by Heike Miethig
Rachel, my observation child, is now 4;8 years old.
Building on Rachel’s linguistic and creative skills (talents), I would like to promote her self-confidence so that she can contribute her knowledge and ideas more easily to the group as a whole.
I would like to support Rachel in the linguistic and creative area, because I believe that this is where her particular strengths lie. I would like to challenge her eloquence and narrative pleasure by developing a short story with her and writing it down according to her wording. Rachel should experience that her ideas and ideas find recognition.
This little short story is then painted by Rachel, i.e. written in pictures, in order to present it to a small group. Here I would like Rachel to feel proud that her story is presented.
I want her to have more confidence in her abilities. In order to further develop their creative abilities, I would like to create costumes with Rachel and a small group and select costumes from our pool to dress up the characters of their story according to their ideas. Some props are also to be created in this small group.
In the small group it should then also have the opportunity to express the ideas of its history and to communicate them linguistically to others.
The performance of the story in the whole group should then serve to give Rachel – with the helpful small group behind her – security and to encourage her to contribute her thoughts, knowledge and ideas to the whole group.
… in a nutshell …
4-year-old Rachel is clever, imaginative and eloquent, but doesn’t dare to express her opinion and her own ideas in the group as a whole.
In a dialogue, the author allows her to develop her own story, which then becomes the content of a small group project. Strengthened by her experiences in this small group, Rachel can then confidently present her story to the whole group.
Phases of the project
Rachel’s making up the short story.
Rachel paints pictures of her story and introduces everything to a small group.
Costumes and props are thought about, they are produced, the role play is rehearsed.
Rachel and the small group play the history of the whole group.
Implementation phase 1:
Rachel’s making up this short story.
At the beginning I asked Rachel if she would like to make up a story with me, which we later perform as a play for the other children.
Rachel was immediately thrilled, laughed and said:
„I’m a great storyteller! When do we start? Mama always reads me stories, but not her own. They’re always from books.“
I was delighted to see her so enthusiastic, because all I really wanted to clarify with my question was her fundamental willingness. I changed my daily planning, asked her for a little patience, because I wanted to make the rooms in which I wanted to develop the story with her even more comfortable and stimulating.
I placed candles, laid out the room with blankets and pillows so that we could make ourselves comfortable. To finish it, I had to walk around the kindergarten several times, and every time Rachel saw me, she’d yell, „Can we start the project?“ (I must have used the word „project“ in my explanations at some point. She was impressed by this word, which I am sure she had never heard before.
When I was done, I went to her and asked her to come with me. Rachel rejoiced and said: „Now we’re doing the project!“
We went into the prepared room. Rachel became a little shy when he saw the candles and pillows, but said: „That looks nice.“
To get her out of her shyness, I threw myself into the cushions and said: „Let’s make ourselves comfortable!“ Thereupon she took off and threw herself into the pillows with screams. We snuggled up a bit and I felt the need to explain the word „project“ to her first. I simply explained that the word project means that something happens according to a plan, that something special is planned.
Rachel listened very carefully and said:
„Then we start the plan now and when the play comes, the plan is over, so the project!“
I thought it was unbelievable how easily she handled this term.
I asked her if she had ever tried to make up a story. Rachel replied: „When I play with Playmobil, I make up stories and then put everything where I want it.“
„Do you have an idea for a story yet?“ „Yes,“ she said and started very carefully:
„There’s a princess floating in a castle.“ Then she hesitated. I asked them if the princess and the castle might have a name.
„Yes, of course,“ she said, „The princess is a child princess and her name is Shuga! And the castle is called Bäger.“
I think the two names were really fictitious and spontaneously mentioned.
Her initial hesitation eased as I kept asking back, praising her ideas and giving small suggestions.
She then told very frankly what she had thought up. Her stories came together and I noticed the story taking shape in her head as she told it. I just let her tell it.
