to be in the classroom and busy with the lives of my subjects of study and write about it clearly. A s Goetz and LeCompte write: Involvement with participants creates a number of problems for the ethnographer. Most obvious is the capacity for objectivity... They went on to suggest: Occasional absence from the field is useful. It facilitates perspective, especially when it is combined with an opportunity to review field notes and perceptions with other colleagues outside the research setting (1984: 98). 60 I needed "time out." I found myself inseparable from the study in which I was increasingly a full member. It took the suggestion of my supervisor to show me that I had not the freedom but the imperative to leave the site in order to maintain the integrity o f my research. I took nearly a week away from school and used the time to install and learn about a software research program to facilitate working with the fast growing pile of data. In hindsight that tension which only became real over the course of my study offered me rich grounds for thinking about the nature of research. I developed much appreciation for the rigour of various kinds of note-keeping. These kept track o f my progress and gave me the material for learning more afterwards. In the end, observation and participation were inseparable. The quality of experiences was caught in all my work from the reflective journal, flurries of fieldnotes, long sets of classroom observations, copies o f stories, children's writing, interviews and transcripts. M y observations were thorough and strong enough for me to recapture the movements, material, relationships and activities of which I became a part. The second critical area in which my frame of mind affected choices I made concerns the advanced knowledge I brought into the room about storytelling. Because I am a teacher, storyteller and scholar, I had strong and well-developed ideas of what I was looking for in school. On the one hand, my commitment, curiosity and understandings could be understood as "sources of motivation and power" (Marcus 1998: 14), but they also entail a serious risk in research. Hatch warns, " Y o u are not putting together a puzzle, whose picture you already know. Y o u are constructing a picture that takes shape as you collect and examine the parts" (2002:10). Thus, I began my research with some concern that the integrity of my findings might be risked by presenting my own ideas as i f they were what I found in the classroom (Greenblatt 1997:16). I needed methods that would help check assumptions and teach me to "bracket" my prior ideas (Ely et al 1991: 50). I challenged myself often about where my idea "came from." I worked to make my research question: "what is storytelling?" as permeable as possible to its life in the room. Regular journaling helped me practice self-query for assumptions, feelings and preconceptions that perhaps guided my listening and watching life in the classroom. I prepared myself to learn to notice what is important to participants (LeCompte and 61 Schensul 1999) by means of interviews, conversation and observations. If I was to learn about the meaning of storytelling among children and a teacher in a room, it had to be possible to acquire the member's knowledge and .. .understand from the participant's point o f view what motivated them to do what (I) observed them doing and what it meant at the time (Schwartz and Jacobs 1979: 8; italics mine). M y opening emphasis on observation meant I began with a practice o f listening and following events and interactions in the class. I planned interviews with Linda and all the children to ensure fuller inclusion of other understandings and accounts of what happened in the classroom. M y daily check-ins with Linda challenged, amended, informed and re-formed my thinking. In these ways I avoided some of the risk of what Rosaldo called the "lone ethnographer" (1989: 30). M y partnership with Linda helped me avoid that position. However, Linda also occasionally made my intentional position of learning difficult. A s her transcript showed, she hoped that I could "show" her, "help her" and "identify the structure that is there." There were times in which she asked me what I thought about a storytelling, or what was happening during a story.. A t those times I had to open my struggle to her. I let her know how difficult it was to keep myself open to learning and listening to events in the classroom. I confessed that it demanded much effort to not confirm what I knew, but rather listen for what I didn't. I had to open myself fully to storytelling life in the room. For the full first month I did not differentiate a story from talk, instruction or explanation. News of border tensions in Pakistan, a sniper in Washington, and the Canucks hockey team's winning streak, wove conversation, stories, explanations into a kind of seamless whole. Celebrations like the Terry Fox Run, Halloween or Christmas held storytellings. Class assignments, playground events, book reports and complaints carried stories. Pita moved away, Daron got a new Beyblade, Layla showed us her new dance and a child won at the last dirt-bike competition. I kept notes, listened and submerged myself to the experience. Linda taught math with a treasure hunter's map, told a story about Anne Frank and playing golf. From these, a new description of storytelling had to be formed. A s Hoels writes, I had to keep myself with the "continuous process, not a final product" (1997: 14). 62 Interviewing children I planned to interview all the children, who were wil l ing and had permission from their guardians to participate in the study. From the outset I was aware of some o f the particular constraints and difficulties associated with my intentions. I prepared for a task that presents "some particular practical and methodological problems" (Scott 2000: 100). The key difficulty is the generational difference that thoroughly marks all interactions. Adults ' relationships with children carry a strong power differential. A s Christensen and James write: "children occupy a subordinate and marginal position vis a vis adults" (2000: 6). In the first place, such a "differential" demanded my scrupulous adherence to procedures determined by the ethics review prior to my study. M y following account of the interview process w i l l show I took such care. During the interviews, and later when I studied them, I reminded myself that children did not speak to me as a peer. They used language selected for me. Thus, my transcripts, as I read them and quote children in the following chapters, their words should always be understood in that context. The structure of age roles in American society makes impossible the enactment o f the complete participant role.. . it is unexpected for an adult to "hang out' with children's groups; legitimate adult-child interaction depends on adult authority" (Vine and Sandstrom 1988: 13). When I planned the interviews and later studied them, I was aware that our respective positions affected our interactions and responses. A s Walsh discussed, children compensate for the imbalance of power by giving answers they think the researcher, or adult questioner is looking for (Walsh 1998: 112-120). Children knew they would be interviewed. On the first day of school they went home with a letter from me. I requested permission from their guardians to include their children's participation in my study. In the letter I explained the project included an interview. The letter was translated into Punjabi to facilitate fully informed consent.9 I received permission from all children's caregivers. However, I also gave children permission to defer their interview or not participate at all . In their letters that went 9 There were other languages represented by parents who did not speak English as a first language. I conferred with Linda who checked with the school office. A l l other parents had abilities to read letters and information sent from school in English. Thus the letter only had to be translated into Punjabi. 63 home, I explained this option and also told the children in the classroom. In the case a child could not approach me, Linda also told them when I was gone, that it would be "okay" i f they didn't want to be interviewed and she would help them say no. I waited until October before I began interviewing children for several reasons. First, I wanted to establish a more comfortable relationship with them. I hoped they would know me better by that time and feel at ease talking about their thoughts. Secondly, by waiting until October we would have shared enough experiences in the classroom for giving us some common ground for talking. Also , as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to know better what I would mean by "stories" when I met to ask them questions. I had to begin by October 1 s t i f I planned to interview all the children. First, I needed the means to fully triangulate findings, verify and expand shared experiences and provided the means for "member checking" (Lincoln and Guba 1985: 286). Secondly, and equally important, it would matter to the children i f one was selected and another was not. 1 0 In Appendix 3.C, a list o f the children and interview dates is provided. I've done this in order to eliminate the intrusion of dates with every fragment and section of transcript included in my discussion. I was fortunate to get a good place for conducting our interviews. I was sensitive to bringing children into a situation where they were alone with an adult in a room. A t the same time, I could not conduct an interview with the regular possibility for interruption and distraction. Thus, the library, hallway or other public spaces were poor sites. I worried about having a room that might carry some associations that were negative, like the health room or vice-principal's office. I was keenly aware that where "the interviews are carried out is quite likely to influence the way children respond" (Scott 2000: 103). The space'of the interview would fully affect the quality and possibilities for thinking aloud together during our conversation (Graue and Walsh 1998). Linda had helped me find a good place. It was familiar to the children as the "craft room." Most children had been withdrawn from class at some time during their M y reader will recall that 23 children were interviewed of a class that originally had 25 children. Two children, Pita and Anna moved away. When new children came in during the course of my study, I got permission for their participation in the classroom. I interviewed one of the new children so that he was not left out. But I did not include it because our acquaintance was too brief, and his experience with me and Linda and his classmates gave both of us a weak context for meaning making. He had attended class for just 3 weeks. 64 years at Queen Elizabeth, to work there in small groups on special projects. Those were privileged opportunities; the room had interesting things in it and so it carried pleasant associations. The room was walled with shelves carrying books and school supplies. Although it was rather small and windowless it opened into the heavily trafficked hallway. I always left one of these doors partially ajar. The room allowed privacy but not a full withdrawal from school life or view. I let each child sit where he or she chose, on one o f the four sides of the table. I usually sat adjacently, so that he or she could choose to make eye contact or not. I began every interview by putting the recorder to our side, and asking i f the child knew what it was for. I initiated small talk before I turned it on and began the interview. I was confirming what I had told them and showed them before I interviewed any of them. A week before I began the interviews, Linda let me show my small recorder to the children in the classroom. We recorded the class talking, Linda spoke into the recorder for me and we also recorded some outstanding burps for the running tape. These were played back to the enjoyment of the class. I explained then that I would have the recorder on during our interviews unless they wanted me to shut the recorder off. I planned to interview the children during their classroom silent reading period, immediately after noon hour. They did not miss direct instructional time and did not have to make up "missed work." The cost for leaving the class was minimal. We left the room for 30-40 minutes. For 10-12 year olds the time frame was fully adequate for opening conversation, working through the questions and coming to conclusion. Two children took a full hour, apparently delighted with an audience. Three children needed just 25 minutes to work through the interview. I conducted the interviews guided by a page of questions (Appendix 3.D). M y interviewing process contained all four types of questions named by Berg: throw away questions, essential, probing and extra questions (1988). I began with the "throw away questions," asking children their names, where they lived, had gone to school and how they usually got to school in the morning. Where it was necessary I opened the few tangents these questions afforded to establish a comfort level and conversational tone. From there I generally followed the interview guide, allowing children to take the lead where they wanted to expand on a question, add something "unrelated," or let them speak 65 when they were suddenly reminded of something. In every case, all of the interview questions were posed to every child, albeit in varying order. The questions primarily concerned our shared life-experiences in the classroom. Under the encouragement of my interest in their ideas and experiences, children expressed and shared themselves most often with enthusiasm. It seemed to me, that except for two children, 1 1 they were at ease with the situation. They were eager for their turn, pleased to leave the room with me and responsive in their own ways. I personally transcribed all the interviews, always coding names and references to others as I did in all my notes. I left out sections in which a child talked about personal home matters or events outside the scope of the classroom. Thus, I kept children's descriptions of their retelling school stories at home for parents, but left out stories or comments about home life. I included children's descriptions of favourite movies, games, or toys but did not include children's descriptions of cousins, neighbourhood fights or home difficulties. I was guided by my intention to create a description of storytelling as a public, shareable, classroom activity. A t the same time I was often struck by how private stories and questions expressed in the interview were deeply relevant to thinking about the roles of stories in shared life. M y ethical commitment and personal senses of privacy and respect for the children kept me from drawing children's disclosures into the description. However, they do affect my thinking about storytelling in a classroom. N o w I look back over the planning and process of interviewing and draw the same conclusions as Woodhead and Faulkner: Significant knowledge gains result when children' active participation in the research process is deliberately solicited and when their perspectives, views and feelings are accepted as genuine valid evidence (2000: 31). " These were Leon and Kate. I suspect that Leon had too many experiences of being "in trouble" with adults at school. This may have partially affected his ability to get comfortable. Kate said that she was "nervous" several times, I cannot account for her sense except to guess anxiety on her part to "do well." They both left the room gladly, chatted on the way to the craft room, smiling and telling me about noon hour. However, once we sat down and began, it became difficult for them to remain at ease. My guesses about the reasons for this are based on my longer experience with them in the classroom. 66 When my reader reaches the end of my dissertation, I hope it is plain how profoundly my work is informed and affected by the children who thought aloud, talked to and taught me during our interviews. I also collected copies of student's writing assignments. These offered a research window into children's story listening and responses. They completed such related assignments as "retelling" a story heard, taking a new point of view in a story, or responding to a story with criticism. In some cases I had a transcript of a story told by a child and a written copy of the "same" story. These offered important contrasts and variations. Children's writings offered data for studying aurality, imagination as it could be traced in writing, personal responses to stories and their applications of storytelling. Because my application for the committee's ethical review permitted my collection and use of children's work related to the study, I collected samples of writing directly related to storytellings in the classroom. Not only did Linda open herself to my observation and participation in the classroom, she also contributed her journal to my research. She practiced regular personal reflective journal writing to help articulate experiences of storytelling and synthesize conversations, workshops, readings and classroom experiences into understandings she and I could share. She gave me her journal to read at regular intervals and permission to copy it and use it. In it, she shared her guiding intentions for story selection, understandings and thoughts about stories and telling, and wrote about her listening work during storytelling. Her journal gave another perspective from which I could understand her storytelling and work in the room. The researcher's reflective journal as data Prior to my classroom study, I read about the role of reflective writing in research. A s Goodall writes, it is the "process of personally and academically reflecting on lived experiences in ways that reveal deep connections between the writer and his or her subject" (2000: 137). A researcher's reflective journal gathers personal and sometimes more tenuous insights about practice on site. In the journal a researcher "relies on intuition or personal judgements when making statements about the phenomena studied" (Anderson 1998: 256). The journal maybe used to "monitor" practice (Cohen et al 67 2000: 235), declare personal bias (Anderson 1998: 134), make room for a teacher's story amidst the clamour of other stories (Connelly and Clandinin 1988), allow "true confessions" (Schwarz and Jacobs 1979:58), judgements (King and Kitchener 1994) or rueful realizations. A s I prepared to study, my readings showed that a reflective journal offered a valuable data source. For this reason, I too planned to keep a reflective journal. Although journaling was already a daily practice for me, I took it up in a different, deliberate way. I knew I needed a personal record of my learning process. I intended for the journal to take my questions, tentative ideas, personal comments, expressions of concern, and so on. It would also provide a cross check against written classroom observations and other data. In my journal I found space and freedom to explore some of the things that happened or what these provoked more fully. I wrote the things that didn't fit under observations or record keeping. I wrote at least twice weekly in the journal for five months. Journal writing took up a more affecting or significant role in the process than as a data bank. It offered the means to recover experience and provided a "cross-check" when I turned to work with other data. However, at that point it was less useful than my classroom observations, interviews or Linda's journal. During the time of my site-study, it gave me a place to release the vigilant hold on my thinking. In my journal I allowed my viv id senses o f aesthetic, stabs of pain and compassion, and overflows of pleasure about my work to spill over. I expressed my revulsion over a movie the children watched, anguish about a home situation, and felt joy in the sound of children playing at noon hour. M y journal let me remember, play with and explore pieces of the day in ways I'd conceived of initially (and wrongly) as being outside the parameters of researcher observations or participation. In my journal I had space for subjects like the beauty of a child bathed by light pouring through a window, an image of Linda's gathering children for a story as an act of love, or my profoundly felt irritation over the P A system's capacity to puncture a classroom discussion and deflate the room. In my journal I recorded images and experiences so as to cherish them. I wrote about sad and difficult things when I could not talk or worry about them elsewhere. Without my journal, I would not have written these. M y journal's primary role afterwards was to help me re-collect senses of my experience in the room when I wasn't there anymore. 68 Bringing it all together to learn about storytelling. I've described my methods as these created experiences, memories and data which I took from the research site. A s my reader knows, I gathered these up to study what happened when a story was told in that busy room. I concluded that whenever a storytelling happened, listeners and tellers participated in one of three ways with a story: in social awareness, in mindful interaction or in deep imaginative engagement. Before I go on to describe each of those fully, it is necessary to notice one other participant: The classroom. 69 Chapter Four An ever present participant in storytelling: The classroom Introduction Storytelling was an event that happened in the presence of each other. The experience of presence included the site itself. A s Silko writes about storytelling: The stories cannot be separated from geographical locations, from actual physical places within the land . . . and the stories are so much a part of these places that it is almost impossible for future generations to lose the stories (1981: 69). The classroom was the "geographic location" where stories were told and heard. The place participated in the event and significantly affected our understandings of stories. In this chapter I introduce readers to the room, children's life there and their teacher in the midst of her work. Readers who take up this ethnographic account must be able to imagine it well enough to experience it to a significant degree. Further, as I make the point that a told story w i l l not separate from the teller, listener, time and place of the event, I want to facilitate my reader's ability to bring these parts together into a full complexity. Finally, this description offers a context for thinking about the circles o f storytelling as nested within a larger context. Storytelling happens within a situation which affects and is affected by it. In the first part of the description I show that a particular tension characterized the situation and life in the room. Children's interests and inclinations, values and ways of doing things outside school, came under the direction and re-formation of a teacher. Life in the classroom carried, implicitly and explicitly, a set of expectations and demands about how to conduct oneself there. These conflicted with children's ideas and observed inclinations. Recognizing the conflict and its tension was significant to understanding the particular benefit o f storytelling developed in social awareness (Chapter Five). After illustrating and discussing that tension, I give a detailed description of the room, its furnishings and my experience of space there to draw attention and define the location as storytelling participant. It prepares readers for Chapter Six in which I show how the landscape of the classroom deeply affected possibilities for deep imaginative engagement with a story. It w i l l also lay the groundwork for thinking about how the 70 classroom and its related aspects shaped storytelling in mindful interaction (Chapter Seven). Noisy children and joyous collisions: Classroom sound-scape The following description is a snapshot of life in the classroom taken from my classroom observations. In it, the tension of conflicting intentions and interests is made apparent. September 26, 2002: Linda asks the children to take out their class meeting books, their journals and picture books from the library. They need to record the weather in their class meeting books and after that, they wi l l write in their journals about the book they've chosen for their grade 1 reading buddies. The class dissolves into about five full minutes of conversation, play and activity. While shuffling through their stacks of about 12 duo tangs in their desks, conversations erupt everywhere. The room is full o f their rising, falling and bursting noises. When Zara pulls out her journal duo-tang she pretends it's a bird and it attacks Kreena who is delighted and slaps it away. Linda's look prevents Kreena from "playing bird" back at Zara Leon is trying to sharpen his pencil up to the eraser end as fast as he can. While working on the pencil he is blowing the shavings off his desk at Buzz. Buzz is mad; this seems to energize Leon. Leon is grinning, sharpening and blowing, sharpening and blowing, sharpening and blowing. Terry is feeling the African gourd that was passed around the class earlier. He puts his hand inside and thoughtfully moves his hand. Then he feels the difference between the carved out sections of the exterior and the smooth untouched surface of the gourd, the figures of elephants going around the gourd. He holds it between his hands and then smells it. He seems oblivious of anything else. Nearby, Pender and Tych, two buddies are in vigorous discussion. While they talk Pender's foot is rhythmically bumping Tych's. Finally, a few children are writing the date in their journal books. "Okay," says Linda, a bit loudly and firmly. More people write the date in their journals. When they are finished they look around. Children see bright picture books on each others' desks and some begin trading them. But the class is paying some attention to Linda again and they are quieting. Linda firmly breaks in now. "Okay! Okay, we need to write in our journals. Let 's get ready. What are some o f the titles of the books you've chosen?" 