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Little L. is my coauthor for this month's Slice of Life Story Challenge on Two Writing Teachers. Her favorite stories to tell are about chipmunks, bunnies, owls, and squirrels. You may remember The Story of Mr. Grey Squirrel, from March 2nd.
Over the past few days I've been a little bit pushy, trying to get L. to tell a true story. After all, that's what the Slice of Life Story Challenge is all about--sharing stories from our lives with this great community of writers. If you read my post yesterday, you saw that sometimes it better just to let little kids decide for themselves what story they'd like to tell.
So for this story, I just simply asked L. to tell a story, any story. Maybe I should try to do that more often.
Sometimes it's easy to dismiss these short little fantasy stories as "merely" play. I know that in the classroom I'm often so laser-focused on the current unit of study that I rarely give kids much of a chance to just storytell whatever they want.
When I listen to L.'s story above, I hear many elements of great narrative writing:
* a lead (Once upon a time…)
* a setting (in a den, under an oak tree)
* characters (bunny and chipmunk, best friends)
* action (they play)
* a sense of resolution/ending ("The End")
This morning, with this in mind, I thought I'd get fancy and try to coach L into even more detail and elaboration. I thought maybe I'd set her up to include a problem in her story, or maybe some dialogue, really take her to the next level.
So, Little L. started to tell a story this morning. This time it happened to be about a guinea pig. I kept interjecting with prompts, "What did he say?" "What did he look like?" "What was wrong?" "Where was he? Describe it. Say more… more.. more…" Well, you can imagine what happened. Little L. wasn't having it. "Stop interrupting me!" she shouted. Then, with an ornery squeal, she ran out of the room.
L. tells stories like "Bunny and Chipmunk" because we read aloud A LOT at home, and we storytell and play A LOT. Her wonderful preschool teachers do the same. There were no graphic organizers, or worksheets, or special pre-planning that produced this story. I don't need to coach and prompt to the point that it stresses her out. It's in her bones.
So, the moral of the story. Don't push your kids past the brink! Read aloud to them. Storytell for fun. Play, play, play… and then play some more. Just let them practice, practice, practice and have fun with it! A little bit of prompting goes a loooooong way.