OUTPUT 1 - THE HANDOBOOK
REALISATION OF A HANDBOOK ABOUT IMPLEMENTATION OF A NARRATIVE TEACHING APPROACH IN EARLY EDUCATION.
Main content is on the methodological tool to organise the preschool learning setting and the related daily activities based on the narrative approach, with the final objective of engaging children and teachers in the development of a fruitful learning and teaching process and in a true dialogue.
I participated in the NARRATE project as part of the visit to ELMER in the city of Brussels. I am very happy to have participated, and to have had this experience as I believe it is an excellent opportunity for the schools involved to enrich themselves culturally and educationally. Sharing experiences between the different participating European countries in the NARRATE project is an opportunity for both individual (teacher and students) and collective (schools, municipality, and educational context) to growth as an educational community. Furthermore, this experience has served me a lot for my research work in university, I have seen new realities and different educational environments that have enriched me.
I am 48 years old, married with two children. I am associate professor in developmental and educational psychology at the Department of Psychology and, from the beginning of my professional life, I have been interested in how the psychological science can improve and foster the educational contexts. I consider the opportunity to take part in this project a privilege and a great chance to learn something new and get to know new realities. I look forward to collaborating with all of you and meeting you (in person, if possible!).
Narrate is a special way of working for me. Now we no longer just start with a theme or activity. We now look at the needs and interests of the children. From there we leave and observe what they do. We try to build on their actions. We get to know the children more and talk more with the parents about their child and their interests, also at home. Through these conversations, we learn what keeps children busy at home and incorporate this into our play at daycare. I notice that I am much more “open minded” in function of how an activity should be.
In the beginning it was confusing for me and I had to find how I could keep the children interested in certain materials/activities. Step by step I kept trying and found that it is actually really interesting. It was not easy not to steer and to observe closely, but it is so much more exciting for the children now. It's a way to work much more broadly with the children – I let the children choose how they deal with things (use their own imagination). I offer something and observe what they will do with it. I build on that choice. The more I direct it a certain way, the faster the activity stops and the less their imagination is used. I also notice that it differs from day to day what children come up with – I give the same toys twice, but they do something completely different with them. I am sometimes amazed at the rich imagination the children have, they do things with it that I would never think of.
The activities I now do with the children are different than before. I am more concerned with the goal (following the interests of the children). Now when I choose a theme for an activity (or rather a “trigger” to start the day) I try to do it based on the interests of the children. From there I will follow what the child is doing. I now turn daily tasks and worries into mini-activities. This gives the children the opportunity to observe and discover all day long. Their interests are addressed much more quickly. There is no longer a focus on 1 large and well-prepared/elaborated activity that arises out of nowhere and therefore does not fascinate the children
Narrate has made us more engrossed in books – we have seen in the library how young children are also involved and we are doing it now. The activities they do there are also more focused on deepening. We do this now too. Now I dwell longer on a small moment – delve more deeply and go into the world of the children. I will then discuss this with the parents and receive feedback from them.
I think I'm more focused on what kids are doing; I look for their interests. I observe more and give time – I no longer intervene so quickly or start a conversation with the child. First look carefully and wait, then join in. What I still have to learn: take more time to write down – document. That is certainly still a working point and I would like to elaborate on this more.
I personally think the children are more open-minded. Because they get the chance to make their own decisions or take action themselves. They are captivated longer and have more fun. When I prepared everything myself and in detail, I also had expectations for them – now I have no expectations and I can let them decide more and see where it goes. So I don't keep steering in any particular direction. I've learned a lot to let go and put more opportunities in the children's hands – to have less control – to let things run the way they do. Let children discover more at their own pace.
I am very happy with our participation in this project. Because it is a search together, the educators are highly motivated to participate and they are also open to new methods. They test and pass on their own experiences again and again by trial and error. The great thing is that they themselves become very enthusiastic about this way of working and come to great insights. They take more time to observe and get to know the children, they respond more to what children offer. They dare to let go more and let the day come without falling into “annoying” entrenched rituals. Throughout the day they notice what keeps children busy and they pick it up much faster now, with often very small and simple actions. Nice to see that not only the children are happier and more enthusiastic, but also the educators.
