Producing a Personal Narrative

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On Isaac’s current IEP, one of his goal s, my favorite of his goal s is: produce a personal narrative. What’s that, you ask? It’s not as fancy as sounds. It’s just means: talk about something that happened to you. Tell a story about yourself. It can be about ANYTHING. And this goal, more than any other, I am EXTREMELY invested in.

For three years now, I’ve gotten Isaac off of his school bus and asked “How was your day?!” or “How was school?” only to be ignored. Now that he gets off the bus with Andrew, he’s heard how Andrew addresses this mama-pestering and now has a few one liners in his arsenal. He’ll say to me “Good!” or “Great!” but…that’s about it.

There has been slow movement in his ability to share a personal narrative over the last few months. But…my figuring out what happened in school is still as much about my sleuthing ability as it is about his ability to share. And since I SO BADLY want to know SOMETHING, and since I feel like his ability to share is *just about* there…I have to be careful to not let my sleuthing turn into heated interrogation. I have to resist the temptation I feel to force Isaac to talk (as much as I am able to…which isn’t much). Forcing him isn’t really encouraging the kind of open communication I want with him. Andrew’s at a point right now, where he will tell me *right away* about something hard that happened in school. Even when he’s at fault and he got in trouble…he comes to me to talk about it. and I LOVE THAT. Gosh, who wouldn’t love that? I want that with Isaac too. But how do we get there?

His Speech Therapist told me that Isaac won’t be able to tell a story about the past until he is able to tell a story about the present. She suggested we practice talking more about what is happening right now. So I try to show him how to use language to put a story together. We practice this every afternoon.

I also tried another system to help him talk about school. It’s called “Give Those Kids Candy!” :) After snack, while we are still sitting together at the table, I pay them in Skittles to share stories about school. This doesn’t always work with Isaac. But…it sometimes does. He shares one fact about his day, and I give him a skittle. Some facts that he’s shared have included “Mercedes was absent”, “we sang in Music class”, “we had outdoor recess”. These might seem simple, but after years of nothing, these little tidbits are music to my ears.

I also use photography to encourage growth in his personal narrative skills. Every Monday I send in a few photos from the weekend, with little descriptions written on the back of each photo. This started after Thanksgiving Break when his teacher said “send in photos if you have any!” If I have any? ha! So, I started doing it after every weekend. She tells me that she sits with him on Monday mornings to talk about the photos. He tells her as much as he can about them and then she has him sequence them in order of occurrence.

And then yesterday, after school, Isaac did a few things that really surprised me. After snack, I was doing other things and I was not in Skittle-mode. But, he got out some paper and wrote “What did you do for indoor recess?” then he drew a line underneath that and on the line wrote “auditorium”. On another paper he wrote 8-1=7…which meant there was one student absent from his class of 8. And on the third paper he wrote “What did you do in morning meeting?” He drew a line under that and wrote “ABC song and Counting to 100 song”. Then he brought me the papers and asked for three skittles. :) It was awesome!

Then before dinner, he bowed his head and closed his eyes for the pre-dinner prayer we usually do. He said “I’ll pray! I’ll pray!” and then he recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Ha! I didn’t even know he knew the Pledge of Allegiance. He also performed his ABC song (you can see a video of it here) and he told me that he calls Tomasz, his classmate, “Tomasz-y”.

Holy smokes! It was like Personal Narrative Afternoon! I LOVED it! :)

It’s sooo important to me that he be able to share things. Partly it’s important because I am a nosey mama. But it will also affect him in academic areas…like being able to talk and write about the book he read is a crucial school skill. It will help him access prior knowledge in other academic areas so that he is more able to build upon things he already knows. And, dang it, it feels like a safety issue too. If something bad happens (and I hope it never does!) he NEEDS NEEDS NEEDS to be able to report it. I hear too many scary stories of Special Needs kids not being able to report things and how that can have terrible consequences. So, instead of letting that keep me up at night, I send in photos to his teacher, and keep a fresh supply of Skittles on hand and blabber on to Isaac about the seemingly obvious story of “what’s happening right now!”

And can you believe it, but something seems to be working. :) Just wanted to share that little victory today!


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About robyn

I stopped teaching Kindergarten in 2005 to become the mom of two crazy boys here in Brooklyn. At first I thought being a stay at home mom meant that I needed to pour all my time and energy directly into my sons, but I realized somewhere along the way that being a rockstar mom meant not only taking good care of my boys, but also taking good care of myself. And taking good care of myself means pursuing something creative...just about everyday. I started Made In Brooklyn to motivate myself in my creative goals as well as share my work with others and perhaps inspire them in their own creative journeys.
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4 Responses to Producing a Personal Narrative

  1. JenN says:

    Way to go Isaac! And you’re doing a great job Robyn in keeping those lines of communication open, just like they need to be! Keep it up!!

  2. Cheri says:

    You are such a great mom and put so much thought and effort into what your kids need. I just wanted to share that years ago (I have a two boys; ages 10 and 14) I heard the advice that questions such as “how was your day” and “what did you do in school today” are too broad for any child. It was suggested that we try more specific questions, like “did anything funny happen today?” or “were there any sad parts to your day” or “did you sing any songs” or “what did you do at recess” I can’t remember all the suggestions but the idea was to be more specific and narrow down the topic to make it easier for the child to remember something to share. This also circumvents the one word answers such as (my day was) “fine”.

  3. Anne Hoang says:

    I love the whole idea of creating a personal narrative, and your creative approaches to it. It’s so interesting to think about having to teach something that I totally take for granted. About a year ago our family started a sharing game at dinner time, more to help engage Camille in the conversation, since it often veers into adult-land with only one child. This might involve too much stressful choosing for Isaac, but we all share the favorite part of our day and the worst part of our day. Right now her answer is the same for both. She doesn’t quite get the worst part idea. Also, if we pick an answer she wants to use, Camille will say it has an “x” on it. (That comes from iPad games where bits that have to be purchased have an X or a lock.) The brain is so fascinating!

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