When she told me where the shelves were in the office of the castle, I had not understood her correctly and asked: „Where are the shelves now, in front of the desk or behind it?“
Rachel said: „Of course they are behind the desk and behind the shelf the children are sleeping. The children can always choose a bed to sleep in. „Behind it’s the bathroom, then a door, the adults are sleeping.“
I found it very astonishing how clearly she imagined the premises.
Then she just kept telling the story as if I had never interrupted her. Now it became important to her that the children start playing, and she thought up various games that should be played, for example „shoe salad“, „butterfly, you little thing“, „king of keys“.
Then she said: „When the children have finished playing, they go to bed and the story is over!“
She answered in the affirmative and jumped out of the room.
I believe I have succeeded in challenging Rachel’s linguistic abilities. She has formulated her sentences very clearly and carefully. Their speech flow, rhythm and melody were well developed. She found it easy to form main clauses and subordinate clauses. She visibly enjoyed translating her ideas and conceptions into language. I was particularly pleased that her initial shyness quickly subsided through praise and recognition and found her a safe and joyful narrative style. When I had the impression that more and more pictures were created in her head by the fluid narration, I deliberately withdrew myself in order not to interrupt her.
I think Rachel’s pronounced narrative pleasure should be given much more room in the future by giving her more narrative time and more narrative offers, for the benefit of her audience.
I am also curious to see how far she can get involved with the small group in the next step and communicate her contributions to its history.
In her short history it became clear again that she has a great interest in the location of rooms and structures. I will also pay more attention to this in the future.
Implementation phase 2:
Rachel paints pictures of her story and introduces everything to a small group.
In this part of the project, I want Rachel to transform the images created by free narration into creative painting so that her ideas become visible once again to herself and to the other children.
I would like to encourage them to formulate their own ideas linguistically in small groups (and not to repeat the answers of the other children, as they have almost always done so far) and to bring in their linguistic skills.
I want her to develop her language skills and gain more confidence in her abilities. With the help of the small group she is already familiar with, she will succeed in reducing her great inhibition of expressing herself within the group as a whole.
Immediately after we finished the story, I asked her if she would like to paint the first picture. She spontaneously agreed and said: „I paint Bäger Castle!“ She sat down at the painting table and painted with great concentration. She told the other children at the painting table why she is now painting the castle. She said, „It’s my own castle and it’s pink!“ I found her very self-confident at that moment.
In the next few days we selected together which parts of the story she wanted to illustrate. In addition to Bäger Castle, she decided to paint Princess Shuga, the King and Queen, friends, friends, the parents‘ office and the children’s sleeping places. Thus she began to independently complete further motifs from the story.
She’d come to me every time before and say, „I’m going ahead with our project!“ When I asked her what she wanted to paint, she could immediately name the motif. So she said: „Today I paint my friends or the king and the queen!“ Then she went to work very purposefully.
It took her an unusual amount of time to finish the picture of the princess’s friends. I got the impression that it might have been too much for her and asked her if she would like to ask a child to help her with the design of the pictures. She shook her head vigorously and said: „I want to do this alone!“ And that’s exactly what she did in the next few days until all the pictures were ready.
When we realized together that we had all pictures together, she proudly said: „Now I’m done!“ Exactly these words she had also mentioned during the completion of the story. I asked her if she would like to choose a nice ribbon to tie the individual pictures together to a book.
She nodded happily and we went to our cupboard with all the ribbons.
It took her exactly 7 minutes to decide on a ribbon. I made her various suggestions, but she just shook her head and said every time: „I don’t want that!“ I let her choose on her own and she chose and chose. When she made up her mind, she came to me with the tape and said: „Let the book look like this!“
She connected the individual pictures very carefully with the ribbon and made the ribbon herself. Then she looked at her work for a while and laughed at me. She seemed very proud and happy of me at that moment.
I asked her which children she would like to present her book to and with which children she would later also like to perform it as a small play in the whole group. She named the children: Annett 4;9, Lale 4;5, Hanna, 5;6, Nele 4;11, Patrick 4;9, Mia 5;8.