71 Even while submitting to the direction of their teacher and participating in classroom life, children pursued their own interests. Personal conversations erupted when they were released from one task to start up another. They played, fought, challenged and paid attention to each other. Leon happily irritated his neighbor in an energetic exercise of "sharpening his pencil." Books flapped, feet kicked, and children talked, hit, touched and played with each other. Some children, like Terry, used the time between Linda's asking them to "take out" and "get to work" to retreat into the privacy o f themselves. Leon withdrew altogether. The description illustrates a common occurrence. When Linda taught something like graphing in math or a lesson on suffixes during language arts, children were moderately quieted and apparently attentive. They followed her directions. A t the same time there were always some who were busy with their own interests to greater and lesser degrees. Children made eye contact with each other, showed toys to each other from across the room, passed a tennis ball around the room, play-punched each other, leaned against each other across desk border lines and played at drinking from their water bottles in copy-cat complicities. These activities were mostly surreptitious but observable. Less knowable were those students who were like Terry; who were busy with their own thoughts and in private retreat. Whenever Linda released children's obligation to be attentive to her direction or an activity they were busy with, they promptly left their desks, sought out friends from across the room and sat under tables, shoulder to shoulder. They lay on the floor close together. Almost always, the class erupted into noise. When the anticipated recess bell rang, almost all members of the class would rush at once for their snacks and coveted playground positions. They moved together, pressing and bumping against each other, patting arms, cuffing a head, gesturing with hands, stomping feet and offering expressive faces. In these and other ways, children supplemented and substituted talk with touch, sound, gesture and physical interaction to share feelings, intentions, reactions and other meanings with each other. On the playground, physical contact and noisy interaction was intensified. From the classroom window, I heard and watched children call for joiners to great tangling 72 heaps on the slide. I watched them collide joyously in soccer. They tussled on their way into the bathroom. When they lined-up at the call o f the bell, Linda's class leaned and jostled against each other while they waited. They usually stood, impatiently, arms around each other, playfully wrestling, shouting out names and taunts and standing close together. The child who was not in the thick of the line-up was noticeable. Generally speaking, Linda did not encourage such "vigorous" physical and verbal interactions. Even when a child freely hugged her in affection, she would receive this gladly and respond but she would withdraw as soon as socially possible. In school affection, pleasure and conflict were marked by physical restraint. Linda communicated delight and displeasure with her eyes, voice and gesture but rarely with touch. Children had to comply with the expectations of school culture for their expressions of irritation, delight, affection or anger. Children were taught restraint. Play during physical education prohibited most direct contact between players. In class children had to obtain permission to move about. They sat in desks and participated in teacher-arranged social groupings. They had to ask to go to the bathroom. Quarrels were resolved by discussion. When Linda noticed a friendship that "got in the way," desks and friends were separated. Children had to keep quiet when a thought of protest or delight or a memory leapt to mind. They had to raise their hands and wait for acknowledgement before speaking. Conversations were guided by topics and turn taking. Physical interaction was also restrained by uses of material to facilitate communication. Children used written instructions, books, charts, and reference materials rather than ask, tell, or get up and look around. Linda's talking and instructions were regularly supplemented or substituted by paper handouts, projected images, posters, blackboard writing and books. Children used pens, papers, or keyboards to "talk." In all these ways interpersonal interactions which usually demanded voice, gestures and social contact were quieted. Children's interactions and interests were routinely directed and re-formed by classroom practices. Linda persistently worked to subdue the slapping, bumping, singing, taunting talk more typical of the playground and hallway. Part o f her teaching included teaching children to restrain themselves, redirect their interests and participate in school-ways. This was a task that was challenging. A s Linda said to me, she 73 "cherish[ed] two gifts . . . most of all: attention and silence (Linda in interview Jan. 12, emphasis hers). Children knew Linda's expectations conflicted with their ways. They understood the classroom presence demanded a contrasting and distinct idea about sound and movement. On several occasions when they wanted to please her or "surprise" Linda, they would "make a quiet class." They would conform perfectly to the classroom way. This meant all o f them would sit very still in their seats, hands folded and eyes fixed steadily on their teacher. October 30, 2002: It's Halloween. The classroom and children are transformed. The room is crowded with black paper and pipe-cleaner bats and spiders hanging in the spider webbing of polyester fiber that criss- crosses the room, covers windows and drapes over the blackboard. The children are waiting for noon when they can fully dress for the big parade, the school Halloween assembly. Bekkah missed hearing the directions and is in a full ladybug suit. Her arms and legs are in brown and fluffy stockings. Her back is a large stuffed oval red plush pi l low marked with black spots. She can hardly move but still takes every opportunity to get down on all fours to play ladybug. Buzz has a huge plastic axe on his desk. Leon has a white skeletal mask which he puts on every time Linda's head is turned. He pretends to pick his nose through the breathing holes to the amusement of his neighbours. Spencer is wearing a tumbling black beard. He's Wiley, Wi l ey from Linda's story o f the Hairy, Scary Man! The room thrums with noise and barely contained excitement all morning. Foods, gadgets, special events f i l l class time. Linda is clearly tired. The assault on the ear and eye are overwhelming. When the children come in from recess they are further energized by bags of candy and games enjoyed outdoors. They're excited by costumes and plans and parades. The stomping shrilling noise of their entry is tremendous. They've been let in by another teacher and Linda is not in the room. They don't seem to notice me, sitting at my desk to the side. M i l a screams, " M A K E A S U R P R I S E ! ! M A K E A S U R P R I S E ! ! M A K E A Q U I E T C L A S S ! ! ! " They all know what she means. Layla stands on her chair, Violet jumps up on hers beside her and they shout instructions. "Sit down everybody, sit down! Be quiet!" M i l a is rushing about pushing children to their desks. A screaming, heaving fracas is unleashed. They fight and force each other to sit, fold hands, and be quiet. They hoot, rush about, shout orders, joyously defy each other, and shove each other into desks. A l l this time Kreena is posted at the door watching for Linda. 74 Suddenly she pulls her head out of the hallway to hiss fiercely into the room: "She's coming! She's coming!" The call is taken up in fiercely spat whispers: "She's coming! Shut-up! SHUT UP!! She's coming!" Then a sudden dramatic silence coats the room. As Linda's shadow hits the door frame and she enters the class she finds them frozen in attitude of perfect student attention. They sit, silent, hands folded, eyes demurely fixed on Linda. "Oh!" says Linda, "That's wonderful!" The cherished silence lasts less than a minute. "Paying attention" and "make a quiet class" are classroom expectations. In a rather ironic twist, I realized I had the same idea, deeply entrenched by acculturalization in decades of school experience. I had an unexamined idea about what it meant to listen or pay attention in a classroom. Unaware of that idea during the first two months of my study, I often felt my purpose thwarted by children's "noise." I was overwhelmed and deluged by the sounds of their talk, motion and play. I couldn't hear conversations or "pay attention." At least five times I wrote about my frustration in my journal and observation notes. One of my earlier complaints was written in my journal in rather fierce handwriting: I have been increasingly struck by the NOISE of being in a room. It is very rarely quiet. Today I looked about. Why can't I hear anything? WHY!!? Well, children are swinging feet and rummaging in desks. Their restless fingers drum, snap or play with toys. Water bottles are being squeezed, sucked, opened and closed. Papers and books rustle open. Books snap shut. Pleased with the noise, the child does it again. Paper is added to a duo-tang. Paper is ripped out of a duo-tang. Paper is folded, crumpled, tossed. Dozens of small, innocuous, murmuring conversations are going on. Children get up to ask Linda (or ask someone else) a question. Or, worst, someone sharpens a pencil at the counter. The grinding noise grates over me. A l l of these create a sort of symphony of rummaging noise that pervades the whole of the day. Add to this the PA system's sudden barge into the room with announcements, knocks on the door, sudden guffaws, the hallway and other classroom noises, the airline pathway just south of our school roof and the playground out the window. No wonder there are times I C A N ' T THINK (!!&!!) or even simply hear what is going on. The physicality of children's interactions included sound. It affected participants as sensibly as touch. Like me, they responded to it bodily. Spoken words invited, 75 inspired or incited listeners into social participation. In the same way children slammed into each other during soccer, pressed against each other in a lineup, looped arms and kicked friends, they used vocalized sound to reach, touch, slap, stroke and play. Sound was physically experienced and filled out by bodied expressions. Subtle and sometimes not so subtle gestures such as a shrug, a middle finger slid along the side o f a desk, a twinkling complicit smile, raised eye brows, vigorous nodding, facial expressions and body postures of non-participation, aversion or indifference are all part of the classroom soundscape. Children showed shrewd ability to use its physically affecting power in their social interactions and life together. I learned to sink into the noise of the room. A t those times I did not so much listen to it as I let myself become part of it and become part of the phenomenon. When that happened, I found the sounds of talk and interaction among children working and playing deeply affecting. A s I wrote in my reflective journal: A s I eat my lunch in the empty class room, I listen to the noise of the playground. It is a marvelous concert of voices in play, children relishing the pleasure of company. I feel strangely happy, the voices of friends clamoring and calling warm me like melting butter on toast. Glad, exuberant shouts, sudden shrieks and quarrelsome bursts punctuate the noise of the crowd on the playground. Voices weave together, making a lovely warm afghan of we-ness. It is a tapestry of sound - the calling, laughter and protests rise out of the cloth with bright colors, but are held and absorbed by the whole rich thronging song of all them together, playing.. . That "tapestry" is not the same for every event. The character of "noise" changes with what the class is busy with. Various group engagements create different pieces of social talk music. The sound of children on the playground, eating lunch, playing through a math lesson game, participating in social studies group work, busy in the gym or "making a quiet class" are dissimilar. Each has its own musicality. In each case the sound also established participants as part of the group. In commotion or stillness, silence or noise, children were physically part of being together in the classroom. Social-life talk and play, movement and stillness held together are the work of creating and participating in forming group identity that includes oneself.1 The presence of the 1 While I considered the nature of "noise" in the room and looked for help to think about it, I found nothing. This is most informative in the face of a phenomenon that is affecting and pervasive in school. As I emphasize later, school culture is so deeply engaged in turning social lives to its purposes, that 76 sound-scape of an aspect of the classroom as landscape lead me to realize a critical difference between the sound and sight of a story: storytelling or writing. Storytelling is experienced through another sense. It is more fully embodied and socially mediated. The effect is more visceral. It fills up the participant.2 The strong effect and character of sound in the classroom contrasts to some degree with Linda's dependence and uses of children's sight. In the next section I leave the "sound-scape" to consider the classroom landscape. It materializes activity in the room. Again, this will heighten attention to the quality of storytelling experiences as these direct children's attention to find references in imagination and direction from each other's presence. The classroom landscape: The material of school The classroom was equipped with teaching materials and furniture that shaped and guided Linda's interactions with children. She depended on them to do her work. She used paper, books, audio-visual equipment and lesson plan materials. She used curricular outlines, unit study handouts, text books, video or computer resource materials, blackboard notations, overhead transparencies and slots of subject-designated time frames. Classroom walls were hung with visual reminders of work done and work to do. Other charts, diagrams and pictures on the wall provided reference points for events shared in class through charts, diagrams and information. Children's desks were full of duo-tang notebooks. Finally, the room was arranged with desks, chairs and book shelves. A l l of these fully influenced the ways in which Linda taught her children. These furnishings and arrangements comprised the physical presence of the classroom and distinguished its participation in a storytelling. To some extent, my description of the site of classroom storytelling is moot. I can assume that every reader easily imagines its usual construction. It is one part of a structure of generally predictable furnishings and configurations. Her classroom was one part of a building of large rectangular rooms filled with desks and wall coverings, children's noise is experienced as interruption and barrier in the same way I experienced it initially. This subject, "noise," needs much more thought: first concerning its function and significance and secondly, its relationship to learning in school. 2 Ong uses Merleau-Ponty to confirm his point that "sight isolates, sound incorporates" (72). Within the experience of sound the listener is enveloped and established in a "core of sensation and existence" (1982). 77 hallways, lockers, an office, a teachers' lounge, a storeroom and a gym with a playground. Such buildings, schools are recognizable in any neighborhood. This is true on a global scale. In my traveling around the world, I recognized a school wherever I met it. Whether I lived in Sierra Leone, Holland, Nigeria or Canada, schools shared identifiably similar features. The shape of the building, arrangements of doors and rooms, furnishings and organizations of time were familiar to me anywhere I went. This suggests that buildings used for education are a cultural expression that crosses geographic and ethnic borders. Schools are a global cultural construction in a way that local homes, centers for spiritual life or shopping areas are not. Thus, what is understood by "school," its institutionalized physical structure and space, is well-established. Linda's classroom housed about 26 people in a 24 x 30 foot room, about the size o f a large l iving room (Appendix 4. A ) . It was quite crowded. Few adults would host even a sedate social gathering of so many in such a small space. Several factors, besides its restrictive size, made the room uncomfortable. The room was lit by florescent fixtures that always hummed and sometimes flickered. Because it rained often, windows were usually kept shut. The air quality was questionable because of the conditions of dampness and poor circulation. A i r quality was further complicated by such problems as an animal seeking shelter and dying under the floor. 3 The room warmed quickly to nearly uncomfortable temperatures when the sun shone and when it was cold, the furnace added a garrulous hum to the pitch of florescent lights and the noise of classroom life. The construction of the portable classroom amplified sound. The thin walls and uncarpeted floors over a hollow crawl space intensified the small sound of a dropped pencil. When children worked in groups, chatter would quickly escalate into shouting as groups tried to communicate in the midst of others talking. While in the class I noted daily and numerous noisy interruptions. The flight path to the Vancouver International Airport was just south of the classroom, the P .A . system intruded, and other classes who used the hallway or playground filled our room with the sounds o f argument, play and movement. Children were not oblivious to the noise. In their interviews, children described the effects of such interruptions. 3 Nov. 20-29, 2002. The class moved to a resource room in the school. A rat died in the housing for electrical wiring. While its scent was very present, its location and cause eluded determined effort for five days. 78 Pender: I can't write when the PA system comes on. I just... [He shows himself suddenly stiff, eyes wide, frozen]. Layla: When people start to make noises like rock on their chairs and stuff like that (pauses) ... I can't remember where I left off. Bekkah: Like sometimes, i f a water-bottle falls and I kind of just lose it. Kayla: Sometimes you don't know what's happening. She tells you something, a part where you, where you (pauses)... but nobody hears around and everybody's wondering what's happening. As an observer in the room, I was struck by how difficult it was to get comfortable. Most of the day was spent on a hard chair behind a desk. A quick survey of rooms will show that no teacher had settled for a chair of molded plastic on a metal frame. Quite understandably, teachers' chairs were cushioned, adapted to the teacher's size and offered ergonomic support. This was not true for student seating. The cost would be prohibitive. However, neither were the sizes and configurations of desk-and-chair-pairs suitable to many children's physiques. Zara's thighs chafed the underside of her table, Kate's feet didn't reach the floor, Natisha's desk surface was at chest level and Azun simply hated sitting pressed between a chair back, a seat and desk top. There were few options for sitting or lounging beside using the chairs and desks. There were no cushions or carpeting. When children worked in groups to chart or discuss a topic, they lay or sat cross-legged on the floor. When they worked outside their desks, the room was suddenly packed by lengths of bodies. When I joined them in these positions, I found the linoleum cold and gritty. The benefit of using the floor was a change in position and fresh perspective. But it was not comfortable. Nine of the children remarked to me at various times that they did not like sitting on the bare floor. It was "uncomfortable" and "dirty." No wonder. Twenty five children go in and out of the room to the playground and back; they eat, work and play in the room. The traces of these activities cling to the place. Yet, their desire to change positions and have a "something new" meant they took up invitations to work "how you like" with alacrity and used the floor in spite of their dislikes. One caretaker, working very hard, looked after the living space of 450 people with a student helper. It is a staggering idea for anyone who has merely looked after one 79 household. Teachers participated in their rooms' housekeeping needs. They washed desks and dusted their rooms. Teachers developed other compensatory strategies for the problems of teaching in a portable classroom. For instance, Linda cuts holes in tennis balls to fit them to the feet of children's chairs. A l l the chairs in the room were socked in bright florescent green balls to muffle the sounds of their movement. The second part of the strategy, of course, could be a strict control of movement and "noise" in the room; or, developing an inurnment to it. Linda blended these. This is not a criticism of the school district or administrators responsible for this portable room for learning. During my time in Linda's classroom and my walks through the school I was impressed by the unfailing commitment and compensatory work of housekeeping and the other strategies taken by every staff member I met.4 Although my observations and experiences are particular to this classroom, most schools can list their own variations to positive or negative degrees. Problems of noise, air, light and crowding are disappointingly common among schools. Adequate funds for furniture and housekeeping are not available. Portable classrooms are common in British Columbia. Linda's room is just one of the 2,100 portable classrooms reported by school districts to the Ministry of Education. As Seredynski remarked, the British Columbia Ministry of Education knows "portables are not desirable as a learning environment" even while they fill immediate needs.5 Several tens of thousands of children attend portable classrooms much like this one in British Columbia. It is possible to draw many conclusions about school culture from classroom conditions like these, the school landscape. Some of those conclusions implicate the host community's value of its work. This topic invites much further study and certainly demands public response. But, in this dissertation, I bring this too-short discussion to two conclusions. First, I conclude that schools in British Columbia, i f not nationally and even internationally, have budgets either too small or undirected to accommodate 4 My comment extends to the administration. They did every thing they could. In fact, the September of the following year the senior grades went to a brand new school building just several hundred meters away. 5 (Phone conversation of May 14, 2003) The Department of Funding and Allocation in the British Columbia Ministry of Education collated this figure, 2100, from school district reports. Glen Seredynski notes this does not represent the number of classes held in portable buildings. Some are leased for day care, some function as storage facilities, some provide for maintenance needs and others are being warehoused for future needs. Still, optimistic arithmetic suggests that as many as 32,000 children go to school in such similar circumstances. 