Given what I wrote on day 3 of the series on 5 Easy and Surprising Ways to Raise Writers, it may surprise you to learn who my children’s first writing teacher was. I’m a writer. I always have been. I’ve written a curriculum to teach beginning readers how to write. But I wasn’t my children’s first writing instructor — my husband was.
My children’s favorite part of their father’s bedtime routine (after all the physical fun of wrestling, airplane rides, and pillow fights) was storytelling. My husband made up silly stories for them that they loved. It’s funny to me that I can write children’s fiction, but coming up with stories on the fly isn’t my gift. My husband, who is an avid reader but never writes, is an amazing children’s story teller. Gales of laughter emanated from my children’s bedrooms for years.
The Fun Way to Teach Young Children to Write
Listening to stories, whether in the form of audiobooks or mom or dad’s made-up yarns, teaches children story structure. Even stories that flop are great teaching opportunities. Without even using the terms plot or conflict, children learn that stories that lack them are funny for all the wrong reasons. Listening to their father’s stories taught my children about characterization, descriptive language, and humor.
Had my children remained content to listen to their dad’s stories, they would have learned much about writing. But they didn’t stop there. The kids begged to tell their own stories. Sometimes they improved upon their dad’s stories, which is the beginning of editing skills. Other times they would come up with something completely new. No matter how silly and short the story they told was, they had a blast telling it. They learned to tailtor their content to their intended audience, too. Not only do they they enjoy storytelling, but they have a more positive attitude toward writing as well.
How to Use Storytelling to Teach Writing
If you have the storytelling gift like my husband, start a storytelling tradition at bedtime tonight. Rather than insist that your child tell a story, let her ask to tell her own. That ensures you have a motivated storyteller.
But what if you’re more like me and storytelling doesn’t come naturally? Here are a few ideas for you.
Start with a story you know. It could be a personal story. Did something funny or scary happen to you that you could use as a story for your children? Or use a fairytale like “The 3 Little Pigs” and change it up. Change the characters and what the wolf says. It’s fun to give the characters family names. See if your children recognize the story. All fiction is based on a limited number of basic story lines.
Use a story starter. Scholastic has a great story starters website you can access on your mobile device, making it perfect for bedtime. You spin four wheels to get a story starter appropriate for your child’s age in the genre of your choice. Sometimes that’s all you need to get started. One way to make this kind of storytelling even easier is to weave a personal experience into it.
Have your kids help. If you don’t feel comfortable telling a whole story yourself, start one and ask your child to finish it. If you have multiple children or your spouse will join in, this can be even more fun. Each child can add a little bit to the story, sometimes taking it in a whole new direction.
Storytelling is a great, fun way to teach beginning writers, no handwriting required. There is a storytelling lesson in Grammar Galaxy: Nebula that teaches kids (and you, too) how to be better story tellers.
I do have one more suggestion for you: record your storytelling sessions. The recordings will be a treasure.