I asked her if she wanted to tell the story herself. She shook her head hard. I suggested that she read the story and show her the pictures. She accepted this offer.
The next day Rachel and I asked the children mentioned if they would like to participate in this action. Here I left it to Rachel to explain it in more detail.
She said: „I made up a story and drew pictures, which I will show you and then play theatre.“
The children listened to Rachel in great concentration. I explained to them that I would read the story and Rachel would show the pictures. I made eye contact with Rachel to make sure that she would stick to her decision to show the pictures. At my questioning look, she nodded her head.
I started to read the story and Rachel was very concentrated in showing the right pictures at the right moment. The children reacted positively to their first picture; so Hanna (5;6) said: „But this is a beautiful castle!
I could see from Rachel’s radiant face how well the children’s confirmation did her.
She showed the other pictures proudly and self-confidently. Asked by Nele (Nele asked Rachel directly if the friends live and eat in the castle, Rachel replied: „Yes, they eat and live in the castle with the princess“. The answer came immediately, without hesitation and very definitely.
Here are two more pictures from the series:
When the story was over, I asked the children how they liked the little story and the children answered: Yes, that was beautiful!
Rachel was a bit embarrassed, but was visibly pleased. When I asked them if they could imagine making a little play out of this story, they were all very happy and interested – and Rachel screamed especially loudly.
The children found out that we need costumes and crowns for the king and queen. Rachel suggested that the princess’s friends should still play „Sleeping Beauty. The other children were enthusiastic about the proposal and so the Sleeping Beauty game was included.
I explained to the children that the next day we could start making the costumes or searching from our stock.
I think I’ve managed to give Rachel more confidence in her abilities. The positive reinforcement of her ideas and plans has, I think, given her more security. It was also a very important experience for Rachel to feel at the centre of the action with her own contents and to feel this as positive and pleasant. The positive reaction of the children made Rachel visibly happy and braver.
I also liked the fact that she only painted the pictures she thought she needed and that she always got her way with further proposals from my side.
It was important to me that she tried to represent her contents and ideas to the outside world by naming her project in front of others without – as so often in such moments – withdrawing or refusing. So far, she has succeeded in keeping her enthusiasm and self-confidence high (with the exception of small uncertainties).
Implementation phase 3:
Costumes and props are thought about, they are produced, the role play is rehearsed.
I want Rachel to be encouraged in her creativity by expressing her ideas for the design of the costumes and props and by selecting and producing the materials, costumes and props with me and the other children.
Rachel and I gathered the children of the small group to explore our costume collection in the basement. Here it became clear that Rachel had very clear ideas about what the figures should look like. When I suggested a dress for the queen, she said: „No, I don’t like it, the queen should wear a flowered skirt and a pink blouse.“ So we looked for a floral skirt together, but we didn’t find a blouse that was pink, which obviously upset Rachel. She started complaining: „This is stupid, I don’t want it that way!“ She shook her head in anger at my other offers regarding the queen’s outerwear.
Then I remembered that I had a pink blouse in my closet at home. I suggested this solution and asked her if it would be okay with her. She nodded her head and her mood suddenly improved. She laughed again and helped to find the other costumes. The other children had found a red velvet cape for the king and different clothes for their friends.
As a princess (it was clear to her that she was the princess) Rachel was looking for a yellow tulle skirt and the matching top. We went back to the group room, put the costumes on the tables and the children started to distribute the roles on their own. Patrick was the only boy to become king, Hanna the queen and Annett, Lale, Nele and Mia the friends.
Then we decided together which props we still needed. Rachel said: „We need three crowns“. She immediately agreed to make the crowns. Nele suggested making red capes for the friends.
In the cellar we had found an old scenery with a landscape with two houses. Looking at the background, Rachel stated: „We are turning the yellow house into a castle. We cut out a lock and stick it over the house.“ We collected the different materials together: Gold foil for the crowns, red crepe paper and ribbon for the cap, pink paper for a pink lock. When we had everything together, I explained briefly how the cloaks could be made and that we would have to paint the outlines of the castle on the paper.
