Illustrated Conversations: A Phenomenological Study of Listening to the Voices of Kindergartners
Dean, Michele Ann
This study explores the voices of kindergartners engaged in illustrated conversations. Max van Manen's methodology for hermeneutic phenomenological research provides a framework for the study, and the philosophical writings of Heidegger, Noddings, Bakhtin, van Manen, and Palmer guide the interpretations of how we come to be with young children through dialogue. Illustrated conversations, a process whereby the child writes his/her thoughts and drawings in a journal and then engages meaning-making with the teacher during a tape recorded dialogue, creates spaces for a teacher and student to have personal conversations about their lifeworlds. Using their own voices as the essential pathway winding through the experience, the study explores how the sixteen kindergarten children sense the spirit of home, explored the freedom to imagine their own ideas, acknowledged their identity, and developed relationships with others by engaging in illustrated conversation. Their wondrous voices echo their sense of home and family as they defined, and redefined, their identity through friendships with the researcher and peers. The silent conversations bring forth further meaning, uncovering how space and time with young children help them better hear their own voices and the voices of others. True listening becomes a part of pedagogy. Canvassed drawings and written thoughts, springboards for ideas, propel the conversations forward while also revealing how without voice, the meaning of the pictures and thoughts fell silent in the seeking of self. Children's voices--heard in dialogue, paused or silenced in between, and engraved on paper--connect pathways leading to self-identity. Truly listening to young children is a reflective experience that illuminates the voices and languages of young children. This study uncovers how listening to and reflecting upon the stories young children choose to tell in tactful and reciprocal conversation is pedagogy worth exploring. The study suggests that illustrated conversations can support teachers in balancing the new curriculum mandates being required in kindergarten classrooms with engaging and meaningful interactions that uncover the cognitive, language, and social/emotional development of children. Through illustrated conversation, teachers are able to hear and support the hundred languages of children.