If your child is having trouble with writing while in school, there are a number of ways to help at home through storytelling.
Let’s look at some fun versions of storytelling that can lead to helping your child with their classroom writing.
1. Remember the oral tradition
Stories were handed down long before people knew how to read or write. Instead of reading a bedtime story, take turns telling a made-up story. Make time the next day to write it down. When kids say they don’t know what to make a story about you can have them think about it and try again the next night. If your kids share a room, have the storytelling become a competition or a collaboration.
2. Ask them to think of a story involving something they are interested in, such as dinosaurs or a favorite stuffed animal.
Try to steer away from a known movie, game or TV character. Often existing characters lead to a retelling of stories they already know. An exception might be, when you are able to guide the story by having their favorite character in an entirely new setting or where you provide the plot twist the known character must face. You can help by asking questions such as, what if this happens? Other prompts might include, what if this story was a mystery? How can the story be scary, funny or sad? How can the characters in the story change so things work out in the end? How can the character(s) overcome the situation?
Bonus points for taking note of the weekly spelling list or site words that your child uses in their story. Compliment your kids on using new or big words, using expressions like “Hey! That’s one of your spelling words this week! Good job!”
3. Make time to play word games
Kids love to play Hangman. You may want to set some ground rules, however. Pick some agreed upon categories. If your kids are budding chemists or dinosaur aficionados, and you are not, prepare to lose – badly! Losing to your kids is O.K. They love it! Scrabble is another perennial favorite. Some people like word magnets that can be arranged into one-line story prompts. Mad Libs are always fun. They are so funny and kids typically love them. What if a particularly funny Mad Lib sheet were expanded into a silly story? Many of these word games are also available online.
4. Comic books are another avenue for story-telling
Typically, comic books are largely picture driven, but there is a story to be told, with a beginning, middle, end or at least a ‘to be continued.’ Maybe your child will respond better to pictures first then words, either spoken and eventually written. Depending on the artistic ability, you may need to be on hand to help the story connect to their art.
5. Try putting on a play
Plays are not just about their fabulous costumes. Plays require a script. Guide your kids to actually write down and think about the plot details for their play. Your help, or at least supervision, may also be required for the costumes and make-up. This could occasionally replace a weekend pizza and movie night. Maybe becoming a monthly pizza and play night.
6. Enlist the help of family and friends
A great way to stay connected with family and friends is to enlist their help in the fun writing projects. Your kids can tell their latest story, show their comic or perform their play during a FaceTime or Zoom call. Let your accomplices in on the project in advance. Ask them to help by adding prompts or questions that help expand the story, complete the story or help your child think about it in a different way. Of course, family and friends are typically more than willing and able to pile on the praise for the children’s literary masterpieces.
Your goal is to help your children develop their creative thinking and storytelling skills. Many kids will get on a roll and talk your ear off about their favorite things, but freeze up when it’s time for actual classroom writing. Help them get more comfortable with thinking about stories, leading into writing the stories. Get in the habit of telling, then writing. Over time you may be able to work in and work on the grade level structure expectation. Your child’s teacher can help with grade level expectations.
Use these tips to work on fun storytelling at home to give your child practice and a bank of stories to draw on during classroom writing.
I received a game in exchange for this blog post. All opinions expressed belong to me.
Debbie Bourgois, MS, is an adjunct college instructor, a K-12 substitute teacher, and a mom of two grown children who are twelve years apart! She has worked with kids of all ages for a very long time and loves to find fun and interesting ways to help develop lifelong learners.
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