Rachel said she knew how to make a crown. The children started working. After a short time Rachel asked me for help, because she had problems to paint the teeth of the crown. I showed it to her, and she finished the task on her own.
While the children were working, they talked about the fairy tales they knew and told each other about the content. Rachel also entertained her desk with her knowledge, while she was able to reproduce the contents of the fairy tales very precisely. There was a concentrated, intense, themed and cheerful atmosphere among the children.
But then everything changed!
The group door opened and Hanna’s mother came in. Hanna had probably told about the upcoming play at home and her mother was so enthusiastic about it that she picked out all her carnival costumes. She stood there with an arm full of pink princess dresses, fairy robes, girl dreams made of tulle and lace and a frog with huge eyes of faith.
She beamed and asked if we could use the clothes for the play. Before I could say anything, the children came running to her with loud screams and tore her clothes almost out of her hands. Rachel was just as enraptured by the sight of the dresses and chose a pink dress with smocked top and white lace in the skirt. The children started to put on the clothes, helped each other to close the costumes and then started to play the story. They gave each other tips as to who should stand or go.
Hanna’s mother stood next to me and was happy. I, on the other hand, didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But the children’s enthusiasm was so great that in my opinion an interruption would have been criminal. Rachel was roaring through the room in her pink lace dress on a bobby car, screaming again and again:
„I am Princess Shuga!“
I’ve rarely seen Rachel solved like that.
The other children danced around her, and the king and queen sat worthily in front of the not yet existing castle. I let the children have their way. After the spontaneous zeal had subsided, the children asked Hanna’s mother if they could continue to use the clothes for the game. Hanna’s mother answered in the affirmative and I fired a mother who felt that she had done a good job.
When the mother left, I asked the children if they really wanted to use these clothes for the game and not those they had chosen themselves. Rachel was the first to say, „I want to wear this dress, it’s much nicer!“ The other children joined and I gave in. The clothes were unbeatable. Then I told the children that although they now had beautiful costumes, even the princess’s friends now had such beautiful dresses – we no longer needed the capes – the castle was not yet finished.
„We need the castle for the story“, Rachel said. Together we decided to finish the castle the next day in free play. Because now we didn’t have time because the children were picked up.
I think I’ve only achieved my goal of encouraging Rachel’s creativity to some extent because of the situation. Although she completed the crowns and later worked on the completion of the castle, the costumes she had chosen, which were actually intended to express her ideas, did not come into their own.
Maybe the clothes that Hanna’s mother brought with her, but also simply met her taste more and she could do a lot with her friends, who looked like fairies and dancers. Anyway, her joyful detachment pointed to it.
On the one hand, I found it a pity that the beautiful „working atmosphere“ was interrupted by the arrival of Hanna’s mother, on the other hand I found the children’s enthusiasm and the spontaneous implementation of the story very impressive. It was also nice to see how independently they helped each other. I was also pleased how naturally Rachel took on her role.
As far as linguistic support is concerned: Rachel’s narrative pleasure found room
and she used it extensively to convey her fairy-tale knowledge. I have the impression that she is becoming more courageous in sharing her knowledge with the children, although she seems to pay less attention to how the children react. I think that’s a small success.
Before the next activity (performance in the whole group) I would like to ask Rachel if she would like to label her painted pictures.
Implementation phase 3 a:
The pictures are labeled
When Rachel came to kindergarten the next morning, I asked her if she wanted to write something about her pictures as she knows it from a picture book. She was happy and said: „Yes, but I want to do it in your office and you have to prescribe it.“ I promised her my help and we went to the office. Or rather, she happily jumped after me. We looked at the pictures and Rachel told me what she wanted to write about them.
I wrote her the individual sentences. Then she started to rewrite the letters, and when she had finished the first letters, she really said to me radiantly: „I’m writing a book!“
I said: „Yes, you are writing a book.“
Then she called out to every child in the hall:
„Come here, look, I’m writing a book! I’m writing a book!“
It was extremely easy for her to rewrite the letters, and her joy was immense. I will promote their pronounced relationship to letters even more specifically in the near future.
