Submitted by Laura Ayebazibwe, University of Victoria Practicum Student
My practicum experience within the Homework Club at North Saanich Middle School (District 63) was an insightful one in terms of applying the approach of pedagogical narrations to understand children’s processes with play. The age group I worked with was ranged from ages 6-17 from different schools. The buddy system chosen to foster connections and relationships between the younger and older children was successful, because it created a sense of belonging and community for them during different activities.
Pedagogical narrations focus on observing and documenting ordinary moments during children’s play, through photos, video, or transcription to make learning visible. Photos were taken to capture creative art process and pieces (with use of plasticine and lego blocks) and dialogue (the second important aspect of pedagogical narrations) between me, younger buddies, and their older buddies. I intentionally made the first decision to talk less and observe more.
When I felt it was appropriate to engage in dialogue, I realized the importance of positive language. Phrases such as: “I am excited/ interested/ to know what you created” made them receptive with explanations. I was able to fully understand the meaning of their art processes, artwork, emotions, and decisions to instruct older buddies to help out, where necessary. I realized how they felt empowered while taking charge in their learning. I also observed growth from the older buddies who were respectful and encouraged the younger children and their authentic forms of art.
Furthermore, I observed that some children appreciated minimal communication during play. This behaviour could be viewed by one person as a sign of being shy or defiant. However, responses I heard when some older buddies tried to ask about their artwork were: “I work better quiet” or “Not now, I am thinking.” Such meanings from their learning processes taught me to resist the “single story” of children being merely defiant. They felt empowered because they had a sense of autonomy to choose what worked for them. Their meanings were communicated more through their body language and art pieces, allowing them to speak for themselves rather than verbally.
There were also some children who mimicked each other’s actions and artwork from different buddy groups. One adult could view such behaviour as destructive towards another’s learning processes. However, I perceived this scenario as children who were trying to bond through similar interests, jokes, and laughter.
These few examples show how children can engage in many forms of dialogues. Children who are connected to us through ICA services arrive with ideas of play. I think that as adults, if we continue collaborating to understand children’s different ways of being in social contexts, their intentions can help us deepen our understanding. We can also recognize children as co-constructors of knowledge through play by giving voice to their ideas and emotions to foster cooperative learning. As we continue thinking and learning alongside children, our relationship with them changes — it becomes more reciprocal. We listen without judgment or preconceived plans, open to other ideas, perceptions, and possibilities.