Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Story Starters for the young author

We all know that preschoolers are GREAT story tellers... you know how it goes:
 Mom to darling son, "Why are there cheetos  all under the coffee table, and orange hand prints on the sofa?"  Darling son back to mom, "i don't know, i guess because the dog ate the cheetos."  
Yeah, right.  Well, somehow kids are naturals at one type of story telling, but need a little work telling a story with a real plot.  They will spend many years in school learning the building blocks used to writing a successful story.  
In our house, we use pictures we draw or create as "story starters".  Story starters give the child something to describe and write about.  Preschool age is a great age to introduce this method to future writers because they are so creative, and their minds are not limited about what is true or false.  Ask a second grader to "write a story" and you are likely to get "I don't know what to write about" as a response.  Ask a preschooler to tell you about their picture and its hard to stop them.  
As you will see in the examples below, we started with a picture.  After the artwork was dry, I asked my son what the picture was about, and told him I would write his words. I was careful not to put words in his mouth, and not to correct any of his mistakes.  I wrote exactly as he spoke.  Then I read it back to him.  Kids like to hear what they have said repeated to them.  
 As you can see... these stories lack a plot, and they ramble.  They sure are cute little bits of his mind though, and I am so glad that I have in writing his exact thoughts at this age.
 Over time, with age and lots of practice, a child hearing their story read back to them will begin to recognize their writing mistakes.  They will hear the run on sentences, or the lack of flow, or that it just doesn't make sense the way they stated it.  (This is not something that needs to be pointed out to them.  We want to encourage them by getting excited about their stories and not critique them.)  Hearing it read aloud will make them better future writers.
 We used fun handprint or fingerprint art to begin with.  You can use any artwork your child creates, even pull out an old piece they did a while back, and have them tell you about it.

The handprint art ideas were found on pinterest by doing a search for "handprint art" and the fingerprint art was done using Ed Emberley's fingerprint book.  It can be found online.
Have fun listening to your children tell stories.  You will be glad you wrote them down, and will help develop your child's prewriting skills.  It will also give you a good laugh :)
- jenny

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