The other day I sat down with a basket full of whiteboards, pens, and rubbers, and 5 children came to sit with me intrigued by this new resource. We had a small discussion about what we could do with the whiteboards. They liked that they could rub out their pictures if they weren't happy with it. The conversation turned to what they could draw on the boards and a story began to emerge.
There were a flurry of ideas about a dinosaur in a volcano, with a "coconut tree" nearby. The children discussed where this should all take place:
"The volcano is outside. It can't be inside."
"Dinosaurs lived a long time ago."
"There should be trees."
Unfortunately the dinosaur (later to be a Stegosaurus) got caught in the volcano and needed to be rescued. I said, "How will the dinosaur be rescued from the volcano?"
"Superheroes rescue people."
"Batman will help him."
"Batman can go 'whoosh!' and pick up the dinosaur from the lava."
Me: "Where will they go?"
"They fly to a car to get away."
The children were engaged in their drawings as they talked about their story. The drawings evolved as their ideas became more complex and the story unfolded. The dinosaur couldn't fit in the car and Batman had to drive. Ropes were involved to attach the dinosaur to the roof of the car. And where did the car go?
Well, unfortunately even though the dinosaur was rescued from the perils of the volcanic heat, he was met with a rogue soldier who decided to take matters into his own hands. Batman and Stegosaurus didn't make it.
"The soldier comes and shoots them both. Bang! It wasn't real bullets. Just pretend."
One mum said it was video games, but she's glad her son was writing stories!
The kids were so engrossed in their story and they had very little input from me. The only stimulus they had were the whiteboards and their imaginations. This process could be developed further by providing props, pictures, or story books to inspire their ideas.
I was so proud of their story and we practiced telling it together, then headed into the "big school" to read it to our Depute Head. They were to thrilled to share their hard work and even got a wee sticker to reward their accomplishment.
Story writing in the Early Years doesn't have to be tricky. In fact, the children are story writing all the time in their role play. They imagine a certain environment, a particular scenario, and a variety of characters. They put themselves in the story and act it out with their friends or by themselves. Offering a role play stimulus, whether it's a kitchen, a doctor's surgery, Santa's Toy Shop, or simply offering open ended items, encourages story telling through drama - oral story telling if you will. Storytelling is a process for children and should be introduced as stepping stones. It may appear that the children are simply "playing," but they are in fact exploring roles, creating stories, honing social skills, and practicing vocabulary. These are important skills for children to learn in preparation for school. Then, perhaps they'll start drawing pictures of these stories or making marks to represent the writing in their story. Adults may scribe what they say to document their story. Eventually, in school the children will begin writing their stories. Stepping stones.
Happy story writing.