Learning Stories

Hello all. Below you will find an example of a Learning Story. Learning Stories are observations of children as they play, explore and experience the world around them.  Through Learning Stories you communicate a story to parents, children and your colleagues.  You also enhance your own teaching practices by having a better grasp of each child’s thoughts, ideas, and development. Learning Stories also help provide ideas to further extend children’s learning. That way, you can better plan curriculum that is truly interesting to children.

To create a Learning Story, you watch, listen, take photos and jot down notes. It is only later, away from the classroom, that you put it all together. It should be simple while capturing a moment in time. Look for:

  • A child taking initiative
  • A child deeply engaged
  • A child relating to other children or materials
  • A child being intentional
  • The child’s (or children’s) way of learning, exploring, and creating.
  1. Start with what interests you about what the the child is doing. It’s okay to use the pronoun “I.” This is not objective research! This is a story.
  2. Next, describe what the child is doing and saying. Be open to really hear and see what the child is experiencing.
  3.  Relate what the story means. I always direct this to the child. Writing as though you are talking to the child helps you to write more clearly and forces you to think through very carefully what it is you see and appreciate. Be careful. This is not about praising the child, but about giving her real information and acknowledgement. This also helps her reflect on her own experience. If the child wants to add or change something, it is a good opportunity to tweak the story while acknowledging your respect for her ideas and opinions.
  4. This can be called, “What next?” or “Opportunities and Possibilities.” In this section, you use what you see to plan how you will further the child’s experience. What opportunities does this observation offer?
  5. Give the story a title.
  6. Offer a blank page for the family to respond.


Benjamin Discovers Mud

Benjamin discovers mud on the playground.

“A footprint.”

Beautiful, shiny, mud-luscious footprint.

Making more footprints.

Transferring mud prints to wet prints on cement. Follow the footprints.

back to the mud to find something new.

“There’s light in the mud!”

“There’s marshmallow in the mud!”

  What happened?

Benjamin and other children were excited to discover that the sprinkler created something new—mud. Like all children, Benjamin could not resist standing and stomping in the mud. He bent down to look in it. He turned his muddy footprints into wet cement footprints. He traveled back and forth to “study” this wonderful phenomenon. Bending down, he shouted, “There’s light!” •I asked him to tell me more about the light but he was too busy running back and forth to stop for conversation. •He then bent down and said, “Marshmallow!” •The small puddle turned-to-mud was intriguing and provided a variety of learning opportunities.

Dear Benjamin,

Watching you discover the mud puddle was very interesting and fun.
First you noticed there was a small puddle that resulted from the
sprinkler. Then you watched the water and dirt combine to make a nice
squishy mud patch from which you observed a lot. You saw light in
the water! You mentioned marshmallow. I’m guessing that you
were reminded of marshmallow because of the white in the puddle.
Is that the case? You made footprints from the mud to the cement.
What a surprise! You were like a scientist because you kept watching
and experimenting. That’s the best way to learn.

What Next? or Opportunities and Possibilities:

  1. Read my note to Benjamin to a group of children.
  2. Talk about the light and the comment about marshmallow.
  3. Elicit their thoughts and ideas. Build on those.
  4. Provide more water play. Experiment with light, color, and  mud.
  5. Read, Oh Lovely Mud! (Children act it out?)
  •  Science Opportunities * Discovering that water and dirt change to mud. *Exploring the many properties of water. *Discovering that water reflects the light. *Noticing how the pooled water created a white foamy material (minerals?). *Observing and feeling the texture of mud. *Transferring mud footprints to cement footprints and comparing the two.
  • Language Opportunities Use of descriptive words (squishy, muddy, wet, dry, cool, warm, muck)
  • Creative Thinking Opportunities•Connecting the color white in the mud puddle to the white of a marshmallow •Using mud to make footprint designs on cement •Thinking about two properties combining to make one

“It is not just about letting children go outside, but providing outdoor settings that awaken their senses to the beauty, complexity and ever-changing dynamics of the natural world; that honour children as curious and motivated to explore and problem solve, be physically challenged, to practise and repeat experiences, and then move on to new challenges.”

— Cheryl Greenfield, in “Characteristics of Optimal Early Childhood Education Outdoor Environments,” published by Manukau Institute of Technology (New Zealand)
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