My son loves making books at the minute. Nearly everyday over the past month, he comes home from kindergarten with a book he made. On weekends he makes books. Before bed, he makes books. He has made books about seaweed. He has made books about sand. He has made books about dinosaurs. Lately, he makes books about Dogman (by the author of Captain Underpants - Dav Pilkey) even though he hasn't read it yet. Sometimes the books have pictures and words. Sometimes just pictures. Either way, I love them. He is always so proud of them and I really want to encourage that pride with anything he makes. I also want to encourage any connection and love he has with/for books and reading!
I had been trying to think of a way to take his current book making obsession and create an activity for us to do together. Last weekend we ended up at Home Depot, of all places, and a great idea popped into my head.
Mark making or putting pen/crayon/pencil to paper, whatever you want to call it, was never something my boys had much interest in when they were young. If we talk about table activities - then mine love crafts and painting, cutting and pasting, gluing and sticking, but are/were not huge colouring fans or 'mark making' fans. My 4 year old started kindergarten and still wasn't interested. A tiny piece of me worried a bit, as much as I told myself not to. A few months into kindergarten though and he was writing up a storm. His letters are hard to read and all over the place with size and shape, but that part really doesn't worry me. He likes writing. That matters. He enjoys it. That matters.
I thought with my younger one perhaps I needed to present more opportunities to draw and colour. I was on the ball with early letter recognition (see my last post about having the alphabet in about a hundred places in our house) but maybe I didn't pull out the pencil enough? Who knows...it is all trial and error with parenting because each kid is so different.
Kids and the creative world go hand in hand, right? I haven't met one yet that doesn't love imaginary play. As a teacher though, I often watched kids struggle to create ideas when it came to writing stories. I could do all the 'teacher-y' things, like scaffold the learning, differentiate the tasks, talk in partners, use picture prompts, have sentence starters, do storyboard planning...yet they still struggled. It made me wonder what I was doing wrong sometimes. Luckily, that is what made me sit and reflect and get better at my job.
The second school I taught at loved Talk 4 Writing, a program that was developed by Pie Corbett (who has lots of great books on teaching, if you don't know him yet. He is pretty well known in the UK, but I'm not sure about North America). I was already in the habit of using a lot of talk during literacy lessons, but it was usually focused on another story or a prompt that led to a task. Here is Pie himself giving an example:
Talk 4 Writing helped the kids orally practise what they wanted to write but I found it helped more with story re-telling, not creating stories ideas. I felt some kind of guilt attached to this struggle the kids had. It always reminded me of something I heard when I was in teacher's college. I have no idea whose original idea this is or what piece of research it might be attached to, so I'm just going to summarise what I remember the course leader saying.
"If you draw a dot on the board in front of a group of 4 year olds and ask them what it is, they'll give you a million answers. The sun! An ant! A rock! A circle! If you draw that same dot on a board in front of a group of 10 year olds, they'll usually say one thing. A period." - OISE instructor (eep! bad referencing, I know!)
That idea makes me so sad! Our education system (well, the UK one at least, as that is where I am most experienced) is draining the creativity out of kids. I tried my best to not let that happen in my own classrooms, but the older the kids got, the more curriculum you had to squeeze in and I think everyone fell victim to it a little bit.
So what did I do about it? I tried to throw in little creativity building activities whenever I could. Just short and simple ones. I'm not going to list them all here...but I will highlight my favourite. I stumbled upon these little gems at Tiger (a British shop that is a little bit like an Ikea dollar store).
There are probably lots of other things out there that use a similar idea. I have used picture story prompts for various different subjects and activities in the past. However, none have worked quite as well as these. ALSO - my kids love these at home too! I think my son was about three years old when I found these. He loved to roll them one at a time and I would make up a silly story that twisted and changed based on what he rolled next. It didn't take long before he was adding to the story himself and soon taking it over!
You don't really need dice (they just make it a bit more fun). You could just close your eyes and point to something in a book and start a story from there. Your little one could close their eyes next and point or just choose something random for you.
We walk a lot in our family, which also provides great story prompts. Stories about people (who doesn't already do that in their head anyway?) walking by. Stories about what might be inside a big truck. Stories about 2 ducks that waddle past. Story prompts are floating around everywhere.
Does your family create stories together? How do you do it?
Hope you create a hilarious/scary/science-y/superhero-y/every day story soon!
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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