Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 4 SoL Story Challenge: How Was School Today?

If you've been following this blog, then you know that Little L. is quite the chatty one. Usually. That's until you ask her about her school day. Then, suddenly, all she's got is one word answers.  "Argh. Nothing!" is her typical response to "What did you do at school today?".

Not to worry, though. I'm trained to teach kids to tell stories. That's, you know, my job in real life. To teach kids how to tell stories.

In a classroom, when a kid is having trouble coming up with what to say, I might use some open ended questions to get them going. I might say:

"What happened first?"
"What's just one thing that happened?"
"Who was there?"
"What were you doing?"

And then I might use some prompts like "First…then… next…" or "After that…" or "Finally…" to lead them into narrative structure. I might even get them to use dialogue by prompting, "And then you said…" or "He/she said…"

Combine these prompts with some good old fashioned five second wait time and my success rate with coaching kiddos to tell their stories is 99.9%. (One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi, five-Mississippi. It's a long time.).

These prompts and a few others usually work like a charm on little kids. Not to toot my own horn, but teachers in my labsites often marvel at my magical writing teacher powers. I frequently get comments from others like, "That's the most he's ever spoken!" or "She usually just tells the same story every day! How do you do it?"

Well, apparently my magical writing teacher powers are no good within the walls of my own home. 

Here's my own flesh and blood, yesterday afternoon, during after school snack. I practically had to pull the story out of her, and she ends by letting me know that "If I tell another it'll be my garbage." She's obsessed with telling stories about Garbage Lizard (see yesterday's post for more about Garbage Lizard)

I heard somewhere, that with preschoolers it helps if you wait until bedtime to ask them about their school day, rather than right after school. So, I tried that. Here's what I got:

Sigh. Better luck next time. I should have gone with the owl story she seemed excited to tell. That'll teach me for trying to assign a topic. Choice is always a better way to go.

Speaking of next time, this article here, contains a list of some very good ideas for getting young kids to talk about their school day. And this one here has some advice for getting kids to open up and talk in general. If you have any tips of your own, please share below in the comments!


  1. Well, I loved hearing her, Beth. If it makes you feel better, my daughter and I just had a similar conversation with the pre-school granddaughter. She just looks and runs into the other room to play! Love that she said (at the end) it's time for owl stories. Maybe she'd tell more in the backseat of the car?

  2. I love that it's "more of an owl story kind of time." She is adorable and I applaud your efforts to draw out the story! Great post!

  3. Well, Lily certainly knows how to tell even an un-story with a LOT of eexpression!

  4. Well, I agree with your conclusion about maybe not assigning a prompt. I also read about some adults who needed counseling who fared better by learning how to talk with each other about their day.
    Instead of "How was your day?" a good way to engage your partner/spouse might be something like this: "What was challenging for you?" or "When did you feel good today?"
    Don't think I know if this sort of reasoning would apply to pre-schoolers, but I know the feeling of exhaustion being asked to recount the day's events. Yuck.