80 physical classroom needs. Few financial concessions are made for "comfortableness" in the classroom. The problem is further complicated by surprisingly tenacious notions of how to facilitate social relationships between teachers and learners, ideas about how to share information and ideas about learning space, and the (non-)importance of space design. I have visited and seen exceptions to this, but they remain exceptions in my experience.6 I am doubtful that school culture has fully considered or attached enough importance to the effect of the landscape on the life of people living there. Secondly, I have prepared the way for a part of my work that follows. Later I show that such a classroom landscape is inhospitable to storytelling. Social life with stories as well as deep imaginative engagements are poorly accommodated in this place. Thirdly, several ironies are implicit in school culture's landscape. The space forces close social proximity. Children are crowded together while educators work to individualize learning activities. As Pelligrini writes about incremental shifts of teaching styles from kindergarten upwards, "solitary academic work replaces more socially interactive roles" (2002: 1010). He describes that replacement as well underway by second grade. Another irony concerns school culture's need for silence to facilitate individual private engagements with text within a culturally developed site not conducive to quiet. The room is easily intruded on. The day is full of noisy interruptions from outside and the constant shifts of focus do not nurture quiet. Complicating this, many children are physically uncomfortable. Discomfort further intrudes on children's abilities to "pay attention." Finally, while educators emphasize the critical importance of fully internalizing learning (Gardner 1991: 149-155), the environment thoroughly externalizes subjects of engagement, procedures, and activities in posters, charts, books and the like. The environment of the classroom insists always on a visible print alliance with subjects of study. As we go on in the next chapters to think about children's storytelling in the classroom, we need to include these things: posters, a book cart, desks, bells, the teacher's open planning book on her desk, piles of duo-tangs stuffed in children's desks, pencil sharpener and all the features that together make a classroom. The subject of its 6 The spacious school on Hornby Island, B.C. was designed to fit its natural landscape. The structure fits into and blends with land and other nearby buildings. Classrooms are roomy and accommodate movement and variation in the ways seating and work is accommodated. 81 nature and efficacy to learning is a much larger topic and not immediately under study here. I evoked the life of the place where storytelling happened to one purpose. I have worked to bring the landscape of a lively community of storytellers and listeners into view. I highlighted its most salient features to our thinking about storytelling. I pointed out the tension created by differing interests and languages in school. Presence meets print culture. Now I go on to study life inside the circle of telling and listening to stories. Five days a week, children met under Linda's direction. As the next chapters will show, they did much that was not recorded in their duo-tangs or posted on the walls. They told and heard stories from each other. Storytelling happened during conversations in which children shared events from home or recounted an outing. It happened when children elaborated news items from the radio or paper. Stories about the Canucks' hockey games alternated with gossip about a Sikh singer, popular stars or an X-treme stunt man. When something happened in another classroom and a playground conflict occupied children's thinking, stories were whispered during group work. In math Linda sometimes used small stories to generate interest and understanding. In social studies she opened up storytelling opportunities in which one child told about her Hindi house-blessing ritual and another about the Catholic priest blessing their new home. And once in a while, Linda told a story to children sprawled on the floor. These affecting and powerful moments of face to face storytelling were woven through the school days. As I explained in the introduction, three kinds of participation can be identified: The first is one of social awareness, the second is of mindful interaction and the third is one of deep imaginative engagement. Taken together, three participations form a related and interdependent, whole pedagogy. Studied separately, a set of complex abilities and understandings are enacted and nourished in each. At the same time, the presence of the classroom also participates, its influential presence affecting, directing and sometimes interrupting the storytelling. Each chapter will elaborate the ways in which the room as a participant affected the circle of storytelling. 82 Chapter Five Storytelling participation in social awareness Introduction In this chapter I describe and discuss participation with storytelling in social awareness. Listeners and tellers were responsive to the presence of others while they participated in the larger circumstance. They incorporated a story, its telling, their shared situation and each others' presence into a single storytelling experience. Their participation in social awareness was most evident and usual during conversations and play. However it was not exclusive to these events. Earlier I gave an example of Leon listening to the story of "The Three Golden Hairs" to demonstrate my point. He showed awareness of his place among others, of the teller and of his own physicality during the storytelling while he also listened to the story. He experienced himself as part of an event that was himself, a place, his company and a story. Storytelling participation in social awareness happened in many situations. However, in this chapter I describe the most usual and easily observable example: classroom conversation. My focus is consistent with Linda's practice as a storytelling-teacher. She chose and planned conversations to develop the specific abilities and knowledge grown during storytelling in social awareness. Students learned vocabulary and developed language abilities. They constructed, developed and learned about personal and social identities. Children learned that understandings are made in a process permeable to each other and flexible to the passage of time. They learned how to tell stories and listen to each other. These and other reasons inspired Linda to deliberately introduce situations during which storytelling in social awareness was encouraged and activated. Conversation for storytelling: Linda plans class meetings Linda deliberately encouraged conversation in her classroom. As I discuss what I learned about storytelling in social awareness, I use the context of class meetings. Linda deliberately opened, sustained and directed opportunities for students to talk. Importantly, these were events of teacher-sanctioned talk. As the last chapter showed, many other 83 conversations took place. Whenever Linda's directing presence was more distant children talked. During group projects or peer editing I could hear the subjects of talk move from the assignment to other interests. When math books were put away and social studies papers were pulled out, a simultaneous buzz of talk erupted as children also turned to neighbours or hissed for attention from across the room. In the hallways, bathroom, and during lunch time, children talked. In short, most children seized any and every opportunity to connect with and talk with others in the room. When they didn't do this, they frequently seized the moment to privately retreat into personal interests. However, in this chapter I describe conversations initiated by the storyteller-teacher's purposeful work with storytelling for teaching. Yet, in these conversations children had a high degree of freedom to speak or not speak, to express interest or disinterest. Talk was frequently characterized by free association and directed by "that-reminds-me-of' comments. They asked questions, responded, shared stories and information. Conversations also included interruptions, laughter and snorts, sudden sharp pauses and animated faces. Children usually raised their hands to speak, but it also happened that children spontaneously spoke out. When they were interested, they participated energetically. When they weren't, classroom conversation sagged and children found other ways to occupy themselves. When that happened Linda usually and rather promptly directed them to a new activity or topic. The most usual setting for a conversation in Linda's room was the "class meeting." Linda planned and regularly held this event in her room to meet her teaching goals. Every week, each student was assigned to contribute something for at least one and usually two meetings. At the back of the classroom an agenda was posted, similar to the guiding handout each of them had in their "Class Meeting Notebook" (Appendix 5. A). In it, children kept track of such things as the changing times of sunrise and sunset, and temperatures. They pasted clippings in it and wrote notes necessary for their presentations. Occasionally Linda asked them to write down something that had come up during the meeting. For example, i f they talked about stickleback fish, and planned to look it up later on the Internet, Linda would have them write it down. Guided by an outline and in the order of the posted list, children shared jokes, told about current events in news or sports, shared personal news, brought in a mystery object, retold a book's plot 84 or recounted movies. The meeting gave a frame of predictable areas of interaction; it also opened possibilities for unpredictable streams of talk. Class meetings were part of Linda's strategy to facilitate children's learning. She showed that she valued these meetings in two ways. In the first place, she gave it a priority of time. On five of thirty days, that is for 1/6 of the times, the meeting went from 9 to 10:30 A M . That is a third of the school day. If one child's story led to another's, and the conversation showed deep engagement of participants, Linda gave it the time it needed. There were other days on which the meeting just lasted 20 minutes. Secondly, my statistics bear out Linda's high value for children's storytelling in conversation. In thirty days of observation I counted hundreds of stories told. Only 12 storytellings were events in which Linda gathered the children to hear her tell a story (Appendix 5B). Having outlined the more traditional idea about storytelling in schools, it is plain that her emphasis on conversation contrasts sharply with the literature about storytelling as a school practice. The conversational storytelling that I describe in this chapter contrasts rather sharply with more performative events.1 She gave time, attention and emphasis for a kind of storytelling that has very little acknowledgement in storytelling-teacher's literature. When I asked Linda about what kinds of events "felt like storytelling," she promptly answered: L. When we share. When ever the kids bring something from themselves into storytelling. Like when they bring, like our class meeting has "arts report." Often they'll bring some kind of little artifact. And they'll tell about that. That will be a storytelling event. Or, when we try to solve a problem. Me: What do you mean? Social problem or a math problem? L. Social problem. That's a storytelling event too. .. .You know, that "1:00 o 'clock thing."(said with emphasis) They've been out, now they come inside... Me: Oh? I don't... L. Don't forget about that, Jo! Those things are all there! It's not all just sitting there telling stories to each other. We get "He did this and he did that and she did this and she did that." (She mimics the sound of quarreling children.) 1 By "performance telling" I mean the sort of storytelling Dailey, MacDonald, Sawyer and other storyteller-teachers write about and I discussed earlier (chapter three). In it, a storyteller tells a story to a group of listening children. The story is a memorized work, crafted and usually taken from a written source. The telling evidences a kind of ability and art presented to the listeners. 85 Me: And that's all storytelling? L. Yeah, definitely. They listen to each other. Because that's probably half of it, isn't it? The listening. Linda talked about children's telling, arguing, sharing and "listening" as storytelling. She planned ways for this to happen in order to nourish and facilitate learning. Although her emphasis contrasts with storytelling-teachers, scholarly educators do describe and encourage conversations similar to those in Linda's room (Applebee 1996, Bowers and Flinders 1990, Lee and Smagorinsky 2000, Wertsch 1985. Vygotsky 1962). Although Linda's work supports and illustrates the aforementioned educators' literature about the significance of conversation to learning, her practice does not quite fit their description of "conversation." Her emphasis was on the stories told in the midst of children talking. Children's stories, as sparked in the midst of conversation were the subjects of learning, rather than a means to learning about a subject under study. The difference is a fine but significant one. She explained her point in our September interview when she considered how storytelling connected to wider world to topics of learning and her class curriculum: Like the Terry Fox Run ... like those kind of events. Uh, events, like a lot of it comes from the newspaper. You know, like nine-one-ones [N-Y. World Trade Center destruction]. That sparks things. I remember I had an Iraqi kid in the class. Two years ago his uncle was killed by Saddam Hussein, and his dad and he fled, fled Iraq. And so, that, those kind of events, world events, trigger stories from these kids. Like Remembrance Day, Anne Frank's story, ... I think real world events trigger children's stories. And a lot of kids have stories. What ever happens out there, connects to .. .the class. This is good for the kids to do, that by sharing those stories they are learning something. I'd say, how we are right now. [She means our talking with each other.] Storytelling in the midst of conversation was an act of teaching and learning in her work. She did this in constancy with her sense of self as a storyteller-teaching: Me: You call yourself a storyteller, what do you mean by that? Linda: I don't know if I do... Me: When I told you I was looking for a storyteller-teacher, you said, "That's me!" (lots of laughter) Linda: I think it is someone who tells stories and someone who believes in that 86 form for learning and thinks it helps kids make meaning. To get them to tell their own anecdotes and get them to refine the anecdote so that other kids will pay attention to them. So that they can create listeners around them and get them to ... to... Me: It sounds like you're talking about getting children to tell their own stories, sort of gaining a voice that's clearer? Linda: Yes. And I am enjoying, creating, recreating experiences and recreating incidents and sharing them. (She pauses). I want to notice what's a story in what's around us. Linda was emphatic that conversations were important because of the storytelling events sparked within them. She changes the emphasis from the use of conversation to learn about a subject, to use of conversation to find out what the subject of study should be. The subject is inspired from within conversation. Significantly, this underscores Linda's understanding of storytelling as subject and body of knowledge. It is a specific sort of learning engagement rather than a "tool." Using conversation Linda freed the children to be attentive to each other within an event that opened up storytelling opportunities. During that time, a specific kind of teaching and learning happened. Skinny stories, allusions and reminders: Storytelling in conversation. While storytelling in conversation, children talked, then listened and talked again in swift succession. Their talk was interspersed with stories provoked by memories, ideas and experiences. I give several examples to describe the particular qualities of storytellings done in social awareness. Further, I discuss storytelling in social awareness as learning events in Linda's classroom. In the following class meeting, recorded in my classroom observations, Azun is responsible for "current events" in the class meeting. October 4 t h, 2002. Azun is a slight boy in grade 4. He is smaller than any of the other boys in the room. Although he was born in Canada, his first language is Hindi and he thinks of Fiji as "home." His reading skills and command of English vocabulary are limited. However, his lively interests and social skills make him a welcome participant in conversations and play. Today Azun, came in before school started. He is responsible for "current events" in the upcoming class meeting. He knows that Linda will have newspaper ready in the classroom in case a student needs it for this reason. 87 She offers him The Vancouver Sun. The paper's headlines today open the topic soon to be studied in Health class. Linda tells him this and that it is a perfect for what he needs to do. She clearly hopes he'll choose the front page to discuss. This would direct conversation to help children think about the health facts and implications of smoking. Linda helped him read the headline before class began. Azun practiced reading it twice. Later, after the meeting at lunch time, Azun told me he selected the front page news item because he liked the picture. When it is his turn in the class meeting, Azun comes to the front. "I brought this," he says. He reads the paper headlines firmly, articulating each word: "Young girls who smoke face higher risk of breast cancer." Then he turns the large front page photo of two girls, aged 15 and 16, on the front page to show the class. The picture takes up a full third of the page. Two young blond haired girls are holding cigarettes and looking out mischievously at the photographer. The photo is studied by the class with interest. "They are smoking," he adds. A conversation ensues. Children speak often without waiting to be acknowledged. They don't actually interrupt each other. " M y cousin goes to sleep late every night. Very late. And so he does bad work." " M y cousin is 14 and he smokes all the time. A l l his other friends too." " M y auntie smokes and want to quit." One of the children, who has visited a jail several times, asks, "Are the girls in the picture in jail?" Linda interrupts, "Why do you ask that?" "Because she is wearing an orange shirt like they do in jail ." "There's a girl in grade 10 and she just started smoking." "It will make you die." "Some people say that i f you eat soy products it helps. My mom had breast cancer but she's better now. She can even run now." There is a swift hush, a pause after Mila's contribution. Then the conversation goes on. Tumbling sets of stories about aunts, cousins, a boy in grade six and a sister. Linda brings attention, several times, to the details of the report and the statistics it carries.2 But she finally closes the conversation well before the children are willing. Children's stories persistently redirect 2 Researchers sent questionnaires to 2,933 British Columbian women under the age of 75. The survey suggested that girls who smoke in adolescence have 70% risk of breast cancer. Report also posted on site of Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity. <http://www.caaws.caAVhats New/2002/oct/smokers> 88 attention away from the statistics and information offered by the study in the paper. Children want to tell cigarette-stories. I sense Linda's uneasiness about conversation that brings vivid bits of home life into the classroom. Linda illustrates the common intention of a teacher who invites conversation. She wanted to teach her students the grim facts about smoking and health. As she hoped, children's attention was strongly engaged by the issue. Using conversation and inviting stories initiated two common difficulties. First, the line between children's home lives and school room culture was threatened. This had potential to breach and even violate expectations of privacy. This danger is implicit in every classroom where teachers hold the line between ideas of home and school, personal and public knowledges. Thus, as in other occasions where this danger was nearly realized, Linda interrupted and redirected the conversation. Conversations hosted in a class meeting, subjects and content of talk frequently moved away from Linda's intentions. She wanted to draw attention to the dangers of smoking and evidence of its destructive effects. But children did not attend the facts of smoking or details of the study. They brought in their personal, diverse and strongly felt connections with the subject. Attention was swiftly and emphatically moved away from statistics or other more abstracted points. Linda's lesson became a complicated network of anecdotes. One child thought about the disturbing details of his cousin's life, another about a relative in jail and another was anxious about her mother's health. In these ways the danger of smoking was understood through connections with the experiences and social interests children brought to school. For educators it is difficult to ascertain what information and learning was established. A l l the small stories emphasized the dangers and repercussions of smoking but none were developed or elaborated. Participants moved from contribution to contribution, like stepping stones across the surface of Linda's subject for study during the conversation. It was not until the next day when she could pick up the conversation in her health class. There she pulled together the facts and statistics with reference to the stories told.3 Then she did what educators generally do with conversation. It became the springboard to learning purposes, a tool. 3 1 was not present for the class. She told me this on the following day that I came to school. 