Monday, 7 March 2011

The hunter and the hunted

As we sit down for tea, I ask my daughter what she has been doing at school.

"A story," she says, "about a hunter."

"Oh! What's it called?"

"The Hunter."

Given my daughter's poor comprehension skills I am surprisingly delighted by this response! She struggles to recall stories and tales with any accuracy, and open-ended questions are a virtually a no-go area.

"So, tell me about The Hunter. What happens in the story?"

"Well - " She screws up her face trying to think. An open-ended question: almost impossible to answer. I prompt her again.

"Who is in the story? What are the characters?"

Her face lights up. She can do this. "A hunter." I'd guessed that! "A girl and an elephant - a baby elephant."

"Oooh. What happens to them?"

"The hunter kills the girl and the elephant. Shoots them." This with dramatic demonstration.

"Really? The hunter shoots the girl and the elephant?"

"Yes."

She is adamant and won't be dissuaded. The hunter kills the girl and the elephant. I can't quite believe that school are reading this to 8-year-olds, and there doesn't seem to be much plot line behind her retelling of the story. I'm highly suspicious.

"And is that it?"

"Yes."

"The end of the story?"

"Yes."

There is no movement in her tale and she doesn't seem at all upset. I leave it, but speaking to the teacher subsequently I learn a different story. The hunter kills the elephant's mother (shades of Bambi here, I suspect!) and the girl and the elephant run away to escape the hunter. A much more likely story, spread over a week of readings and class exercises.

It is just another demonstration of how she struggles to grasp the facts of a story told to her - and, of course, any other facts (such as the teacher telling them to sit down and do some sums, or make an aeroplane, or whatever is next). Because of this, she falls behind in class.

Yet, given the menu at Sunday lunch, she can read words like 'sizzling' without batting an eyelid. Reading good, spelling good, comprehension negligible.

I shall enjoy the memory of the dead girl and elephant for what it demonstrates about my daughter. And I'll continue to enjoy her story-telling because she is trying and she is caught up by the magic of the tale, even when wildly wrong.

2 comments:

Mark said...

This reminds me of my son who once asked, "Who is Starker Man?'

Who? we replied

You know, Starker Man?

Blank expressions from us.

'You know, on that Star Trek programme when he says, Come in Starker Man.'

Oh, Star Command....

Catharine Withenay said...

That has made me laugh!
Thank you (or him!)

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