Is your child a story teller? Some kids are born story tellers – some love a verbal retell of their favourite stories, while others develop a love of the written story. It’s one thing to be a ‘born story teller’ but it’s quite another to be a ‘writer’ of great stories. I used to work at a large publishing house and there were so many people who used to say, ‘I have so many stories, I know I’d write a great book.’ However, when it actually came to putting pen to paper and the business of actually writing the story, it was much harder than they thought!
The Australian primary school curriculum includes narrative texts and writing in the early years and continues it right throughout the primary years. If you are looking for ways to help your children develop in this area, or even just to foster a sense of fun and love of writing, there are many activities that help them understand story structures and elements. Of course, hand writing, punctuation, spelling and editing come into it, but we thought we’d leave that for another day: let’s start at the very beginning (because as Julie Andrews told us: it’s a very good place to start!).
Become a book publisher
One of my kid’s favourite things is to ‘publish’ their own story. This is a great activity for younger kids. We create a little ‘book’ by folding, cutting and stapling A4 paper to create a small, blank book. We then talk about story ideas. My son’s ideas, from age 5, were generally about dark forests, space and the occasional zombie, whereas my daughter has lots of horses and castles and ships. Ask them lots of questions about where it is set, who the characters are, what problem might the characters have and how it gets solved.
We stick to one or two sentences per double page spread and the kids illustrate what is happening, with a drawing.
Ask them to write a title and their name, as the author, on the front – this helps them to identify titles and authors on other books. They might even want to write a little blurb on the back cover.
Parts of a story
This activity helps kids understand the structure of a story – this is great for planning out a narrative, so it makes sense.
For younger kids, take 3 paper bags, labelled: beginning, middle, ending. Into each bag, put a series of possibilities for each of these. You could do this, or you could have you child help you come up with these. So, beginnings could be things like: ‘It was a dark and stormy night and the whole kingdom was awake’ or, ‘Once upon a time there was a boy named ______ who loved nothing more than riding his bike.’ The ‘middles’ should describe some action happening in the midst of the story and the ‘endings’ various resolutions.
For older kids, you can add a few more paper bags: ‘setting’ and ‘characters’. You might even want to change ‘middle’ to ‘problem’, so they can think of a creative way to solve a problem that the characters are having in the story.
Then, your child can lucky dip one piece of paper from each bag and use these to write a story that includes each of these.
Pick apart your favourite story
This activity is about helping your child to identify the parts of a story that they know. So, you could use a book they love or even a movie. Give them their own paper and clipboard and ask them to write out answers to:
How the story begins:
What problem/s do the characters face:
How the characters overcome this problem:
How the story ends:
Create a character
Great stories often have memorable characters. Involve the whole family in this one. Invite your child to create a brand new character – but they have to ask everyone in their family (or friends) to give them one trait or idiosyncrasy to incorporate. So, can take a notepad around to everyone in their family to answer one of these questions about their character:
‘male or female?’
‘tall or short?’
‘one thing my character loves’
‘one thing my character dislikes’
‘a funny thing that once happened to my character’
‘what makes my character laugh?’
‘one thing my character is really good at’
Your child might want to add some more questions – and just keep going around the family, gathering answers. Then, when your child has a satisfactory amount of points about their character, ask them to write a full description, in sentence form. Start with name, and add as much detail as possible. They could then draw a picture of the character. If you have a child who loves performing, they could even come up with a costume and act out all of their character’s mannerisms for you!
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