89 However, more often this did not happen. The following conversation happened during a class meeting on a cloudy, cool, October morning. The meeting was chaired by Kyla who has just invited Kate to come forward and share "personal news." Kate stands in front of the classroom. She is a small thin girl with long black hair, often uncombed. Her thick bangs reach her lower eye lashes. It's her turn to give personal news at a class meeting. She stands, waiting and steadily regarding the class until she has attention. Linda has encouraged this approach but less than half of the children are able to do this. She is tougher than her quiet and seemingly shy demeanor might suggest. When she has children's silent attention, Kate says, "Yesterday I went to the river. I caught 15 fish and sold 8 and I got 2 dollars." She has a soft voice. "What? What?" demands Tajo, " What did she say? I couldn't hear." Kate repeats herself, this time a little emphatically and with a little more volume. She says, "Yesterday I caught 15 fish and sold 8 for twenty five cents each and I got 2 dollars." Tajo promptly bursts out, "How come you sold them for just twenty five cents?" The whole class is nodding. Twenty five cents is not much money and charging that much for a whole fish!? I also suspect the class, like me, might be imagining her fishing and catching 15 fish. It's wonderful to think about. "They were only this big," Kate answers. She holds up her hand and spans a space of about 5- 6 cm. between her thumb and index finger. Her intensely dark eyes and expression are unsmiling. "The fishes they were in shallow water and I could just scoop. I just scooped them out with my hands like this," Kate makes a swift, dazzlingly swift but most graceful arcing scoop with her hands, "and sold them." There is a pause. Terry's hand is up. Kyla, the chairperson, acknowledges him. "Yes?" "In the summer time," he pauses and plunges on, " me, I, we - go and I have a net to get fish," Terry finished his sentence in a rush. He is usually a methodical, careful and slow speaker. When he speaks I usually have a sense that he pronounces each word internally before speaking it. Not this time. Violet interrupts, "When we go to Kelowna, last summer, we all had nets." Linda asks Kate, "Were they minnows, that you caught?" Kate says, "Yes." Tajo, blurting before being recognized to speak, "What do the people do with them, the people who buy them?" 90 "They keep them for pets," says Kate. Spencer's hand is waving. When acknowledged he says, "One time, me and my friend we were walking by the ditch." He waves vaguely out the window. A l l the children know about the nearby ditches. These are in place all through the neighborhood to manage drainage on a flood plain between the Fraser River and the Pacific Ocean. They are quite wide and surprisingly deep. Several children nod. There's a swelling murmur while children confirm the ditches they know and what they've seen in them. "They're called, those fish, they're sticklebacks," says Spencer firmly at the end. Linda responds, "When we go to the computers this afternoon, let's look that up." She writes STICKLEBACKS on the board. "And let's find out about minnows. I'm surprised about the sticklebacks because I thought they only lived north of here by the Queen Charlotte Islands." The class looks blankly at her. Two or three children are writing "sticklebacks." "Taza?" "Somebody fell in a ditch and drowned. He died last year." Linda says firmly, "Mila has some special news . . ." (October 7) Although Linda eventually and briskly directed the conversation to make learning in the computer lab meaningful, she exercised little direction over the stream of talk. She let the children talk with each other. We can notice several things about the children and the conversation from the transcript. Some students waited to be acknowledged before speaking, others blurted. They made points with each other, told stories and established their participation. Violet, Spencer and Taza responded to Kate and each other's stories by sharing their own highly condensed stories. Spencer had experiences with fishing and had children's full attention. Children shared understandings about the ditches and the nearby river. Other aspects of this conversation are less visible or accessible to readers or a new-comer. Kate showed composure and courage when she stood and spoke at the front of the class. Usually she stayed within the safety of her desk and nearby friends. Terry spoke. That's remarkable because he seldom did. He rarely answered questions or took up opportunities to talk. Tajo's irrepressible nature was beloved by his classmates and he had uncommon leeway. He interrupted often and apparently had tacit permission to do so more often than his classmates. Taza's story about the drowning accident in the ditch 91 is part of a network of stories he told in which the theme was the puzzle of death in the midst of life. And finally, Linda's experience has taught her to stop the new stream of stories that might come from Taza's contribution. Importantly, these understandings can only be derived through my extended experiences in the room and my own interests and abilities to listen. However, we also learn something about "a story" in conversation. Perhaps the reader, like me, finds it difficult to consider Kate, Spencer or even Taza's accounts as "storytellings." They were vividly unlike other classroom storytelling events I observed. The stories were small, incomplete and not crafted. They do not resemble such storytellings as "The Three Golden Hairs" in which children held sustained, silent postures while listening. Neither do these resemble the thoughtful quiet interaction held when Linda elaborated a point, as with a story about Anne Frank or Queen Elizabeth's receiving Wayne Gretzky's puck. Linda called stories like those inspired by Kate or Azun "skinny stories." They were more like suggestions or fragments of stories. They were thin in detail and plots were skeletal. Stories like Taza's or Terry's were part of a tangle of talk, motion and intrusions. They can't be understood easily outside the stream of social exchanges and the moments during which children remembered together and privately. The story's meaning was made within the larger complex of events, understandings and relationships. Skinny stories depended on children filling them out with his or her experiences and memories. Children's nodding and promptly given stories showed that they considered what they knew about Fraser River and the small pools at its bank as well as the ditches criss-crossing Lulu Island. They also enlarged the story by means of the teller's presence: Kate showed how she caught the fish, she didn't tell it. In these ways tellers and listeners relied on knowledge and signs from outside the story's spoken text. They put the story together using the speaker's words, presence, shared situations and private and collective understandings. Participants made the story with the teller, watching and listening, remembering and responding. As Linda said and wrote in the excerpt I quoted earlier, she used these kinds of conversations to lead the class to finding subjects of study. But that rarely happened in 92 obvious ways. For instance, although three or four students used computer time to look up "sticklebacks" while I watched during lab time, most did not. Subjects brought up in conversations rarely led to an outcome in any obvious way. In conversations like the one led by Azun about cigarettes or Kate fishing, the conversation with stories seemed to "run away" from the topic, or at least dance around the topic. Thus, Linda's uses of class meeting conversations contrast with more usual uses of it in school. Linda did not suggest the topic, nor did she usually keep children on topic. There was no clear path between the conversation and a study subject or learning outcome (i.e. Applebee 1996). In spite of this, by Linda's own insistence and practice, such conversations were part of her deliberate teaching strategies. In our January interview she gave several reasons for her uses of conversations for storytelling. First, they opened children's "storytelling as language exercise." This was important where more than half of the children did not speak English at home. Storytellings in class meetings helped children "gain confidence to speak English in front of a group of listeners." Secondly, this practice offered children "opportunity to hear and learn new vocabulary in contexts that give meanings to the word." They could "practice pronunciation of new or familiar words." When students recounted personal experience or displayed an ability, like Violet's dancing or Taza's cricket bat swinging, they "created options and variations for talk." Those options and variations were built into class meetings in which children tried out such varied genres, such as jokes, riddles, book talks, personal anecdotes, current events recounting and reports. She hoped her efforts to encourage storytelling in the structured ease of these routine conversations, "freed children to get into the flexibility of language." Linda used storytelling in conversation because she was sure that children, encouraged by telling and listening to each other's stories would grow "daring" and "more experimental" in their uses of English.4 Linda was attentive to her student's oral language abilities. She listened. In our earlier September interview, when she talked about her intentions for the new school year, Linda said she would encourage her students' talking. Over the course of the year she would listen for their language development as she could notice over the course of conversations during the year. 4 These explanations were given in her January interview with me. 93 It helps me to see that there's growth. .. .[I] want to know that they're spending a year in my class, and they're going to be more expressive. And they're going to be a little more careful in their talking than they were in September. You'd want that to happen. Her hope was realized and made evident even over the five months I spent in the classroom. From September to January, I heard children recount stories from books, tell jokes, and retell news items with increasing confidence and ability over my period of study. They demonstrated growing fluency with speech and showed growing vocabulary and language abilities. Children grew increasingly comfortable and even "daring" in speech. Students like Jack and Alt spent the first month in the safety of silence. In November, as the narrator in a play, Jack retold a complex folk tale, and Alt told the story of his grandmother suffering with Alzheimer's disease. Terry is another example of such language development. In September his limited English vocabulary made him reluctant to speak, or even read and write. Gradually he developed what he needed in a classroom where much talking and listening happened. When Linda later remembered students' dramatic re-telling of "Sody Salaradus," and Terry's role in it she wrote: November 30: For me the highlight of Sody Salaradus had to be hearing Terry use the word skittered as he described the little squirrel's journey to the stove. Terry paused, conducted a quick inner search, found the word and then said with great confidence: "He skittered out the door and down the road to the bridge." That's real engagement for Terry who, in September seemed quite absent from all classroom goings on. I'm sure i f he'd been prescribed a hundred vocabulary worksheets and dictionary drills he would never have come to appreciate the power and delight of finding just the right word to convey a thought or idea, the way he did when he proudly, and consciously and correctly produced that particular word. With the attention he gave to the initial telling of the story and then the repetition that preparing the story for performance allowed, Terry was able not just to tell the meaning of the word but to use it in context. This again speaks to the importance of storytelling as a tool to enrich vocabulary. Children, like Terry who spoke another language at home, needed ways to develop new vocabulary and knowledgeable uses of English to facilitate their lives among English speaking Canadians. They had to separate vocabularies and ideas of one language from the other. They also had to bring them together. Children learned that understanding 94 new words demanded more than finding so-called equivalents or learning a denotation. Meanings move reluctantly and inadequately across languages. For example, one September morning Taza was telling the class about his grandmother and himself in his old home in Pakistan. She was telling him a story. They were together on the "manji." He told us that it was his very own "manji" that she made it for him with her own hands for his birthday. Taza wanted us to know that it was "very, very nice." He paused and seemed unable to speak for a few moments. He visibly swallowed. It seemed Taza was moved by remembering his grandmother and his lost "manji," something not in his new home. Then Linda asked on behalf of herself and others who looked puzzled, "Manji?" Punjabi speakers in the class nodded understanding and encouragement for Taza who stood suddenly silent with his hands twisting in his pockets. They began suggesting English equivalents, and spoke in bursts, out of turn: "Bed! A bed!" "Couch!" "You can sleep there." "In the temple too!" Perhaps Taza couldn't think of an English word or he found its "equivalent" wholly inadequate to his meaning. "Bed" didn't carry the fullness of his feeling about it, not the exactness of its identity. It was something more familiar, a dear and usual place for sitting, lying and talking together in the house. Later that night, as I thought about this incident I wrote, Suddenly I remembered being in Grade 1 in George McKillop Elementary School in Lethbridge, Alberta. My teacher asked me how I helped my mother. I said that I "stoff-ziuger."5 When I looked at Taza's face today, I vividly remembered the bottomless well into which my word fell, 43 years earlier. I felt hot and mortified that I was tricked again. "Stoff-zuiger" was another one of those words, another thing that belongs at home, not at school. For a long time I carried reluctance to open my Dutch home to school (September 26). Linda used conversations of wide ranging subjects and opportunities for storytelling to develop children's English vocabulary and usage. In a classroom where the majority were children of immigrants and did not speak English at home, Linda's urgency about the uses of conversations with storytelling was lead by that consideration. She encouraged Taza to go on, "please go on and tell us more about i t . . . " and he did. In 5 Vacuum clearner, literally a dust sucker! 95 another example of such an instance, Tajo was telling the story of his sister riding a tricycle in the house and breaking the "madhami." His punch line fell limp when the most of class looked at him, bewildered about what happened. There is no "Canadian," western equivalent, or even use for this common Indian kitchen implement.6 And when Tajo finally explained it, he lost his pleasure in the story. Linda, informed by two decades of teaching, had long experience with the ways in which children's telling of personal family stories helped them learn vocabulary and use English language. The strong emotional engagement and momentum of a story helped them continue their communication when they suddenly felt uncertainty about meaning. It facilitated language practice that developed sets of associations and meanings for words. Over the course of five months I saw children become increasingly comfortable in their search for words, confident in using new words and in self-expression. Stories told in conversation helped children participate in what Linda called, "formalized conversation" and "elevated discourse." She meant language usage and speech practice that was more sustained than usual at home or among friends. Thus both Punjabi and non-Punjabi speakers grew awareness and understandings of language as complex, cultural and variable meaning making instrument. As Wertsch confirms in his work with Vygotsky, the benefit was experienced by all class members (1985). For all of us in the room, words like "skittered" or "fish" grew thicker meanings, associations and possibilities. Storytelling in conversation was also important to Linda's teaching work because it helped children value their own traditions and histories. In our September interview she said that by sharing those stories they are leaning something. They are .. .learning pride. Their own, where they come from is valuable... They find social acceptance. As Linda explained it, conversations helped children share memories and get to know one another: They gain appreciation of, and honor their own stories. The stories of their families, their uncles, their aunts and see how that shapes who they are and now who we are. These are the stories about who they are. 6 A kind of butter and yogurt making churn. 96 Linda found that when children shared stories in conversations they developed and learned about their social and personal identities. They established themselves in the classroom. English language practice was limited in many immigrant homes. Sharing stories between parents and children about growing up didn't happen in all children's homes. From my own experiences I know that in many cases a divide grows between immigrant parents who grew up outside Canada and their children growing up inside the new country. Parents and children have different languages in which they comfortably express themselves. They are familiar with dissimilar landscapes, cultural materials and social life habits. They have contrasting and even conflicting experiences of childhood. Differing accounts and understandings about "growing up" make conversation difficult because they do not share reference points. In some cases parents are uncomfortable sharing stories of the other life. They have established homes intended to improve on previous circumstances. Thus, for some, the old life, of other customs, concerns, and life styles, feels like an embarrassment or at least, anomalous. Such understandings gave Linda another reason for encouraging storytelling about home life: I hope they ... tell stories... so they don't feel shame about those stories. That can happen, you know. Or, that they think that those stories aren't worth while anymore. That they don't have a place in their new life in Canada. I would like them not to feel that. .. .its still pretty critical to who they are (September 2, 2002). Indeed, shame creates one reluctance for storytelling between generations. But, parents may have other reasons. Some realize that their stories are dangerous. Adults may not wish to have their former lives and work made public. Consider that in this classroom some children's families came from Afghanistan, Argentina and Pakistan in the last ten years. While children did not talk about the particulars of this, it may be understood by anyone who listens to the news that many such families have possibly left social, religious, political and economic oppression or uncertainties. Their stories have dangerous potential. They may threaten survival. Family stories may also recall too much pain, loss and terror. Parents might not wish to remember. 97 This is not only true for immigrants. Parents who divorced, families who live in the midst of social or economic struggles or who are recovering from personal tragedies do not easily tell and share stories. Unresolved conflicts and unhappy memories are not easily brought into present remembrance. Families who are "making the best" of the present move those stories off side. Such stories might stain or prevent efforts to accept the present situation as endurable or pleasant. In all of these ways, a gap is opened and held between children's and parent's social languages and bodies of experience. This affects possibilities for storytelling at home. Opportunities and desire for "elevated discourse" or "sustained forms" of talk were diminished in such situations. As the following account shows, time during which children might talk and tell stories at home is a "space" often filled with television, videos and video games. After a set of Parent Teacher Interviews about children finishing homework, Linda reflected in her journal about one parent who struggled to speak in English. He burst out in deep frustration about his daughter, "He no listen a me!" This certainly gives me insight into the "other" lives of the kids. Again, I'm amazed at how many parents shared [her] father's complaint about his daughter that "he no listen a me." Many parents expressed powerlessness in their ability to regulate the amount of time their kids spent watching T.V. and playing video games. They seemed unwilling and unable to take control and set limits in this regard... It may also be that many of these families are necessarily occupied with the business of making a living, which often means both parents working long hours at two, sometimes even three, low-paying jobs. Parenting may be left to extended family members. Aging grandmothers and aunts may welcome the children's attention to T.V. so they can get busy with other household chores and tired parents may appreciate the passive zombie like state that too much T.V. arouses. A colleague and I were discussing all of this in the staff room. A parent confessed to her that his child watched as many as ten hours of T.V. a day on weekends. Whenever he threatened to turn the set off or to hide the remote, the child tantrummed so hysterically that the frightened parent gave in and turned it on again. Makes me wonder i f any talk happens at all in many of these homes, highlighting the importance of lots of oral opportunities for the oral sharing of all kinds of story at school. 98 The rather poignant cry of the father, the importance of establishing identities, children's need for language practice and the development of vocabulary were some of the reasons Linda encouraged personal family storytelling. Each class meeting obliged one child to prepare a "personal sharing." As I suggested earlier, that "encouragement" carried risk. Linda could not know what story might be told or anticipate what might happen afterwards. However, Linda's students were mostly 10 and 11 years old. While such invitations in Kindergarten might open the door to awkward disclosures, Linda's students had abilities of social awareness, ideas of appropriateness, and personal restraint. They chose their stories and determined their own degrees of personal investment and disclosure. Students showed varied abilities to choose for suitability and in sensitivity to a classroom circumstance. Once a child told about winning a medal for Irish dancing, another brought a cherished toy, and another time the story of a family portrait was brought to class. Once a trip to Vegas was recounted, another child told about cross-motor racing, and another time a child told the story of a court proceedings and the difficult and personally felt repercussions of a divorce. In every case, children chose how they wished to participate, and prepared their contribution before class. None of these seemed to compromise or threaten home privacy. Following these stories and presentations during a class meeting, Linda let the conversation take its direction from children's contributions as these created and inspired connections among them. Linda was an experienced teacher and storyteller. She knew how to interrupt on time and redirect the traffic of conversation. However, the juxtaposition of one child's planned contribution that was followed by inspired sets of skinny stories, raises a significant observation. Prepared storytellings showed children's considerations the subject, content and personal notions of appropriateness and public disclosure. When children responded, their stories were unplanned, unconsidered and unformed. The small breaches, threats to privacy that Linda fielded, nearly always happened in the context of those "skinny stories" that were inspired. When one story sparked another child's memory or association, tumbling sets of disclosures and personal memories followed each other. That was visible in the talk about smoking. This was a risk Linda took when she loosed the direction of talking-together to her students. 99 When Linda opened the door to any story the child wanted to tell, and then further opened that door to free ranging associations and participation, a confusing menagerie of topic shifts and erratic connections characterized the conversation. Subjects and apparently meaningful connections made by children popped up, disappeared and veered into unexpected and seemingly unrelated directions. Conversations in Linda's room did not dependably stay "on topic." The subject was comprised of personally made connections, inspired associations, social interactions and the like. While we might read purpose in conversations I've offered so far, many classroom conversations baffled such an idea. The following example illustrates what happens more often when a conversation is freed to children's direction. There is a conflict between two ideas about conversation: child-directed practice and one steered by educator's intentions. (October 20, 2002). It's been a very busy start to the day. Linda wants to get "the day going" so she takes up the chairperson's task until Tajo comes back from the office. The class meeting has just started. There is a moment of silence and then Linda asks, "World news?" Azun comes forward, to the front, to give his news. He stands until the class is still again. Then he says, "They caught the sniper." Linda, perhaps a little impatiently, says "Yes, that was our world news yesterday already. But you were so sick yesterday. Still, your news sure does make us feel better." Pita has her hand up. Linda says, "Yes, Pita?" In a breathless bit of a rush she says, "At a university? They said that somebody is shooting people at a university. I think in France and there was this gas and people died." Taza's hand snaps up. Linda says "Yes?" "I will go home to get my math at lunch." Linda nods a bit blankly. I think she has forgotten the discussion they had before class started about his forgetting to bring in his homework for her to check. Linda recognizes Jack, whose hand is up. "Okay," she says to Taza and then "Yes?" to Jack. Jack says, "I heard about in Russia they put gas in buildings and 1000's of people died." Kreena interrupts now, "In the sky train somebody was bad and they put gas, a kind of gas, into the train so that he would get out and lots of people died." 100 Linda firmly stems this apparently disjointed flow of bits of talk sparked by rumour and misinformation. She recounts the news from Moscow in which Chechnya rebels held more than 700 people hostage, the Russian military finally stormed the building using gas and guns in response to the execution of several hostages. The loss of life, resulting from the gun fire and gas was 90 persons. She is just finishing when Tajo bursts into the room and takes the "spinning chair" at the front. He is the chairperson and has just rushed in from bringing attendance sheets to the office ... I think he ran there and back. Urgently and enthusiastically Tajo demands, "Where are we, Ms. Stender? "Where are we? What now?" He is settling himself into Linda's Spinning Chair7 with visible pleasure. Although the class watches expectantly, Linda doesn't "spin" Tajo. She's forgotten. Linda says, "We are at personal news." Tajo says, with a firm authoritative voice: "Personal News?" Jack's hand goes up. Tajo waves him to the front but Jack stays in his seat at his desk. Everyone waits while he half rises, keeps his knees on his chair. Jack says, "This morning my mom told me that an Indian lady who is 21 is missing." Linda asks, sharply, "Here, in Queensborough?" Jack shrugs, "I don't know. Maybe in India." Tajo says firmly, to his friend whose hand is up, "Azun?" Azun says, "Yesterday I kept on throwing up for about 5 minutes and I couldn't sleep because I was throwing up." Tajo nods and then turns to another student, "Layla?" Layla: says, "Uhm, my aunt? My aunt just got a job as a nurse..." I feel sure that any experienced teacher reading this suppresses either a sigh or chuckle. It's familiar. It seems fair to generalize that this is precisely the sort of conversation most teachers do not want in their classrooms. Children, freed to talk, create conversations like this one, or the ones begun by Azun and Kate. Apparently disconnected topics, drifting rumors, suddenly urgent personal sharing and inconclusive anecdotes follow each other. One story inspires another with no expressed or easily 7 Children's name for Linda's desk chair. It has wheels and can "spin around." Sometimes before the meeting the chairperson could ask for "a spin" to get their brains going. The child would pull their feet from the floor and Linda would push the chair so that the speaker would go 'round five or six times. 