Tallinn Meelespea Kindergarten participates as a partner organization in the Erasmus+ strategic cooperation project "Building a Narrative approach fostering collaboration between preschools and libraries". We are honored to work with international partners who are: Sweden - Bergsvikens förskoleområde, Piteå Municipality; Italy - Early Childhood Educational Services, Imola Municipality ja Belgium, Brüssel - Elmer schools in Schaarbeek. The aim of this project is to improve the quality of pre-primary education by paying more attention to the narrative approach. We consider the use of a narrative approach in preschool to be a very important method of teaching children vital communication skills, consistency and perseverance.
Tallinn Meelespea Kindergarten teachers are glad to take part of Erasmus + project „Building a narrative approach“ because it is important subject to talk about in the early childhood education setting. Storytelling and making up stories by using your imagination and knowledge is only a little piece of this big narrative approach puzzle that we are about to put together. We feel that narrative approach is very important tool which is integrated into every learning and teaching area in early childhood education and teachers have a wonderful opportunity to learn all about it through various activities. Our kindergarten has had a good previous cooperation experience with local libraries that are walking distance away from our kindergarten. Every year all of our groups with children aged 4-7 are visiting at least once a year our local libraries and doing different theme activities there. We are excited to do and learn more about this narrative approach because it is an incredibly good opportunity to expand our knowledge.
A narrative approach helps to get to know ourselves, each other and about the world, also to be able to communicate with each other. The narrative structure, helps to guide and organize our way of thinking. As part of sustainable learning, we have chosen to focus on a narrative approach in the coming years through this project. Narrative builds bridges and tears down barriers between different generations, cultures and languages, and creates a competence for lifelong learning to be able to function in different social contexts. A narrative approach is based on children's participation and influence, which also makes children co - creators in sustainable learning. We are building a learning practice based on the children. It feels meaningful, stimulating and fun for both children and teachers. In this project we can develop our skills further more.
The project allows us to get to know different cultures and various ways of understanding and applying educational practices, finding aspects that unite us and I think that this is really important in our job, that give us the privilege to support and accompany world’s future citizen in their learning path. I think that is necessary that children can feel listen, understand and support in their ideas, to build strong relationships of trust that can make us able to help them to develop their thoughts and concepts. So this project can be a way to improve the quality of our work from many points of view.
This path is giving me new ears and eyes to better listen and look the little but big narrations that children do every single day. Keeping memory of their stories means keeping trace of them, of their experiences and thoughts; I hope to be able to get more listen skills so I can become a co-builder of many narration with children. (CATERINA)
The topic of the project is really important: lately I’ve been passionate towards the importance of listening children, by studying various documents and this project is an opportunity to deepen this aspect of the narrative approach. Moreover, to participate to activities with various and different country let us to better understand that exists aspects of education that are transversal to all and others that are determined by our own culture.
To be part of this partnership and to deal with together of this topic is really exciting for me. I'm sure that this project lets us establish a new deal in early education, more respectful of the children's rights and much more pleasant for the teachers. Eventually, this project can contribute to making early education, art, and social life even closer to each other, identifying preschools as a place where even the children can generate Culture (with a capital "C").
Being part of this project means being part of an International network that lead us to expand our mental boundaries and have a look on the world or, at least, on a part of it. Choose to adopt the narrative approach allows to create a context that let children to be builders of their life and learning path, without having to follow a path traced by other people. As teachers this approach give us the ability to lower the performance anxiety and help to have a more authentic way to live the relationship with children and not less important to have more fun. Because we mustn’t forget the beautiful part of our job: children that smile and make us smile!
- Exchange practices, methodologies, experiences, values is an efficient way to build an inclusive and connected Europe in a "bottom -up perspective" above all when talking about early child education.