And this is the story Rachel dictated in the office:
„A princess floats into the castle. The castle is called Bäger and is pink. There is a treasure chest in the castle. The princess is called Schuga and has a pink dress on with flowers and stripes at the hem and the dress sparkles. Her hair is red. It’s a child princess and she’s playing.
She plays bobby car driving, that’s what she likes best. Her friends also live in the castle. You’re wearing red sweaters and yellow pants and pink shoes. But driving Bobbycar always makes the princess alone. When she wants to play with her friends, she calls everyone. Everybody’s nice to her and they don’t quarrel. The princess’s parents also live in the castle and they like it when the princess laughs and has fun.
The princess has so many toys in her room that she has no room left. When you go down the stairs, there’s Mom and Dad’s office. Books, shelves and children are sleeping behind the shelves. There’s also a play corner in the office. The children can always choose a bed to sleep in. Behind it is the bathroom, then comes a door, there sleeps the adults. Now the children and the princess are playing „shoe salad“ and the story is over.“
Implementation phase 4:
Rachel and the small group play the history of the whole group
With the performance in the whole group I would like to achieve that Rachel loses her shyness to speak in front of the whole group. That’s why she should announce her story to the children herself before the performance. The small group she has been working with all this time should give her security. I want her to feel that the other children like her ideas and ideas and that it can be a pleasant feeling to be in the centre of attention thematically. I want to strengthen her self-confidence by proudly experiencing that it is her story that is now being shown as a small play.
On the day of the performance Rachel came very excitedly to the kindergarten. She greeted me with the words: „Today is my performance.“ I enjoyed that she could really see the little play as hers. We fixed the finished castle on the scenery, then the children played until it was time to change for the play.
When the time came, I asked Rachel to call all the children involved. An excited swarm of children (especially Rachel) arrived at the office. I asked Rachel to tell the children before the performance that it was her story she made up.
Here I wasn’t sure if I wouldn’t take a vehement no, but Rachel nodded and said, „I’ll tell them that.“
The colleagues had prepared a suitable music for our move in, and we entered the stage closed. Rachel sat on her bobby car and raced into the room like a wild horse, lifted the bobby car several times and then slammed it loudly onto the floor. The children stood next to each other and waited until the music was over. Then I gave Rachel a sign that she could start.
And she actually did. She said: „I made up a story and now we want to show it to you.“
The children applauded and the game began. Rachel seemed very self-confident and her requests to the other players to play the different games arrived clearly and safely.
The children played the story and Rachel led one or the other player into the necessary position. Rachel also took the lead in the jointly decided Sleeping Beauty game, which was also installed, and divided the players. At the end of the performance all the players bowed and the audience clapped. Rachel laughed all over his face and was visibly proud.
I believe that the project as a whole has succeeded in promoting Rachel in the linguistic and creative field and at the same time strengthening her confidence in her abilities. In this project she had the opportunity to contribute her linguistic and creative strength. She could apply her joy of speech and narration at many points of the project. The invention of the story challenged their imagination and expanded their understanding of speech. With each phase of the project she became safer and more self-confident.
Her more and more relaxed behaviour in the small group was then also reflected in the whole group, when she came on stage very massively with the bobby car like a wild horse and presented herself as strong and self-confident.
I sometimes wondered if I had chosen the right project to support Rachel. For example, if I had taken a series of games to build on, the result would have been much clearer and more namable. But I come to the conclusion that this project as a whole was well suited to further strengthen Rachel’s personality, so that she becomes more courageous, trusts her knowledge and may also represent her knowledge and skills to the outside world.
I also believe that the feeling of being at the centre of her topic and experiencing recognition for it has given her the certainty to appear confidently before the whole group. I believe that Rachel’s professional development should be accompanied by the promotion of her personality in order to avoid withdrawal and refusal.
Date of publication in German: 2014, February
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.