101 deduced connections. The subject of talk slipped easily from political and horrifying events to ordinary family life of illness and employment. Linda looked at me anxiously at least twice. "What do I do with this?" was the unspoken message. But the students gave no sign that this conversation was "messy" or incoherent. Linda's anxious look signaled that the conversation wasn't conforming to our understanding about how conversation should be done in school. And, indeed, my own school experiences pressed me to think of a conversation like this, as "off-topic." However, the children were fully engaged. As I watched and listened I noticed that each speaker had the attention and interest of the class. They turned to listen to each new speaker. They showed not the least confusion about shifts of subject. For the most they weren't fidgeting or restless; they participated in the conversation. No gesture or physical attitude indicated that a speaker was out of turn, off topic or uninteresting. Participation was complete, in fact uncommonly so. Children's attention and interest was an important sign. It suggested that the conversation had an integrity of form and purpose that eluded me. Later, I reconsidered my response. I face the evidence that children's participation was satisfying and deliberate. They were experienced and competent conversationalists and could communicate what they needed and as they wished. By the evidence of their attentive body postures, facial expressions and steady flow of contributions, they were interested in the conversation. They paid attention to each other and were clearly satisfied about their participation. I reconsidered the conversation assuming that something unified their talk. That "something" was rich enough to inspire and hold their continuing attention. It was tensile enough to span shifts of contributions and diverse subjects. I realized that the topic of conversation was "us." Children were talking and learning about themselves. They established their presence among others and developed understandings about others and also themselves as being in the midst. Thus, diverse world events or the dangers of smoking were not shared as information but were acts of participation. Children declared themselves present. They seized opportunities to connect with the group. They webbed new understandings about each other and themselves into growing identities of self and their class. This idea of "participation" is critical to conversation and storytelling in Linda's classroom. 102 So far, I've shown that many of Linda's uses of storytelling in conversation developed familiar rationale for inviting conversation in a classroom. It developed vocabulary, offered language practice and helped children grow confidence to speak about and share experiences grew. They made connections between facts like those about smoking and such related topics as health, addiction and its costs. Indeed, conversations with stories created strong engagement and motivation for further studies. However, it's doubtful that children participated for those reasons. Rather, they asked questions and told stories in order to establish and puzzle over their own presence among others. This was Linda's expressed rationale for using children's conversations with storytelling. She explained why she designed regular class meetings to invite children's storytelling. In 1989, she had a class of 15 children in a split grade 5/6. Several of the students were designated as "special needs" children. Linda: That is where I think I really learned about the importance of children talking. It was when I had this little class of 15 kids and the center of this little class was a girl named Lee.8 And she was deaf-blind. She had vision enough so that i f you signed like this. (Linda gestures with her hands immediately in front of my face.) Me: Right in front of her face? Linda: Uh huh. She could communicate, but she was legally blind. And she, she was the center of the class. And then there were a few other kids with other disabilities and then there were other kids, regular kids. There were 15 of us. We talked all the time. We learned, through Lee who had a full time intervener, we learned, all the kids learned signing. Some of them now, even ones who were designated with special needs have made careers, in using their signing that they learned then. I think that is where ... like, something you'll see soon, we do a class meeting every morning? And that it started there. Lee would participate. Her intervener would sign for her and she would be part of us. That was first time I started thinking that was valuable? You know how when you are, those moments when you told something and suddenly the kids were quiet and paying attention. You would be thinking "oh no I shouldn't be doing this. I shouldn't let this happen." There was that feeling, you know! When we were in school we try to get the teacher off track. And we'd think that was wasted time when really it was very valuable time. Pseudonym. 103 Yeah. So it was through Lee. I think that I began to see that a class could really be a community before we started talking about classes in that way. That was in 1989,90 (September 2002). Linda's teaching goals included the creation of a community of companion-learners. Faced with diverse ethnic, social and linguistic origins as well as different ages, grades, interests and abilities, children's storytelling was her chosen means to create a social environment that encouraged learning. It had to be comfortable and possible for children to live and work together in their small, sometimes uncomfortable room. More than that, her idea of teaching meant that children needed to be freed to teach each other. She believed that every student in the room held knowledge, abilities and possibilities necessary to the education of others. Storytelling was the way to open this to accessibility. In September, when Linda and I discussed the diversity in her room she talked about wanting to help them appreciate each other. Knowing that she had also read And None of it was Nonsense (B.Rosen 1988) I asked her Do you remember when Rosen writes, she says, uhhh 'the greatest resource is' -Before I finish my question, Linda says, "It isn't curriculum! Yeah, it's the children in the room. That's the curriculum. Yeah, when I read that, when I heard that, it sort of allowed, it gave me permission to really pay attention, to take time to listen to these kids, to each other." Rosen called children in the room "the first resource" (1988:11). The work, subjects of learning, the education in the room depended on who was there. It depended on what each child brought into the room. Children's understandings and experiences were critical to what and how their class could learn together. Students had the subjects for learning about. They carried and were the substance and particulars of the curricula. This made it important that children were comfortable and unconstrained in their task of freeing what they knew, to teach and learn with each other. Linda found that storytelling eroded many of the barriers to that goal. By telling stories in conversation children learned about each other. Every story recounted by a member, whether it was a book read, trip made, game lost, being lost in a parking lot or winning a race, the stories insisted on members developing their held understandings of each other. 104 There was no one left out of this process. Even though children like Leon or Tych did not tell stories from home or about growing up, they accrued sets of stories from events on the play ground and in the classroom. Things that happened in hallways and class projects became stories about a child. Rumours and hearsay of neighbourhood events, gossip amongst children about each other, thickened and particularized identities of children in the room. Many such storytellings didn't happen in Linda's presence. Sanctioned conversation in the classroom was especially important. Linda's uses of class meetings for storytelling meant that students who might have been known solely through gossip, hearsay and classroom-corner conversations had opportunities to be known. Teacher sponsored conversations like Linda's, nourished more nuanced understandings and empathy for each other. From my observations, such understandings were tangible in the sudden pause that followed Mila's mention of her mother's fight with cancer when they talked about cigarettes; collective indulgence for Tajo's blurting or their support and encouragement of Terry's taking the narrating role in their play. Storytelling softened labels and stereotyping that might have prevented participation. It created empathy and deep interest in each other. Small stories gathered together to make a teller complex. Taza was the story of listening to his grandmother in Pakistan and about moving to the U.S. and then to Canada. In September his tense face and almost alarming alacrity in following instructions suggested anxiety about doing the right things. Over the months, stories were added: a boy who played cricket in Stanley Park, kept to his Ramadan fast, had a reckless bicycle accident and a bold encounter on the playground. By telling and listening he was enlarged and had developed complexity and possibilities in his participation. By the end of November he had situated himself comfortably enough to make an occasional "smart remark," talk about his religious practices and not show misery about incomplete or incorrect work. Children established their places in the classroom in different ways and times. We learned about Layla initially through her bold and quirky Beany Bear stories and apparently fearless self-assertion. Later, we reconfigured our understanding and her participation to include her desperately nervous stomach before competitions. She wasn't as self assured as she seemed earlier. In another child's case stories of cancer and 105 divorce were softened and stretched to being bearable in the stories of funny neighbours, skating and playground play. Pity turned to compassion and the inexplicable had a context by which children could learn. Stories in conversations made our understandings of each other growing and flexible. For Linda, shared stories in school meant a whole experience with one human being. A l l the "skinny stories," fragments and bits of them, created ways to know each other well enough to learn together. This made a community that facilitated learning together; it became a much better facility than the portable itself. In our January interview, when I asked Linda what children's storytelling did for children learning in her room, she immediately thought of Bekkah: Acceptance! Now that we are half way through the year, when Bekkah tells one of her bizarre little things, nobody teases her about it anymore. (Linda pauses to think. Then she says thoughtfully) You can't change your life, you've got to accept it, don't you Jo? She can't feel crummy about her life. If she ... before she can go on ... her life has to give her confidence, even i f it seems like a strange or crummy life. You don't need somebody to say your life is no good. You have to have your situation validated. Then you can move along... you can't have secrets about who you are. Bekkah's stories and my observations of her life and place in the class, confirmed Linda's point. Bekkah's movement from outside to inside classroom social life took time. In September Bekkah presented a puzzle to the other children. She was socially independent. She seemed utterly uninfluenced by the need to "be-like" others or participate when she was not interested. She played with a child from another classroom and younger grade during recess and noon hour. Her interests were baffling to her > classmates who loved BeyBlades, Power Girls, the Olson Twins and Spider Man. Her passionate interests were Houdini and Florence Nightingale. She could not interest any one else in the classroom in her books or stories. When she presented her interests at two class meetings, for instance, her classmates were unresponsive and frankly disinterested. Contrast the following two excerpts from my classroom observations in September with what happened later in December. Bekkah tells us about her book about Florence Nightingale. She showed us her "Lady Bird Book." Bekkah, pointing to an illustration at the beginning of the book, says, "When she was a little girl, she would look after her dolls and pretend they were sick." 106 Bekkah's face is intense with needing to let us know what a wonderful book this is and what an important person Florence Nightingale is. Although she looks at her book, her eyes regularly flick upwards to look hard at the class. Her cheeks are flushing. She is talking but I can't hear what she is saying. The children are restless and the room is full of the rummaging noise of disinterest for her talk (September 10, 2002). And: It is during a class meeting. Bekkah has just finished "showing" us a magic trick that failed. The rope, the tying of it, all of it was to no purpose anyone can see. Children stopped watching or listening long before she was finished. While Bekka packs up her things, Linda says, firmly, "Okay, Kate?" Kate who is chairing the class meeting says, "Any news?" Bekkah says, still standing at the front, "One thing. Just one thing. Every month, Houdini would lower his bath temperature 2 degrees so that he could stand very cold water." She steadily looks at the class. "Just in case." This is said with a kind of ominous tone. Children look at her blankly. It seems to me wearily. (Yet, I feel sure that i f Tajo or Mila or Violet would have said the same thing there would have been interest.) Linda says, "We are missing our news person, but I have something here. The Anaconda at the aquarium just had 19 babies. As soon as the baby snake is born it can survive on its own. Leon says, "I was looking for snakes and I found a whole bunch of eggs" (September 25, 2002). Such responses and other rebuffs did not diminish her steadfastly eager participation at class meetings. And she was happy about her school life. She told me at least three times how much she loved "our class" and preferred being at school than at home where there was "nothing to do." Physically, by dress and appearance she also stood apart from her peers. She wore what she or her mother liked. Her long fine brown hair, that reached past her waist, was carefully braided or prepared every morning, but gradually gave way to dishevelment through the day's course. Her glasses perched on her thin nose seemed to emphasize her astonishing reading and vocabulary abilities determined to be at about a grade 10 level. She was known for tart, critical remarks and for dramatic, surprising stories. When she was interested in something, her face grew flushed, her voice shook and she would take off her sweater because she "was too warm." At the same time, she had a disconcerting street wise, knowledge of rough language and sexuality, more common to older children hanging out at the local grocer's or on late 107 night street corners. In her talk and life in the classroom, steady hints of somewhat atypical home-life and ideas of play intruded with startling slants of light on my work to understand her a little. Over the course of three months, Bekkah's steady participation of stories and work in the room effected a change in her place among the children. This example was taken from a class meeting three months after school started. Violet is chairing the class meeting. She has just invited Daniesh to give the "Fantastic Fact of the Day." Daniesh comes forward and says, "I was reading that there is a plant that can eat insects." Bekkah's hand shoots up, straight. Violet nods her permission to speak. Bekkah says, " M y dad has one." Violet nods to Mila who had her hand up too. Mila says, "I think I saw one on a movie or something." But children are still looking at Bekkah. Terry, who is sitting near her, interrupts Mila and asks without putting his hand up, "What's it like?" Bekkah answers, "Well, they have this glue stuff inside. The fly goes in and it gets stuck then the Venus fly trap closes." As she says this she speaks slowly and clearly. Her face is beginning to flush. Her flair for the dramatic loosens her body to augment the story words. While she says "then the Venus fly trap closes" she demonstrates with her hands, her wrists against each other, cupped palms moving slowly towards each other, fingers like teeth moving towards each other ... then suddenly snapping together and interlocking. She then makes a gleeful kind of smack with her mouth when she closes them. The class is fully silent and attentive. They are all listening intently, faces fully turned to her. Bekkah concludes, "It's just on the window sill to eat." Daron repeats after her, "On the windowsill?" "That's where the flies are. To get them." Bekkah absorbs the full attention of the class. The class is clearly intrigued. Linda asks, "So, that name, Venus, do you know what that might have to do with this?" When she asks the class about the name, I wonder i f she is trying to move this conversation from Bekkah's home experience and the story's oddly morbid overtones. Kate's hand goes up and Linda acknowledges her, "Yes, Kate?" Kate, known for her love of reading Greek Mythology says, "She was ... like really, really, really pretty. She is kind of like Aphrodite." 108 Linda responds, "Yes, she was so beautiful that men would be attracted and get into trouble. That's why this plant is called a Venus trap." Violet takes back her role as chairperson. "Bekkah?" she asks immediately. Bekkah's hand was up through all of this. The attention of the class is fully turned to her again. "Sometimes my dad will put a cup overtop the fly and then smoke inside the cup to stun the fly. Then he takes a tweezers and picks it up and puts it in. In the winter my mom cuts off the rotten parts. Once I found a fly that had five legs and I felt sorry for it so I helped it get away" (December 2, 2002). This incident contrasts with the earlier examples of her participation. Children listened, confident that Bekkah brought meaningful and significant participation to their discussion. Even when Mila, one of the most influential children in the class, connected the plant to a movie she saw, she drew no visible response or attention. Neither did Linda's determined re-direction or Kate's beginning story about Venus, swing the interest from Bekkah. Typically a reference of a beautiful woman, men and attraction, would have diverted all attention to that subject. When Bekkah said her dad had the plant Daniesh talked about, children wanted to hear about it from her. Some of this was due to her offering an eye-witness account. After all, the subject is fascinating: A plant that eats living creatures! But children's attention was also inspired by interest in Bekkah and connections grown with her over the course of several months. They developed abilities to listen to her and a respect for what she could bring to their conversation. Class protocols for speaking were dropped. Unlike in the other two examples of her earlier contributions, children didn't shuffle, play with something in their desks, whisper with neighbours, or sip from water bottles. They listened. Certainly the fascinating, macabre aspect caught children's curious and imaginative capacity. But, importantly, her storytelling was an event that facilitated her inclusion in her class community. Over several months of conversation and storytelling she established her place with them. Bekkah's storytelling helped her gather true definition in the room. She became less a "puzzle" and a more accessible part of "us." As children participated with Bekkah in her stories of Houdini, golf, rolling down a dirt hill, a fight and rescuing a fly from a Venus Fly trap, they shared experiences with her. So doing, inside stories, children's 109 lives intersected and connected. Member's storytelling tied together new and old understandings about "me" and "us." Thus, while storytellings encouraged language learning and opened new topics of study, its more important function was brought into action during class meetings. Children established themselves in the room and grew stronger connections among themselves. Students didn't talk with each other to find out about fishing, plants, smoking problems or what happened with the rebel hostage taking in Russia. Their reasons for participation included a need to be acknowledged as present and to be connected to with the other children with whom they had to learn. Children wanted to know about each other and wanted others to know about themselves. They were figuring out how they fit together and worked at developing a community for learning with each other in the small, space they shared, six hours a day and five days a week. That strong purpose was satisfied inside the process of conversation. When Linda eased her grip on prescribing and directing topics, protocols, as well as more usual evaluatory practices afterwards, she made it possible for children like Bekkah, Taza and others to grow their places in their learning community. Again, I raise the same question: how can we think of the small bits of anecdote and memory as storytellings? The stories were so thinly detailed and of barest plot lines. Tellers depended heavily on listeners to supply details and piece meaning together. Storytellings in such intense social awareness were thoroughly meshed with a complex context. Tellers anticipated a shared history, common concerns, gestures and sounds to fill out the story. It happened in an intersection of children's interests and a teacher's intentions. The deep hush and postures characteristic of Linda's folk tales tellings were not present. By themselves, these stories were not substantial enough to be memorable. Yet, the storytellings are distinguishable from the rest of the conversation. I can say, "Remember when Bekkah told us about the Venus Fly Trap?" or "Remember when Kate sold her minnows and earned $2.00?" The respondent says, "Oh yeah!" and neatly separates the story from the rest of the event. The second sign of differentiation is experienced during the conversation. Children listened to each other's stories in markedly different ways than other kinds of communication like questions, fantastic facts, or answers to questions. I saw and felt the change in the quality of attention when 110 Mila told about her mother's illness, or when Taza told about his work to keep to his fast, or when Marcus told about his going out onto the hockey rink to play with his youth team between periods. It was a regular pattern. Students stopped their movements. They looked at the teller. They took on postures of leaning and turning to face the teller. Participants changed the kind of attention they gave prior a storytelling to one given even within a single sentence story. Over and over again, I was struck by the regularity of this experience, even when it was as slim as Spencer's "we caught fish." In the midst of the clamour for a turn to speak, juxtaposed topics of talk, or urgencies to finish work; in the midst of toys shared, quarrels and pacts being managed, rummaging restless movements or whispered conversations, children paused and turned to listen when a story was told. Aware of each other and of themselves as members of a community of learners, they paid attention when a storytelling happened. Riddles and jokes: Traditions of storytelling in social awareness Until now I described storytelling participation done in social awareness within the framework of conversation. Before