Jaquelyn Muller is the author of two children's books, I Love You 5 Lollipops and Elizabeth Rose on Parade.
Most kids love having books read to them, but when it’s time to read themselves or write their own stories, often they can become intimidated and overwhelmed. This can be a frustrating and emotional rollercoaster for both children and parents.
Helping children to find the fun in planning and writing their own stories isn’t about trying to create literary geniuses, but empowering them and giving them confidence in their own abilities to tell a story.
Listen to Jaquelyn’s interview on Kinderling Conversation:
Encouraging kids to tell their own stories can start at a very young age, even before they’ve learned to read or write independently. When telling stories with kids, the more you can use colour and imagery, the easier kids find it to visualise scenes and characters. These are some extra ideas on how to keep the creativity flowing:
For toddlers and kinder-aged children
- When reading their favourite books, ask them to embellish the story by creating their own characters and different endings. For example, if there is a cottage in a forest in the background of a story, ask the child, ‘Who do you think lives in there? What would they look like? If you were ‘in charge’ of the story how would you make the story end?’
- Discussing the important elements of what makes up a story as you read will also help them with story structure. What is important about the beginning? What happens in the middle of a story and why do you need an end?
For primary aged children
- Story starters are a great way to get kids to practise their storytelling techniques but prompting them at the start. You could make one up or find them online.
- Acting out a story before writing it can often help generate their creativity, rather than sitting and staring at a blank sheet of paper or screen.
- Planning a story can be perceived as just adding more work, but if you remove the word ‘plan’ and use words like ‘sketch’ or ‘draw’ then it takes on a more creative tone and sounds less like schoolwork.
- Use butcher’s paper on the floor and pretend they are creating a television show and draw a series of boxes that look like they are screens. Explain the beginning, middle and end and have the child create a series of simple scenes to help to order their story. Once they have created their storyboard, they can sit down and write out their ‘script’ to go with their show.
Great online tools for all ages
- For younger kids Learn English Kids Story Maker creates a story for them based on their preferences but puts them ‘in charge’ of how the story goes. It’s a great starting point.
- Lovers of Dr Seuss stories can create simple 3 scene online stories with music and dialogue with the Seussville Story Maker.
- Scholastic have an interactive story starter program that allows kids to start by picking the type of story they want to create; Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi or a mixed style. Scholastic Story Starter has an age appropriate level to select, that encourages the child push a series of buttons and levers to come up with a story idea. They can write online in a format they choose, like a letter, postcard or newspaper.
- For grades 3 – 8, why not try rewriting their own version of a fairy tale with Fractured Fairy Tale?
- You can find downloadable worksheets for developing story ideas and creating story arcs on the Jaquelyn Muller Books website. These are great tools for deciding on elements like the story genre, characters, setting and action events, and creating an arc to keep the tale interesting.
- Holidays and celebrations are also a good opportunity to get excited about story telling. Halloween is coming up which doesn’t mean stories have to be scary; they can be just funny, gooey adventures. You can download a Halloween story plan here.
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