Milena Builds a Story with Her Mom

Delivery Method: 

Children, when in the comfortable presence of a loving adult, will allow themselves to go with the flow of spontaneous ideas while telling a story and even explain their story when asked. In this particular episode, Milena's mom asks Milena to clarify story elements Milena has offered. Milena, who just turned four years old, knows the game and can switch back and forth between describing the events of the story and explaining her choices to her mom. Some of her remarks tell the story of swimming underwater and riding a dolphin. Some of her comments explain the motive or meaning of what she has already said. The combination of her creative imagery and her meta-linguistic comments makes this experience a learning encounter, an encounter that fosters Milena's language development. She imagines, "I put on my sunglasses (probably means goggles), and they are going to stay on me, and they are gonna go under here (gestures around back of her head), and I am going under the water and swim in the deepest water." She explains, "Far away means nobody is there."

Via her mother's questions she learns to think about the story as a structure with a beginning and ending; a story that is finished or not finished. She learns to think of genre: scary story, happy story, or short story. She knows that stories have openings, but the opening itself is not the story ("No, you're supposed to tell it (the story)," she tells her mom who stopped after saying, "Once upon a time."). She learns how to extend the complexity of a story by adding a second character (Mom asks, "And Buyla (grandmother) will jump in the water too?). She is asked to consider how one event precipitates the next event (Mom asks, "So how can she get a ride then?"). She learns how to find dramatic tension by focusing on elements of danger (Mom asks, “And then you’re going to swim... how far?).

Watch the video and listen for the comments from Milena's mom. Notice how she adds voice quality when repeating Milena's scary story, adding expressivity to the story telling. Consider how she helps Milena think about the concept of story. She co-constructs the story with Milena by offering specific suggestions, not simply saying to Milena, "Tell me more.". Here is a sample of her questions during this story telling encounter.

00:12 And what should we do (next)? 00:46 And Buyla (grandmother) will jump in the water too? 01:09 And Buyla with be right there with you, right, swimming? 01:15 What if you meet a dolphin? What would you do? 01:32 If you go on the dolphin, what would Buyla go on, a whale? 01:44 So how can she get a ride then (if the whale swallows Buyla)? 01:56 And then you’re going to swim.... how far? 02:06 Do you know what's far away? 02:27 And what do you do if someone is not there? 02:36 And will that be the end of the story or only the beginning of the story? 03:54 Oh, that’s a very happy story. 03:59 What's so scary about that story? 04:35 And he was afraid of the ghost and what's next?