I close this chapter, two reasons make me turn to another instance in which this kind of participation happened regularly. First, until now I showed storytelling in social awareness developed a community characterized by warm camaraderie. Not all participation was like that. Other conversations and interactions were more agonistic. As I consider riddles and jokes I describe the more competitive, challenging and acrimonious aspects of children sharing storytelling space. Secondly, it is important to show that storytelling traditions have formalized social awareness in storytelling.9 Unlike the skinny and nearly unnoticeable storytellings during conversation, storytelling in social awareness also includes more visible and formalized storytelling events. This was not so obvious in my examples of conversation. Riddles and jokes comprise a traditional and formalized body of storytelling to facilitate social disruption and play. 9 Finnegan includes riddles in her description of traditionally oral narratives with "conversational genres" (1992: 151). As Green writes "the riddle is one of the oldest and most culturally widespread of folklore genres" (1993: 125). Folklore scholars (Dorson 1973: 129-143), oral language scholars (Ong 1982: 43-45) and contemporary studies of oral genre (Bauman 1992: 134-138) all list the riddle as a distinctive interaction between tellers and listeners that belongs in oral narrative tradition. They are part of a genre of verbal interactions in which participants play at outwitting, jostling and beating each other. I l l As I showed in Chapter One, participation in social awareness during a storytelling does not depend on the kind of story being told. Additionally, participants may pass through several ways of listening during a single story. I remind the reader that riddles and jokes are simply one genre in which social participation is formalized or possible. For instance, listeners can be called on to make sound effects, do story actions, chant responses,, or make comments to each other during a storytelling: The class has finished the story of Scary, Scary Halloween. Nearly as one person, they burst into, "Trick or Treat! Trick or treat! Smell my Feet!" (October 29, 2002) Or, Linda is telling the story of Rumplestiltskin. Linda says, "Ts your name Bob?" asked the girl.' Linda waits and looks expectantly at the class. A little tentatively, they answer together, "No." "Is it Dandy Legs, then?" asked Linda on Rumplestiltskin's behalf. Now, with great relish and looking at each other, the class shouts, "No." "Well then, is it bandybush?" "NO!!" (September 5, 2002) In these examples children relished each other's voices and presence when they shouted in unison. They played with Linda, each other and the story in a single participation. Linda's class meeting agenda included a "Riddle of the Day." Although they were asked to prepare a riddle, almost half of the contributions were jokes.1 0 Children did not differentiate between them. The difference between a riddle and joke is in the role of the listener. In a riddle the listener is challenged to supply an answer. In a joke, the answer is inside the teller's story. The joke's success depends on listeners not having the punch line. However, both demonstrate the wit of the teller to an audience and both present puzzling situations or conundrums for which the teller triumphantly wields the key, a solution or punch line at the end. Therefore, like the children, I put riddles and jokes together in this discussion. M y sample, taken from my time spent in the classroom, is limited. Jokes were probably more common on the playground. Even though Linda made a place for telling 1 0 Scholars and collectors frequently put these together. See Yolen's Folktales From Around the World or Abrahams and Dundes (1972) chapter on "Riddles" which carries examples of wit-testing questions as well as the sorts of jokes I heard and recount in this section. 112 these in her room, I heard them more often in hallways and from my perch on the back stairs during lunch hour, than I did in the classroom. I didn't hear hallway or playground jokes and their vocabularies in class. In fact, children cut off their talk as soon as they noticed an adult was within earshot. They protected their derogatory jokes and riddles about turbans, Chinese food and other such ethnic slurs out of the classroom. They kept more violent, sexually explicit joking stories amongst themselves. During lunch I heard snatches of jokes about turbans, the "Van-Kong," joysticks and bitch slapping.11 I heard forms of slanging and insulting address like "you motherfucker" and "hey you, gay guy" just outside the room, but never inside. Once I was suddenly privy to an exchange happening ahead of me in a line up returning from a fire alarm practice. The boys suddenly discovered I was behind them in line and had certainly heard them say: "So, bitch slap him!" One of the boys elaborately explained to me that "bitch really means a dog" and, anyway, "the slapping is just pretend." Children distinguished between the kinds of jokes and riddles they could do in the classroom and those which were inappropriate. The strong influence of a teacher in the room and expectations for language and content in school kept many jokes, riddles and the vocabulary critical to them mostly out of the classroom. One exception was Leon's joke about a girl who was convinced to climb a flagpole for a nickel while the boys below enjoyed the view from below. But during the joke, which was obviously known to some children, the class was awkwardly quiet and there was no laughter when it was finished. An exception like this was rare. Most children had strong senses about talk that was sanctioned by classroom culture and that which wasn't. As I elaborated in Chapter Three, they restrained themselves in the classroom. Thus, my scope of study concerns those jokes and riddles children deemed suitable for the classroom. Even so, children surreptitiously challenged classroom norms. ' 1 Sikh practices of wearing turbans; reference to the large population of Chinese immigrants in Vancouver, a sexual reference and phrase used to mean 'keeping a woman in line and submissive.' 12 Children's use of jokes and ritual insults challenge power structures and open them to the "corrective of laughter" (Bakhtin 1981: 59). Riddles and jokes express, what Bakhtin called, social life's "ritual roots of laughter" (1981: 57-8). He describes "parodic" or joking language that provokes laugher, as important to challenging assumptions of the "straightforward genres, languages, styles, voices." Bakhtin calls these forms our "laughing words"(59). He goes on to show that laughter breaks social power strictures. Thus, riddles and jokes are formal constructions developed in storytelling tradition to open spaces for restrained voices. 113 They selected for appropriateness while coming as near as they dared to the edge of what was "okay." Making everyone laugh was a coup and making it happen easily, demanded words and humor from the playground and not the classroom: "Ms. Jo?" Layla has come to my desk. She inspects my lunch and then says, "Ms. Jo, you missed a good joke, yesterday." "Oh NO!" I say. "I can tell it to you," she offers. "Oh please, please!" "Okay," she says. "Once there was these three boys and their names were Pooh, one was named Pooh and the others names were Manners and Shut up." "Oh yeah," says Alt "I know that one." "I heard it before yesterday," interrupts another student. "I knew it already." Children are gathering around or leaning in to listen and be part of this... "NO! says Layla. "I'm telling it." She glares down any competition for her prerogative by first-come to tell me the joke. Layla goes on, now. "Pooh was skateboarding and he fell down. Manners went to help him up and Shut Up ran to the police station because it was nearby right there. And he says, the police officer said, 'What's your name?' and he says 'Shut Up. ' He says again, 'What's your name?' And he says, 'Shut up.' And then the police officer says, where's your manners?!' and he says, 'He's around the corner picking up Pooh.'" "EEEIUWWWW!" shout several children. The story finishes in the midst of laughter (October 31, 2002). As jockeying for the-right-to-tell suggests, telling a joke was a social means to establish or try to rearrange power lines and social positions in the group. They were verbal tug-of-wars and "king of the castle" games. Children challenged Layla's right to "tell it." Her response was adamant. Her insistence on her right to tell the joke is part of the protocols associated with joke telling. She started it, she gets to tell it. Her triumph was amplified when she challenged the school's power over her language. Layla and her friends' were delighted by the opportunity to say "pooh" right in the classroom.13 Jokes offered the opportunity to challenge and re-arrange social structures. Earlier I gave an example of Leon's joke that failed to get laughter or pass the classroom's idea of suitability. Even so, Leon sought opportunities to tell riddles or jokes Such disruptive, but social and playful kinds of talk were recorded and discussed by Heath as "talking junk" (Heath 1983: 174-179). Dyson calls this "verbal gaming" in her classroom study (e.g. 1997: 214 ). 114 and did it often. This was noticeable for several reasons. In the first place, he exerted little social influence in the room. He was often alone. I did not seem him in the regular company of any classmate. Several times a week he left the classroom for "help," as the other children called it. He was accepted in study groups when he was assigned, but he was rarely chosen. Secondly, his work was usually incomplete and he was indifferent to the degree of correctness he attained. However, when it was his turn to give the "Riddle of the Day" he was prepared and eager to present his riddle or joke. In the following excerpt from my class observations, Leon had quickly left his desk when his turn came and took up his position at the front of the class: Leon stands at the front, short red hair framing his pale freckled face. He is grinning. "Why do birds fly?" he asks. Kate puts up her hand. Leon nods his permission, "Because they have wings?" Leon grins wider. He says emphatically, "Uh-uh"[no]. Kreena has her hand up and Leon nods his permission. "Because i f they don't fly they can't go anywhere." Leon is clearly pleased. It's another wrong answer. "Uh- uh," he says. Now Leon nods to Tajo who asks, "Because they hate to walk?" Leon shakes his head vigorously "no." He is still grinning. Three wrong answers! Then he says "Uh-uh," with undisguised triumph. Linda intervenes. The rule is three wrong answers and the riddler wins. She says, "Okay, three strikes, they're out. What? I mean, why?" Leon laughs and grinning widely he says, "Cause the airplane costs too much money. If they went on an airplane" (November 5, 2002). Leon tested his challengers' wit and ability to snatch his triumph away from him. A struggle ensued in the room while listeners fought to supply an answer. It was a test and the outcome was straightforward: either triumph or defeat for each combatant. In this case, Leon won. The class was defeated. The delight and disappointment for each was visible. The laughter was a rueful groan. Leon was especially tickled to realize that his teacher, Linda was also defeated! Children's emotions were plainly etched on their faces in these cases. This was true in its reversed situation: Natisha asks, "What do you call two banana peels?" Alt shoots off without raising his hand: " A pair of slippers!" Natisha, clearly deflated by the fast ending to her riddle rushes back to her desk, not speaking or looking at anyone in the class, her lips pressed together (September 10, 2002). 115 This happened early in the school day. Natisha did not participate with her hand up or supply answers until after recess had intervened. There are many examples of riddles told in which a member or several members of the class shouted out the answer or promptly supplied the key. In all of these cases the teller was visibly disappointed. In some cases, as with Natisha, disappointment lingered long after the exchange. Some riddles and jokes needed two persons to carry it off. These were most popular of all retellings. Children seemed to take special pleasure in sharing a telling: Layla asks for a volunteer. She choose Kate to come forward. "Okay," she says to Kate, "Okay, just answer my questions. Okay? Okay." Kate is nodding yes. The two of them are standing shoulder to should, looking at the class. Layla asks, "Do you know who I am?" "Yes," says Kate. "Would you remember me in a day?" "Yes." "Would you remember me in a week?" "Yes." "Would you remember me in a month?" "Yes." "Would you remember me in a year?" "Yes." "Knock, knock." "Who's there? Kate is grinning to be suddenly in a familiar riddling line. " H E Y ! ! " says Layla putting out her bottom lip and giving a bit of a stamp with her foot." "I thought you said you'd remember me!" The class laughs. The girls go back to their seats, grinning (December 2, 2002). In another example: Terry and Azun return from their conference and practice in the hallway. They prepared and are now ready to "do" their joke for the class meeting. "Okay," says Terry, "Okay, see, I am driving." He says this to the class. He is holding an imaginary steering wheel and turning it this way and then that. Azun is standing somewhat stiffly beside him, mimicking a passenger. Azun says, "Turn left! Turn left!!" He uses a high voice, imitating a woman. The class laughs, delighted. "No, right," says Terry emphatically. "Turn left, turn left!!" says Azun again in high tones, from his passenger seat. Terry pretends to slap Azun with gusto, "Who's driving, you or me?" 116 Terry says, "This is scene two." Terry puts his arms down and relaxes his posture to show that he's not driving anymore. He turns to Azun and says, "Make chicken, make chicken." Azun answers "Make beef!" He is exclaiming in his imitation of a woman's voice. The class laughs. Terry says, "No! Make chicken, make chicken!" More laughter. Azun pretends to slap Terry and exclaims, "Who's cooking, you or me?!" Terry says, "Okay, scene 5." Azun says, "What about 3 and 4?" Terry pretends to slap Azun again and again, "Whose joke is this? Yours or' mine?" The class heartily enjoyed this. Laughing at Azun's woman's voice, Terry's impassive and steady deliverance, the mock slapping that was noisy and exaggerated. It was a huge success for both of them. Terry and Azun left the front slowly, both smiling. It was replayed during lunch hour several times by different pairs (October 7, 2002). Like Layla's joke about three oddly named boys, I heard these two jokes repeated several times during my time in the classroom. In contrast with riddles like Leon's and Natisha's, these shared tellings of jokes created a kind of coalition. The sense of triumph was connected to "making everybody laugh." It depended less on a right answer and much more on social sensitivities about what is considered funny by the group. Such tellings sparked high degrees of participation and facilitated satisfying social interactions in the classroom. Linda's inclusion of riddles and jokes in class meetings helped children connect with each other and develop a common language of "laughing words." This helped them make room for themselves within an institution that demanded they get along well enough to live with each other in a small room. In these examples children's exercised their awareness of each other and challenged social positioning. Aware of each other as adversary, friend, complicit and excluded, they used jokes, laughing-word stories to bridge and challenge the other. They solidified relationships and social circles; they also confronted and sneered at structures that felt limiting or restrictive. 117 Storytelling in social awareness Storytelling participation in social awareness was characterized by children's attention to each other, themselves and the teacher. Tellers and listeners shared and -changed positions. They changed focus easily and often while they kept their storytelling participation lively. It was an event during which they talked, laughed, quarreled, remembered out loud, touched, gestured and turned curious faces towards each other. Students and their teacher paid attention to each other, retreated into themselves, interacted with the story, and reached into their memories to make necessary connections and meanings. The subject of this participation concerned children's relationships with each other. They developed and amended understandings about each other, themselves and their situation during storytelling. A l l the while, a story centered this activity. The stories typical of this kind of participation demonstrated an expectation of the listener's ability to supply details, share references, and read the teller's gestures. Children anticipated one another's challenges, affirmation and interruptions to make this kind of storytelling successful. Children learned abilities and developed understandings specific to their practice within the pause of storytelling in social awareness. They developed oral language abilities as well as understandings about their language. They grew their vocabularies as well as confidence in its use. They established themselves as complex persons and connected themselves to the social group in ways that facilitated their learning together in Linda's grade four and five classroom. 118 Chapter Six Deep imaginative engagement during storytelling Introduction From the sounds of talk and stories, chanted verse and laughter with jokes and riddles, I turn my attention to a very different kind of participation with stories: deep imaginative engagement. The stories that nourished this participation were much longer than the skinny ones in conversation or the riddles and jokes. Stories were folktales and wondertales, stories of heroes and life stories. In the stretched pause created by Linda's storytelling, children's participation was characterized by unusual stillness, sustained postures of listening and intensity of attention. In the gathered circle, they were hardly aware of the circumstances within which they listened. Instead, they were engaged with their situation in a story-world, beyond the room. Storytelling participation of deep imaginative engagement didn't look, sound or feel like storytelling in social awareness. I begin this chapter with a short description of how Linda and the children arranged themselves to participate in deep imaginative engagement. They didn't sit in usual ways nor did Linda take up her normal teaching postures. I go on to define the critical term: imagination. I use children's understandings to explain it. Then, I describe children's experiences in deep imaginative engagement with a storytelling. I describe and discuss its four main characteristics. First, it could be observed. Listeners invariably showed a specific posture of stillness. Secondly, children explained that they made their way into that engagement by first "making pictures" and then "going in." They described their actions as being "imaginators."1 Thirdly, the experience was fragile to its environment. It could not bear interruptions of touch or talk typical of storytelling in social awareness. Finally, experience in deep imaginative engagement with a story was a highly desired experience. Children valued it, experienced it as wonderful, mysterious and profound. They used spiritual kinds of language to describe their time there. In all this, I discuss what happened during the deep hush of storytelling when children talked about "being inside." Their comments and observations offer current scholarship an uncommon window for learning. Children made new understandings ' Shasu and Layla's word to describe what she did when she deliberately imagined. 119 available. Some of these are urgently significant to studies of imagination experienced in stories, which is a fledgling field of study. During my course of study I sometimes regretted my inability to do full justice to the wealth of children's knowledge. I reminded myself that my ethnographic study was dedicated to learning about storytelling as a pedagogy spanning the classroom's day. Participation in deep imaginative engagement was one of three parts of storytelling pedagogy and my task was to fully develop its description. However, it may also provoke educators and scholars to explore story life. Children's interest was unconcealed fascination and a deliberate pursuit of deep imaginative engagement with a story. I give it the same in this chapter. Getting ready to open Linda's gifts and find wonder A little less than once a week she invited the children to sit on the floor. While the children arranged themselves in sitting and sprawling kinds of positions, she took the "spinning-chair" and sat in the semi circle's opening. Occasionally she forestalled "trouble" by moving children to ensure she could see each one that no one was near a "distraction." She always gave a brief introduction to the source of the story. She showed the book or explained where she first heard or read it. She also gave her reason for telling it: "I always loved this story when I was a girl." Or, in the case of "Rumplestiltskin" she said it was a great story for helping us think about names, since we were studying them. Sometimes stories related to the season. At Halloween she told "The boy who learned to shudder" and around Remembrance Day she told the true story of Anne Frank and the folktale "The Field." When she told the story of "Theseus and the Minataur" the story was part of the language arts unit on heroes. After settling the children and briefly introducing the story she told it from her memory. Most often she sat comfortably, looked and spoke directly to the children. She used gestures and expressions to elaborate what she was saying, much as Kate did when she explained how she caught a fish in the Fraser River. Once she played a ukelele. Generally these storytellings lasted about 25 minutes. During that time I observed children in postures of deep imaginative engagement with the story. Later, when children 120 talked to me about experiences of imagination they always talked about times when they were listening to one of Linda's storytellings. As Linda wrote to me* she deliberately chose folktales and chose to tell them as part of her language arts curriculum. Folktales are as significant to the study of literature as the number system is essential to the study of mathematics. Therefore as Alan Purves commented and I told you before, folktales form an ideal canon ... they pose moral and ethical questions, response to which help shape our values. They teach lessons about human behavior that are common ... can be enjoyed and understood at different levels. They're ideal for the inclusive model of education that we practice today... When I T E L L the folktale I'm honouring the tradition in which they are rooted. When children are told a story rather than read a story they seem to feel much freer and more confident in retelling the story to someone else. In that way the children too become honorers of the tradition (January 2003). As part of her language teaching, storytellings were often connected to reading and writing work. Occasionally she told a story for the pleasure of it. However, she experienced some tension between two expectations and intentions she had for herself as a storyteller and a teacher. As she said, The storyteller has responsibility to give pleasure or to share something of beauty, to give a gift. That is enough. The gift is enough. But . . . there needs to be a response to that gift, or, you have to, um ... make sure it's your responsibility to see that children are clear about what they've been given (September 2002). As a storyteller she wanted to give the children the "gift" of a storytelling. As a teacher she felt responsible to ensure children understood "what they've been given" and that she could show or find out that children had "learned." For this reason, she usually gave a writing assignment after the storytelling. Sometimes the assignment was given the next day, other times later in the day. Once children wrote what they thought about the story, several times they re-told the story in anyway they wished. Sometimes they drew. But there were times when she told the story and attached no assignment or outcome for evaluation. 