|Real life versions of these things are so much better!|
However, I am also an early childhood educator, which means I never say "no" to hand-me-down educational materials, even if I never intend to use them for the purpose for which they were created. I have accepted math workbooks, coloring books, pocket chart ABC/Number activities, and yes, flash cards all with the full knowledge that I would not be sitting children down to use these in a drill or required participation fashion.
Which leads to me today's re-purposing discovery. Several months ago my sister handed down a box full of odds and ins that she had collected to use with her children, but never got around to it. Always a sucker for free stuff, I accepted it and it sat in my office (aka place where I put all of the stuff I don't know what to do with) until last week. I came across a box full of flash cards with the title of 'Nouns: Children's Toys'. "Wow!" I thought. "If you need to use flash cards to teach children the words blocks, bucket, and doll...that would be a sad childhood!"
My hoarding instinct of all seemingly educational materials kicked in and I started brainstorming what I could use the flashcards for in a more developmentally appropriate way. We could make a hunt game where you turn over a card and go find the 'real life' match in the room. We could use them to add to a 'word wall', posting them under the corresponding first letter of the object. (Yes, I know I am not currently teaching in a classroom with a word wall. But, just in case I were to be in one again...) We could paste them in a homemade alphabet book. Finally, I found the idea that fit with what my children and those in my care were into. STORY CARDS!
We sat together and put the cards face down in the middle of the table. We flipped over the first card and I started a story. "Once upon a time, there was a little boy who LOVED to play in the sand..." Then, we each took turns flipping over a card, adding to the story until it reached a conclusion. I encouraged the children to think of what would happen next, how the character in the story would solve whatever problem he was in, or how we would incorporate an object that seemed to have nothing to do with the story that we had created. When they had ideas, we went with it. When they were stumped, I posed questions such as, "What if..." and let them decide if it would work or noticed if that idea spurred other ideas that they could add.
We reflected on how we thought the character felt about what had happened and if there were things that could have happened differently to make him feel differently. (An example was we created a story about a little boy who was too afraid of riding a scooter and the big brother was teasing him about it. The children identified with how he felt sad, scared, and embarrassed and brainstormed ways that the older brother could have been nicer or what the younger brother could have said to stand up for himself.)
|Adding to the story about the family who rode bikes together.|
Once we had created and told about 4-5 stories together, we had gone through all of the cards. They were excited to keep playing, so I shuffled the cards and we did it again. It was interesting to see how my youngest child wanted to retell the same stories we had just created when he turned over cards he remembered. It was a shift for all four of them (ages 3-5) to abandon what had been said about each object before and think about it in another way or in a different context. An example would be the baby doll card was used at first to tell a story about a doll who came to life. When they turned over the doll card again, they immediately thought the story should be about what the doll did when it came to life. Repetition in stories is comforting to children and that is how they make sense of the story line and remember it from time to time, but with this activity I was curious to see how the children would use their imaginations to "think outside of the flash card box." I also wanted to help them develop confidence in tapping into the creativity they have within themselves to make their ideas come to life.There were no right or wrong ideas with this game which was the beauty of it!
I can see this game quickly becoming a favorite in our home (and in the car on road trips!) The combinations of cards within the stories are many to where we wouldn't need to tell the same story twice. Or, for fun, we might draw a card and see if they can remember what stories we have told about each card. For older children, this might be a fun creative writing or drawing exercise. Although, I will warn you not to get too dependent on the flash cards or make it a "you have to do this" activity. But, on a snowy, 14 degree day in January, they were the perfect addition to our story time fun.