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.

These examples use the convention I adopted to craft the final product. In this form, the story teller spins a tale of an event from a novelist’s perspective (with maybe a bit of loving bias sprinkled in). The afterwards sections include (1) an attentive and compassionate discussion of meaning from the educator’s experience, told directly to the child(ren), and (2) possibilities in the child(ren)’s future and for the school, voiced to these communities.

If you want to see the ultimate, much more nuanced 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 Mirror

Here is an example of how a Learning Story is created from raw documentation—the reality of the traces of an event that happened one morning in play with the pattern blocks with Sascha, the five-year-old protagonist. Before showing you the final Learning Story, I review the options we have in using the raw traces in ways that are NOT a Learning Story. When those traces are used to retell the event from the point of view of the observer, with the reflection pieces added, we have a Learning Story.

This story also highlights how play materials become a language in which the child can represent experience, and further how the language can then step deeper into the expression of ideas that can be conveyed no other way, in other words, oral language (English, here) does not communicate as well as the materials do themselves. Geometric shapes not only represent the known, Rafiki, but also step beyond to offer the discovery of ideas and meanings beyond what we see.

The basic documentation, images and transcribed speech, are facts—traces of a physical reality at one moment in time. What do we do with these traces?

Shall we keep them in a computer file? Shall we show them casually to someone? Shall we use them as evidence for the external assessment we never find useful? Shall we send the pictures home without explanation?  Or shall we take the time to write a Learning Story?

File is available as PDF Sascha and the Mirror.


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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