121 Imagination: "You have dreaming to know what to do." (Kyla). When I interviewed children and asked them to explain "imagination" or "what is happening inside your head when you listen to a story" children thoughtfully and promptly gave explanations of their experiences. They showed that "imagination" was a familiar, pleasurable experience about which they had much self-awareness. They explained it as a mind-activity common to most kinds of thinking. They understood it had degrees of usefulness and important applications. When I asked Layla i f she ever heard the word "imagination," she responded promptly: Layla: Yup! Me: What is it? Layla: Well, imagination is making it up. Me: Making it up? What are you making up? Layla: Like a story or something. So you can't see it out there. So you make it up inside your head. Me: How is imagination different than ... thinking, then? Layla: Uh. . . Cause, when you think it kind of takes a long time but when ... you're going like this [she furrows her brow and taps her forehead, presses her lips together, making faces at me of trying-hard-to-think-of-something.] You're trying to THINK! But when you're imaginating your pen just moves and you have it on the paper. Me: The story? Layla: [She emphatically nods "yes."] Me: Can you imagine without writing? Layla: It's better with no writing. It just goes through my head. [Layla bobs her head back and forth at me. She's smiling.] Me: Do you like that? Layla: Yeah! And: Kreena: Imagination is like when you are thinking that you're ... like ... when you're growing up and i f you wanted to be, like the queen, right? Like, my sister wanted to be the queen. My dad asked her "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and she's like, "the queen." And then she says "Why can't I be queen right now? Why do I have to be a queen when I grow up?!" [Kreena is mimicking a pouting little girl, speaking in a high voice, and playing at it. We laugh.] Me: So, imagination is like a wishing? Kreena: Imagination is like, something like ... I . . . you wanted to be something then you just think or you can be dreaming, the same thing, right? You're dreaming that you're a big queen or like ... your imagination lets you. Me: Do you think imagination is important? Like, do you really need it? Kreena: Imagination IS important. If, like, imagination... you need it because 122 you can just be bored with nothing to do. And then, when you grow up you won't even have anything to do. So you should have imagination so that when you grow up you have imagination and you can tell other people you have dreaming to know what to do. When I asked Tajo he explained that imagination is "thinking," but in pictures. He illustrated what he meant by retelling one of Linda's stories. He described the bear hiding under a golden bridge, like the one he visited in India. Out of that conversation I asked him a question. Me: So, it seems like, you're saying it's different than thinking a mathematics problem or something like that? Tajo: Different than about mathematic and imagining? Me: Yeah? Tajo: Okay! Okay, mathematics is like, is like, not like similar. Because you just do questions. You can imagine nothing from mathematics... Oh! Well you C A N imagine the numbers and plus and equals and answers. Yeah. And. imagine it more. But, of, in mathematics you can imagine anything you want. You make them Beyblades, or you got boxers (lighters). You can have anything you want and it can happen too! And finally, Bekka: It's like ... all of a sudden you're out in a different world and anything can happen in a story. It's like, it's not the same as reality. It's pictures in your mind that you feel. Wouldn't it be neat i f scientists actually know how that happened? Children were quite aware of imagination in their lives. They understood its use to them in their work of learning, thinking, playing, planning and dreaming. Imagination was a life and landscape happening inside one's head and not outside. Layla said it was her ability to "make it up." Imagination happened faster than writing could capture and it felt effortless. Tajo called imagination "thinking" and went on to suggest there were degrees of imagination in experience. He also suggested one could be intentional about its use. Imagination could facilitate or make his thinking-problems interesting. He can fill his math problems with strutting boxers i f he wishes. Thus, imagination carries and facilitates thinking. For Kreena, it enlivened ordinary life, opened doors to possibility and helped a person plan for the future. She went so far to suggest that i f one couldn't imagine it, one could not become or attain a life goal. Bekkah's explanation acknowledges its odd relationship with ordinary life. As children described imagination 123 its experience was pleasurable and extraordinary; and it was necessary to facilitate learning and thinking. At the same time, they savored its mysteriousness. Bekkah asked, "Wouldn't it be neat i f scientists actually know how that happened?" She and the other children tidily summed up the situation of researchers and theorists' work to understand imagination and teacher's use of it: It is generally agreed that imagination is a good thing and that it ought to be stimulated and developed in education. Two related obstacles stand in the way of our routinely achieving this; first, it is difficult to get a clear grasp on what imagination is, and, second, whatever it is, it does not seem the kind of thing that lends itself to practical methods and techniques that any teacher can employ in classroom instruction (Egan 1992:1). In the following four sections children describe and explain their experiences with imagination as it was facilitated by storytelling. By this chapter's end, they may not have supplied the "clear grasp on what imagination is," but they have offered much understanding about the experience. They articulate new insights for scholars and outline the method by which they entered imagination. They also explain another kind of participation in storytelling: deep imaginative engagement. Postures of storytelling participation in deep imaginative engagement: Stillness During a storytelling, it was possible to observe children's participation in deep imaginative engagement. They took up specific postures and attitudes of listening during a storytelling. I show this by beginning with a story about a storytelling that happened in the classroom. This description is taken from my classroom observations and illustrates the kind of storytelling Linda considered a "gift": Children came in from recess 15 minutes ago. They have cooled down after playing hard for those few minutes and are settled back into working. They finish up tasks begun before recess. This included the measurements of Mt. Everest and a lesson on bar graphs. Linda says, "Okay, I want you to clear your desks of everything. Right now we are doing language arts." From across the room I hear a student say to her friend, "Why do we call it arts? I always wonder about that." I don't think Linda heard the comment. While the class fills with rummaging noise and talking, I mull over the comment I heard from across the room. It's true that "language arts" doesn't look much like 124 "art" class. But there is a lot of "art work" connected to it. Right now our "language arts" work concerns children's selections of picture books to read to their grade one reading-buddies. Students selected their books a week ago. They already wrote about their remembered experiences with the story and a summary of the book. On one bulletin board, several children have already hung their colorful picture posters about their chosen stories. Now Linda is insisting that everything except the water bottles have to go off the desks. The room is full of shuffling and small conversations starting up. Linda says, "One thing, when we read our stories to grade ones, we really have to know the story very well. How many of you have read your story several times?" Leon's hand shoots up among the others. He says, "I read it about 10 times. I know it very, very, very well." "That's great," says Linda. She goes on to recognize other children who raise their hands to tell about the book and stories they are working with and know well. After about 5 minutes of interaction, Linda says, "I'm going to tell you a story, then I ' l l show you the book. This is what you can do too when you tell your story to your Grade One Buddy. You can do it in different ways. You can have the book and read it, or you can tell it and show the pictures or you can just tell it without the book. Then they have to make it in their heads." Some students seem to have stopped listening after she said "story." Students get up to go sit in the middle, but Linda motions them to stop, and says, "You can just stay in your desk." I am not sure but I feel like there is a ripple of disappointment. I have seen them go up to sit in the room's center area with enthusiasm when Linda tells a story. Usually they sit on the floor in front of her. Later I find out that she wanted space for her ukulele and her own movement while telling. She was also experimenting with storytelling, to see how it worked with children in their desks.2 Linda starts after introducing the story by name: "Abayoyo." Once in a little village there lived a boy and his father ... I notice there is still activity going on. She started before she had everyone's attention. Linda doesn't have all the eyes of the class, perhaps just more than half are really looking at her. Daron is studying his Beyblade, a Japanese top that he's brought to school today. Kreena had her shoe in her hands and is now putting it on again. Zara is doing something with her hands in her desk. Azun is turned completely away. He is looking at the chart on the back wall; it looks like he is 2 In conversation after school. Oddly enough, this enthusiasm about sitting on the floor conflicts with children's own comments about how uncomfortable and dirty the floor is (Zara, Oct. 22). Significantly, as Zara described her experience, the "uncomfortableness" is mitigated by the pleasure of close company and later forgotten during story-listening. 125 checking to see what he has to do in the next class meeting. Pender and Leon have some kind of interaction happening between them. Linda goes on telling the story. She looks pointedly at Pender and Leon who then immediately stop talking. But, she does not pause the storytelling. She goes on, So, Abayoyo's father is a magician but people are annoyed with his tricks. For instance, when someone sits down to drink lemonade, he comes up from behind and ZAP! ZAP! He turns the lemonade into hot tea! "What? Tea?" At the sound of "zap zap" or the word "magic trick" Leon and Pender stop their surreptitious interactions completely. They both turn their heads and shoulder lines to fully to face Linda. Pender then leans his head on his arms which are crossed on his desk like a pillow. He looks at Linda first with a kind of inquiring attention. Soon afterwards he seems to look at her without seeing her. In the space made by laughter, Jack leaned over to talk to Terry, Terry looked back at him blankly. Linda looks at Jack warningly. Linda is now at the next magic trick in the story. Abayoyo's father goes out of town and meets the townsmen working: There were all the wood cutters, working hard with their axes and ...ZAP! ZAP! All their axes and saws become needles and thread. This creates laughter in the room. Linda is going on with the story. She tells about the trip back to town. The townsfolk are all irritated with the father's tricks. Now it's evening in the story: A man goes to sit down on his easy chair - ZAP! ZAP! no chair! There was much more delighted laughter about this last trick. Linda made some of the motions of the surprise and imbalance of suddenly finding your chair gone. But now, except for bursts of laughter or such wordless responses, the room of listeners is quite still. No shuffling or rummaging. Every student is looking at Linda, or towards her. Kreena has stopped taking off and putting on her brand new, stylish, black sandals with thick cork soles. Off-on, off-on went her sandals earlier, but now her feet are quite still. Daron left his Japanese top in his desk and he rests his head on one hand, elbow on the desk. The other arm is splayed on the desk limply. He steadily looks at Linda. Taza has slowly moved his seat, without looking at his chair or others, bit by bit to see Linda more easily. He is now on his knees on the chair, holding the back of his chair with both hands. He is sort of looking at Linda, perfectly lined up and motionless in a position that looks quite uncomfortable to me. Linda is telling the next part of the story: And the son was different from the villagers too. He had a ukulele. (Linda walks over to the shelf by the window and picks up her Ukulele). He had a song he liked to sing, a song about his name: "Abayoyo, Abayoyo, Abayoyo, Abayoyo..." (Linda sings and strums the ukulele. Natisha is smiling. So are Violet and Tajo and Mila and others.) 126 Another thing he liked to do was he used to like to stand outside the school window and sing, "Nyah, nyah, na-nyah nyah! You have to go to school! Nyah, nyah, na-nyah nyah! You have to go to school!" She does this in the familiar, taunting, sing-song voice heard often on the playground. Children laugh. There is delight about the song. The story goes on. Jack, I notice, is deeply attentive. He gave a delighted snort to hear Linda sing out the taunt, but he seems unaware that he even made any noise. Neither did anyone else. No one looked at him or seemed to notice his funny sound. Leon takes a drink from his water bottle but his eyes never leave Linda. He puts the bottle down gently, carefully. Linda goes on to tell the story. The father and son are banished. They are too disruptive to village life. People are fed up with the play and tricks of the duo. The townsfolk don't want them around anymore and the town sends them away. Sadly they go to the other side of the mountain. But, it's dangerous because of a giant who lives there. One stamp (Linda stamps) the giant makes a lake ... huge. One step and he can cross a valley or climb a mountain. He's huge. And if he steps on the village he'll kill everyone. One day, it's morning time, but there's no light. People get up to find out what's the matter. It's the giant. The giant is blocking the sun, he is getting ready to step over the mountain. Abayoyo and his father know that the village is in danger. They'll all be killed under the giant's foot. Quickly Abayoyo sings his song, "I am Abayoyo, you are Abayoyo, we all are Abayoyo..." (Linda sings and strums the ukelele.) The giant loves the music. He stops in the middle of taking a step. (Linda sings Abayoyo's song again) The giant lies down. (Linda sings the song again.) The giant falls asleep. Linda goes on singing the song. Now most of the class is singing with her, with increasing gusto. Finally Linda puts down the ukulele down. The singing falters and fades. When it's quiet, Linda says, Then the father takes his magic wand and ZAP! ZAP! The giant disappears. The story continues. Linda tells how the village people beg the father and son to come back to the village. She tells how no one gets mad anymore when the father changes lemonade, or "zaps" wood cutting tools or makes chairs disappear. Then she tells about Abayoyo who still doesn't go to school. But, now, when he sings his taunting song outside the classroom, the teacher and everybody goes out to sing with him. She finishes up singing Abayoyo! Abayoyo! Abayoyo! 127 The story finishes. There is a kind of heavy pause at the ending of the story. Then children start moving, Tajo and Azun get out of their desks. Tajo says, "Hey! Hey! Ms. Stender, Hey! Ms. Stender!? That song is about us, you know! Nyah, nyah, na nyah nyah WE have to go to school." Linda nods. By now the class is in a kind of tumult. The back- boys- row: Alt, Azun and Leon and Jack are all now singing " A B A Y O Y O , A B A Y O Y O ! ! ! ! " over and over again. Children join in here and there in the classroom. Nyah nyah is sung around the room. Children are talking, singing, moving about and here and there conversations start up. Linda is trying to get children to "be quiet..." (September 24, 2003). The telling of "Ababyoyo" is just one of the several similar examples that demonstrate children's typical postures during deep imaginative engagement. The tumult and noise at the beginning and end of Linda's storytelling contrasted sharply with its center in which all the children were uncharacteristically motionless and hushed. Many children were quiet and seemed limp. Their eyes were on Linda but their gaze was oddly unfocussed. Taza seemed unaware of his physical (dis)comfort and Jack of the noises he made. This remarkable quality of attention and posture lasted 15 minutes when I discount the first five minutes of children's settling into the story. Some children, like Bekkah, Kate and Alt, listened this way for almost fully 20 minutes. During some stories, like "The Three Golden Hairs" a similar quality of attentive quiet lasted over 20 minutes. This silent-activity and intensity of attention during a storytelling contrasted with children's behaviour and posture during all other events I observed in the classroom. Indeed, there were other activities during which whole-class interest was high and children were quiet. For instance, during a science experiment with bones, listening to their guest First Nations speaker,3 doing class surveys, or while guessing the riddle of the day, children gave observably strong and almost unanimous attention. However, children did not exhibit the same intensity, singularity and postures of participation I observed during "Abayoyo" or the other formal storytelling events. Eye contact wavered and children looked around the room. Participants moved their hands, feet and heads. They were not "limp." Another difference, more difficult to capture, is the object of children's focus. When the visitor or experiment was conducted, children looked at "bones," the speaker, or the "mystery object" with sharp curiosity. In these cases they looked at an 3 This was not a storytelling event. 128 object. During the storytelling children looked at Linda without seeming to focus on her. Their attention was on her, but not there at all. They were pre-occupied interiorly. There were three other circumstances during which children looked and acted the ways they did during a storytelling. The first happened during the math game called "Around the World." 4 The classroom became a stage of fierce competition in which players moved swiftly between triumph and defeat. Children were in dread anticipation, vicarious pleasure or in fervent hope for a friend. The second kind of circumstance was when "someone was in trouble." For example, when a fight erupted and Bekkah was hit by a chair, the silence and attention for Linda's response was complete and comparable to the moments inside a storytelling. However, significantly, in both these circumstances attention was not sustained longer than two or three minutes. The math game rarely kept this attention for a full circle "round the room." Those who finished their turns gradually fell into conversations, pulled out items of interest from their desks or looked about the room distractedly. Those unconcerned with the fight soon shifted their attention. The unity of silent and intense attention was not sustained as it was during a storytelling. The emotional climate in the room was also different during the game or fight, than during storytelling. Competition and conflict created a tension for outcomes that was dissimilar during a storytelling. This aspect is difficult to write about or make substantial; but it was palpable. Although anxiety for "resolution" was high in both cases, during the math contest and "trouble" it stimulated a strong demand for and relief about resolution. In contrast, during storytelling the desire for resolution was overwhelmed by the pleasure of staying or being-there. As Mila described it: Me: So, how do you feel when a story is finished? Like, say you just finished-Mila: [who didn't wait for me to finish the question!] Sad! Sad. Like, i f it's a really good story, you can't wait to get to the end when it's the end, when it's the end you're glad that you finished but you want it to keep going on. ... When it comes to the end you're kind of glad it's over but not really. Because you wanna keep, keep wanting to be [there]. 4 This is a math game in which one child stands behind or beside the desk of another student. Linda asks a question, like, "Five times seven?" The first child to answer the question correctly, moves on to the next student. The interest and attention for this was strong. I was struck during the game by the singularity of focus and intensity or palpable tension in the room felt on behalf of the competitors. For each game there was a scorekeeper. At the end of the game the first, second and third place winners had (old) trophies that they kept on their desks until the next game. In every instance that I watched the game, the trophies moved to different desks at the conclusion of the game. 129 The third similar circumstance was during silent reading time. The children sat absorbed with their books. Some sustained this for nearly the full period of 20-30 minutes. But, other children hardly managed to stay with their books for 5 or 6 minutes. These children would get up and look for another book, they would distractedly turn pages, look out the window, or play with things inside their desks out of the teacher's view. Some called for the attention of another. Some gestured to each other with messages. Others spent their time turning pages as they went from a study of one illustration to another. Thus, even though silent reading time and other events initially seemed similar to the stilled postures during a storytelling, children's storytelling participation contrasted with all other kinds of engagements. This seems a rather self-evident thing to say. Popular conceptions of storytelling are characterized by the special kind of affect and "attention" given by children for the storytelling. Teachers know and appreciate the power of storytelling that transforms a room full of disparate, noisy children into silent, absorbed, unified attention. It is amazing.5 Students like Leon and Tajo sat uncharacteristically still and attentive for the entire duration of the story. There were no other events during class time during which I saw such postures of engagement sustained by these boys. Not only was "attention" strong, children unanimously loved storytelling events. It was "good" and made them feel "glad," "happy," and "excited."6 As I showed in my review of storyteller-teacher's writings, children's positive feelings and the teacher's experience of profoundly unified attention is a common pleasure and rationale for its use. When I interviewed Linda in September, I asked her how she felt during a storytelling and about her experience during telling. She answered, Linda: Mostly I'm just telling it, hoping people will enjoy it. Jo: How much of you is conscious of the listeners and how much of you is in the story? Linda: I'd say, mostly in pictures ... those pictures. ... I'd say, is sort of . . . I might describe it as taking trying to use words as a paintbrush. And so, we l l . . . then there is a response ... then this picture has to be clearer, you know? 5 When storyteller Weiss was asked, he said he "loved it." He said, "I watch these seventh-and eighth-grade adolescents who have such tough personas lie down on the floor ... and become mesmerized by stories" (in Mooney and Holt 1996: 153). 6 In the interview I asked, "how do you feel when you know Ms. Stender is going to tell you a story?" 130 Jo: [I notice that she is pausing often, considering her answer. She seems to struggle to communicate what she actually does or thinks when she tells a story. I am confused and don't know what she means or is trying to say. I ask:] Is it hard to explain? Linda: Yeah... then ... I think, "Is it getting heard? Is it being heard?" Jo: By "heard," you don't just mean the sound of it, do you? You mean...? Linda: No. And you can tell that... well, you can't tell that by people's faces, necessarily. You know, you just KNOW, when you told a story and it's been told well. ... And it's ... it's ... I think the less self conscious you are the better you are. Because it draws attention away from the story. Jo: So, what do you notice about the children when you are telling a story? Linda: I notice their "rapt attention. " [Linda says this with mocking, solemn emphasis. It is the storytellers' inside joke about an overused phrase; but I feel her expression as irritation about a usual description that is inadequate to felt experiences with the listener] (September 2, 2002) Linda struggled to express what she was feeling and doing while she told a story. When she seemed unable to describe her experience of telling a story, I asked her what she noticed about the listeners. Linda said, somewhat sarcastically, "Their rapt attention," alluding to the descriptive word that is a joke among storytellers. Even so, when listeners are described as "rapt" speakers have identified and acknowledged a characteristic posture held during storytelling. It is an attitude differentiated from other sorts of attention.7 Children's postures and sustained stillness alert us to the specific nature of participation in deep imaginative engagement. They were engaged viscerally and intensely beyond the teacher's presence. They participated in a story-world where events tumbled about them and drew them in deeply. Their postures contrasted with the stomping giants, angry villagers and mountain climbing that filled their imagined experiences. They experienced fear, triumph and anger. These emotions traced faintly over some children's faces but its intensity can be heard when they left the experience stomping, laughing and crowing, "Nyah, Nyah!" Children were so powerfully engaged that later they remembered their experience with as much detail, intensity and emotional interest as personally held memories of physically lived events in their lives. Afterwards 7 For a description of educators cultural ideas about "paying attention" in school, see Ellen Langer's The Power of Mindful Learning in which she critiques an idea about what attention looks like and how it is practiced (1997: 35-49). 