Looking Closely at Children

Examples of Learning Stories

Here are eight Learning Stories for you to download, discuss, and offer to others in order to spread ever more widely the practice of pedagogical narration following Margaret Carr and Wendy Lee’s exemplars of Learning Stories. This convention is one that I adopted to give a bit of structure to the final product; it was modified and made much clearer by Margie Carter and Deb Curtis.

If you want to see the true source, I invite you to go to Kei Tua o Pae at the Ministry of Education of New Zealand / Aotearoa.

Josie’s Drip

Josie’s drip was recorded on videotape. The camera was pointed at the entire table of children, so images were taken from the video, cropped and enlarged to focus only on her. Here is Pre-K Science for those of you who are politically enamored of STEM for children under age 6, who, by the way are naturally scientists.

Priyankaa Draws

Priyankaa Draws is an example of a story about a younger child photographed with a digital camera.

Fragile People Play

The Fragile People Play shows all six Passages of The Learning Frame in one story of a group of girls creating a performance from their play with dolls. I invite you to read this and see if you don’t agree that moving through all six passages is transformation. Those children are changed forever by this experience. They now view themselves as storytellers and playwrights.

Riley and Mateo

Riley Visits Mateo is a story of a playdate told by a Mom, an early childhood educator. I include it to give you a glimpse into my educational program for teachers called Connecting to Children an entirely constructivist, locally conducted, year-long investigation into how one behaves with children at the most fundamental level. In the final module, D4, that performance is to create a Learning Story that begins with children’s initiative and demonstrates this heading of Looking Closely at Children and uses narrative documentation to tell a story specifically about either cooperation or perseverance, two of the three basic dispositions. [intiative, cooperation, perseverance]

Henry’s Bus

Henry’s first day of moving up to the older toddler classroom becomes a Welcoming Story. Wendy Lee clued me into the challenge of creating a Learning Story in the first two weeks of a child’s enrollment. It is always possible to take at least one photo of each child that shows engagement, the second passage.

Joy with the Marble Run

Joy with the Marble Run, in English, or Alegría con la ejecución de Mármol
, in Español, highlights cooperative action, the kind of story when retold to the class helps develop a cooperative democratic cooperativa y democrática culture in the school, one of the topics covered elsewhere here in Peer Relationships, Stories of altruism or cooperation can be used in group times to create a shared mythological playbox (Joseph Campbell Foundation).

Sasha and the Pattern Blocks

Here is an example of how a Learning Story highlights the hundreds and hundreds of languages of children. Here is how documentation of the Representation passage of The Learning Frame conveys how materials become a language. Pattern blocks can “say” things that are difficult to describe in words. Likewise, when children spontaneously dance with each other, stills from a video could also be used to highlight the language of dance: high, low, sharp, smooth, etc. Same could happen when a child creates forms with clay that represent the language of clay: mass, texture, form, hollow, trace, flow, etc.

The initiative always remains with the child. The the work of the facilitator is to create the documentation in a way that highlights the representation, which when intentionally used, later becomes a language of expression. The reading of the story to others spreads the understanding of pattern blocks as language to others in the learning community. I call this leadership for it involves one child, freedom, and community of children, set up intentionally and responded to intentionally by the thoughtful community of adults.

Jolene Brushes Paint


  • 1′ 42″ video of Jolene painting (below) which you can download from VIMEO,
  • a link to a PDF file to use with the video, Jolene Blank (four pictures per page without text), for workshop participants to try their hand at writing a Learning Story after watching the video over and over again,
  • the Learning Story slide show, which you can also download. That slide show, Jolene Brushes Paint, provides the “answers” to the Jolene Blank exercise, which aren’t really answers. The Learning Story Holly and I created together is what we sent home with the child. It represents as completely as possible our perspectives from years of experience with tempera, knowing Jolene, and knowing her family. No one else would be likely to write a Learning Story this way. Jolene, by the way, loves squirrels.

We all get to write from our unique perspectives; when combined with the perspectives of others, we become more careful observers and more capable authors.

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