131 they talked animatedly about a place they clearly hadn't gone to and events that didn't happen. (Examples of this will follow.) Linda also talked about the physicality of that experience. When she attended the Vancouver Storytelling Festival on the weekend of October 30-November 2, 2002, she was so exhausted by her experiences of listening to stories that she needed to stay home the next day and recover. She wrote in her journal: Two days of storytelling! Delicious! But I felt so full and spent that I had to stay home on Monday. And I wasn't a performer! I was a listener who attended only six sessions (storytelling events) over a 48 hour period. It certainly affirmed my consciousness that storytelling listening is an intensely vigorous activity both intellectually and emotionally. Now I can forever let go of the worry that kids are doing nothing when they're listening to stories. And the stories I heard that weekend have been with me since. I've retold some of them to my family and friends have enriched my understandings as I discussed them with [those] who accompanied me to some of the tellings (November 4, 2002). If we think about storytelling as an activity in which children are "raptly" attentive to their teacher and unified in a classroom activity, we have diverted attention from what is happening and the subject of children's attention. Children's characteristic postures signaled that something happened, particular to deep imaginative engagement with a storytelling. Participation entailed a physically embodied and distinguishable posture. That posture signifies intense activity. It is surprising how little attention educators have paid this incontrovertible clue of "difference:" Storytelling participation in deep imaginative engagement in school is enacted in contrast with all other activities. What is happening there? I now go on to explore "what is happening there." During interviews with children, I asked, "What happens inside your head while you listen to a story?" Their answers led me to describe three aspects of that experience. First, children "made pictures" to get in. They described the process of getting "into imagination." Second and thirdly, they explained that the world inside imagination and outside in Linda's classroom had two significant differences between them. Experience was ordered and remembered by different logic or "rules" about details; and time was felt differently. 132 Getting there from here: Imagining pictures and faUing into presence When I asked children about their experiences during a storytelling, they regularly described a kind of two step entry into the story-world. They made pictures and then "got in" the imagined place. When they "made pictures" they made an effort to understand the story and construct their way into it. Then, they slipped into an experience that was nearly involuntary. As this section will show, children explained that, in contrast to their earlier efforts of "making pictures," they lost control over making the place inside deep imaginative engagement. Their earlier sense of effort vanished and children slid, smoothly and suddenly, into a waiting world. That place was experienced as so sensible it could displace the classroom. As Mila described it, when she was in the story, she could hardly see furniture in the room anymore. Me: You know how when you are listening to a story, what happens when you go, like inside your head? Mila: Yeah. Me: What's that called, do you know what we call that? Mila: Imagination. Me: What is that? How would you explain that? Mila: What you think about. Things that you imagine. But i f you didn't know what imagine was then ... I'd kind of not... Me: Huh. [pause] What does your mind do when you are imagining? Mila: It kind of goes into its own little world. Me: What do you see in that world? Mila: Nothing what you're looking at, you just kind of think what you're thinking of and you just kind of don't look at the stuff around you. You can barely see, like I wouldn't be able to see the table [Mila gestures at the table between us] very much. Mila's sense of this was expressed by other students in different ways. Violet: It feels like I'm in my own world instead of this one... because when you are inside your imagination it's like you're inside a different world, like you're on Pluto without anybody with you, or you're on your way, or somewhere else in the world, or on Saturn's rings looking over the world. Violet, like Bekkah earlier, said she felt so far away during a storytelling that she might have been in another "world." The story-world screened out the room so well that it no longer was the primary circumstance. As children described it, they were present and participating in a landscape of objects, characters and events informed by the storyteller. These were so powerfully present that they displaced the room and all of its presence. 133 Linda also talked about this sense of away-ness while listening to a storytelling: "You feel taken away. You know, you feel very detached from aches and pains." That "away-ness" was observable during a storytelling during which children sat in oddly stilled postures. They were elsewhere. When I asked children about being in a "different world" or in imagination, most children talked about "making pictures." Because this was such a persistently regular response to my question I give several examples. Me: Let's say someone was asking you "Taza, what's imagination? I don't know what that is! What does it mean?" Taza: When you, when you read and book .. .and you, and nobody shows you the pictures and then you imagine the pictures that are in their minds.8 Leon: Like when you're reading ... without pictures, you can picture them in your head. Kyla: You picture it in your mind, uhm.... You can picture, have pictures, you can see movement, you know? Bekkah: .. .your mind goes off to something else. You kind of picture a place, a picture in your head. Like someone says, "clouds swirl" and then you just get that picture of clouds swirling in your head, and, or, clouds that look so good you could eat them. Linda, too, described her story-telling experience that way. She said she "used words like a paintbrush." She "painted" what children needed to make their "pictures." She watched them sharply and looked for cues to adjust and clarify words. She made her storytelling image-able. As she said earlier, about her listeners during storytelling, ". . .there is a response ... then this picture has to be clearer, you know?" When I asked her to tell me more about the experience of imagining the story while she told it, she said, Linda: Okay, I'd say I do it a lot with pictures. Me: In your mind? Linda: Visual images. And scenes. Me: So, when you're telling a story do you move from tableau to tableau? Linda: Uh huh. Uh huh. Yes. What do you do? I remind the reader that many of the children were not fluent in English. I have taken care to accurately transcribe children's comments. While I did not indicate pronunciations in my transcriptions I do record all their words. Taza's words are written as he spoke them. They suggest both his effort to explain something very difficult to explain, as well as his work to speak English. I was impressed by his feat of crossing languages to articulate complicated ideas. In fact, when he says "their minds" it is likely that he means "the author's." Such a response was as complex as it was thoughtful. 134 Me: Well yes! Very much so. But I actually, it's sort of like a journey I think. When I tell, I physically, well, in my mind, I move. Linda: You move, you move, you're here, you go there, you're there, you describe and you tell what happens there, and then you leave there and you go somewhere else. The storyteller and listeners both described the first part of their participation as acts of image-making. "Making-pictures" was an important and common part of a storytelling experience. This is a usual description given by those who talk about storytelling. "Pictures" are inseparable from thinking about imagination even though we realize it does include more than image-visualization.9 Imagination facilitates a person's recall or "making up" of sound, taste or touch. It is also part of planning or thinking about a problem. For example, one may imagine the recess bell ringing; drinking from a grape juice box; or the sadness of a child who talks about a home tragedy. One plots how to get the best computer in the lab, or anticipates which parent will pick him up after school. In these images might not have leading roles and aren't experienced as central to the experience of imagining. However, imagined pictures are emphasized and important to thinking about imaginative engagement during storytelling. Children initially emphasized their experience of "pictures." However, picture-making was not what they meant by "being in imagination." The desired deep imaginative engagement, one that erased the classroom, happened after "making pictures." Consequently, as I elaborate in this section, two experiences characterize their experience. Both demand imaginative skill, but are distinguished from one another by children. In every case, the task of making pictures led into the story-world. Once there, inside the circle of deep engagement with a story, children "made" nothing. The story came to life and absorbed the listener. In the following account, Kate distinguished between two kinds of "pictures." She made one picture and the other made itself. When her "picture" came into its own life she was in the story-world. The transcript begins after I asked her what happened in her mind when she listened to a story. She used a story we heard recently to explain it to me: 9 As Egan writes, "It may not be invariably true that imagination involves our image-forming capacity, but image-forming is certainly common in uses of the imagination and may in subtle ways be inevitably involved in all forms of imagining" (1992: 43. Italics his). 135 Kate: Like .. .in the field? I see all these guys and they're all dressed in armour and some are not. And some have these long arrow thing-a-mah-jiggies ... but they're not.. .they're not arrows -[she is gesturing with her hands] Me: Oh. Spears? Kate: Yeah! And a few daggers. Spears and daggers. It's practically all I see. Me: And .. .a bird sometime?10 Kate: Yeah, I usually see a robin.... Me: And what makes you pop out of imagination? Kate: When somebody pulls my hair. It's not usually their fault. Their hand usually gets stuck in my hair 'cause it's so knotty. Or they talk. Or something happens. Me: What happens to your picture of the story then? When you go back? Kate: I don't get the same picture. If I see a boy, like a real live looking boy and then somebody talks or something and then I go into a cartoony kind of boy and then it takes a few seconds to go back into the way he looks. Me: Oh! That's pretty interesting how you explain it... (I pause rather lengthily, but Kate says nothing more.) Kate's description of her experience outlined three steps. First she deliberately returned to listen after being interrupted. Secondly, she re-pictured the boy. She said, "I go into a cartoony boy." A "cartoon" is a deliberately made figure, drawn by hand. It is constructed and static. It maintains a sort of rigidity of form even when it is animated.11 When Kate said, "Igo..." she identified herself as the actor. She deliberately put her attention to the story and used an inner drawing-hand to make what she needed to "get" back into it. She identified herself as the maker of the image. Then, finally, as she said, "[the boy] goes back to the way he looks." He took "a few seconds" to do this, between the time of her returning to listen to his becoming himself. In other words, the boy took on, or regained his life. Kate crossed from her picture of him into his presence. Kate had confidence and no surprise about this sequence of action and its result. She returned to the story after an interruption, made pictures and then went back to where she was earlier: in deep imaginative engagement with storytelling. As other accounts bear out, Kate's going from the cartoon to the boy put Kate exactly where she wanted to be: inside imagination. She distinguished between "imagining" and "being-in" imagination. Perhaps that distinction led to Layla and Shasu's coining of the word they The story, "The Field" is about a bird speared in the midst of a battle of two armies and their kings over a bit of arid ground. 111 am thinking here of animated film, cartoons like Sponge bog Square Pants, or Toy Story characters who change expressions and postures, yet, the form and character remain remarkably unchanged. 136 needed: "imaginate." They needed a verb to describe their deliberate use of imagination in a transitive function: they imaginated pictures before entering imagination. When Pender talked about this process he revealed a sophisticated awareness of what he needed to move from picture-making to being-there. He needed a concise, strongly outlined locale in the story's introduction. When I asked Pender, "What kind of things make it easier for you to imagine?" he answered, Pender: Well, uh [long pause] when the person says it .. .and it's like a real little spot or something like that? Like they're in a room or something like that? Me: Yeah? Pender: Yeah, well in the forest in the middle or something like that. Me: The person telling you is? Or? .. .oh ... explain it to me? I don't really get it. [I am completely confused about his meaning. Does he mean the storyteller or the story? Is he talking about a story I don't know ...] Pender: Yeah. Well, you know... the person telling it; like, i f they say, like in a small place or somewhere around like this ... [he gestures around the room where we are] it's easy for me to imagine it. Not . . . not like flat land with trees all over it and streams going through then it's hard from me to imagine. It's gotto be quite small but not that small. Me: Yeah? Pender: It's better i f it's small. Me: So you need the place to be small enough to see? Pender: Yeah! Pender expressed meta-awareness of what was necessary for him to "see" his way into the story-world. A story set in unlimited space and without particulars were "hard for him to imagine." He wanted the storyteller to give him a sharply defined space, "small enough to see." Then he could make the pictures he needed to get into the story. Pender's and other accounts might tempt us to think that "the setting" facilitates entry into the story-world. So before elaborating and recounting children's talk about this, I caution readers that neither the children's accounts or my studies of them, answer the question about what exactly makes the story-world come to life. During the storytelling of Abayoyo, it took about five minutes for children to settle into it. In nearly every storytelling, most children took several minutes beyond the story's introduction before they began assuming postures that suggested full engagement. They did not take up stilled postures at the same time. I suspect "going-in" was facilitated by a variety of 137 aspects that interested the child. These might include the relationship of father and son, the element of magic, the lurking giant, the boy who didn't go to school and so on. Or, as Daron says later, it was simply finding out that they "liked" the story enough to enter. So, although the key into the story-world included "the setting," it was not necessarily the setting itself. Pender's considered his ability to construct the setting his way into the story-world. He needed the teller to give him this. Other children also imagined the setting first: a landscape, relationships of objects, people, and movements in the story's world. They began by making the place of the story sense-able and plausible. Thus, making pictures of the story's place facilitated Pender's and other children's ability to enter; or, it created readiness of the place and listener. Tajo explains how he made the "picture" piece by piece until it was ready for him to get into it. He said his work of making his way into the story was like making a puzzle: Me: So, when you are going to go and listen to a story, and you sit down, what kind of things make it easier .. .for you to imagine? ... So, like, in "The Field" ... what kind of things make it easier to get into the story? Tajo: It's like, when she says the word, like when she goes, "Once upon a time there was a field." I imagine a field. And then she goes, "It was with rocky and dirt." So I imagine that on it. And then she says "They wanting to fight." So I put people on it who want to fight. And then when the guy wanted to save the bird I didn't want to imagine the field, I wanted to imagine the field behind the person and the bird in front of the person and then he picks it up, yah (sighs) and then he carries it home. Me: Oh! I love the way you told that. It's very clear. It's like what happens, she says it and makes the picture, the picture starts getting bigger and you start moving around. Tajo: Like a puzzle. Tajo's use of the simile, "like a puzzle," was extraordinary. English was a second language for him. It frequently presented a barrier to his easy expression. But, he was firm and clear about his activity and experience of listening to a story and "getting into" it. His description and later metaphor showed that he put together its pieces: "field," "rocks and dirt," "tree," and "people who want to fight." These made the picture or place. Then he stopped recounting the sequence of events and images of the story. He was finished with that part of it. Abruptly, he leapt across the rest of the story's events to fall upon the soldier carrying home the baby birds in his helmet. He omitted the 138 confrontation of armies, their battle, the flight and death of the mother bird, the accident in which the nest fell from the tree, the confrontation between the captain and soldier, and finally the soldier's defiant removal of his helmet. Tajo took up his explanation again with the conclusion in which the soldier rescued the baby birds and defied his captain. Thus, when he finished telling me how he "got into the story" he went on to remember the experience from within the story's world. One might argue that Tajo leapt across events because he knew that I heard the story with him. But I am doubtful of this explanation for two reasons. First, he left the sequence after he introduced the setting and dilemma. He left his step-by-step explanation immediately on the commencement of battle, after the setting was established. This was consistent with other children's accounts. Secondly, his manner of speaking and being during the interview demanded an explanation. Tajo's presence of expression, tone and manner altered. In the beginning he explained, using his hands and looking at me as though he were teaching me. Then, he changed his demeanor and tone. He was reminiscing. His deep sigh, and expressive eyes suggested he had successfully recreated the event he experienced. His face, words and voice betrayed the pang of pity he felt with the soldier who picked up the nest. He had shifted to speak from within the personal memory of being the soldier holding a clutch of baby birds. In the following account, Layla also described herself going from making pictures to experiencing the story. As she struggled to explain, Layla used the large table between us to illustrate her points. She gestured vigorously and used both hands. She expected me to use our shared experience of "Sody Salaradus" to fill in her gaps.12 Notice too, that her explanation of how she got "into imagination" rejected or ignored my suggestion that Linda had anything to do with it. She did it. Me: What kind of things make it easy for you to get into imagination? What does Ms. Stender do that helps you to listen? Layla: Like once she gets .. .like, almost, .. .like say this! [She makes a sweeping motion over the table, pointing at the far ends of the table and indicates the space between]. A story, that is ... is as ... as big as this table. [She waves across the table space and then points at one end and says] Then, that's the beginning. 1 2 "Sody Salaradus" was told by Linda on November 12, 2002. 139 [She gestures at the other far end] and this is the end of the story. So, just about right here, up to the middle... [She points with one hand to middle of the table. With the other she reaches short of the middle coming up from the beginning edge of the story...] this is the middle right here! Me: Right, so before the middle? Layla: So before the middle I ' l l start getting the picture. Me: Ahh? Can you give me an example of that? Layla Like, say the house was over here [She reaches to touch and then cup her hand on the "beginning" side on the table.] and she was talking, and trying to, and she walked along, and she went to the store and then she went back [Her hand is slowly moving to meet her other hand that is "waiting" at the middle of the table. Her hands join when she says:] and then she met the bear and that's where I started to get the picture. Me: Oh. It does take that kind of little while to get that picture! Layla: It's like watching a video. At first you don't get it? And during on you get it. Layla's work of setting up the physical parameters and relationships in the story-world's landscape facilitated her way "into imagination." She used the table surface to explain how she got into her story-world. The table represented the whole experience of the story. She swept her hand over it to indicate its spaciousness and pointed at the ends of the table as its beginning and end. Although it might not have been carefully considered, it was no accident that she used the entire table surface and not its edges. Her story-world was roomy, not linear in the ways stories are too often described. The sequences of characters, settings and events were more like tableaus of objects set up one after another to fill the table. With each the world was thickened into being. In this way, her description is like Tajo's "puzzle." Her use of a table surface suggests her need is similar to Pender's. A table is a bounded space, ".. .quite small but not that small." Again I emphasize that the experience is described less linearly than as a complexity being filled. When it was thick enough to hold her, Layla went in. "Getting the pictures" was a destination towards which children worked with determination. Daron also differentiated between two experiences with imagination. He shows that he made an effort to make the place sensible enough to "get into." 140 Me: What's happening, inside your head, when you are listening to a story? Daron: I'm making pictures, yeah, like pictures in my mind. Me: Do you know what you might call that? A word for that "pictures in your mind?" Daron: Concentration more ... [pausing] or, imagination! Me: Yeah! Big words, Huh? Imagination. What is that, do you think? What is your brain doing? Daron: I don't really know, like, it's hearing. Your nerves, they listen and they like, tell your brain how to do that, stuff like that. So it's how you listen and like signals go to your brain from you listening. Me: And the what does your brain do for you? Daron: Sends a picture. But, like, at first when she just starts you can't really get a picture. Once you get into it, like in the middle and stuff, they you start getting pictures. Me: Can you give me an example? Daron: Like Sody Salaradus, i f you were telling that story you would probably get a picture of that right away because it's a short story. Me: How about a story like "The Field" then? Daron: At first I didn't get, really like the pictures but then when I got to t