By now, educators are greeting fresh smiling faces, basking in the beauty of their newly decorated classrooms, and remembering just how amazing it is to work side by side with children each and every day. As we begin to get to know our new young students and plan our lessons we must ask ourselves, “What can these students do beginning from the very first day of school?” Donald Graves, a dedicated educator, researcher and best-selling author looked at children and first noticed what they could do rather than what they needed support in. When it comes to writing, answering the question of what students can do is simple. They can tell stories!
When children tell stories, they let us into their worlds and tell us what they know. Telling what they know is what writers do, but writers do not just sit down and start writing. Writers understand that they need order and organization, details, revising, audience appeal, and various other elements of the writing craft. By first practicing telling stories, children are naturally learning that craft. When stories are told, the audience can ask questions when things get out of order and push for more information. This allows the storyteller to think about the story and make revisions. Oral storytelling is authentic writing practice without the intimidation of paper and pencil.
The book, Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers, by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe explains that by allowing children to tell stories, we are planting the seeds for what they will be doing as composers of written text. In order to tell stories with our students we first need to believe in the importance of storytelling and carve out a time and place for it to happen. Second, we need to know that we ourselves have stories of our own to use as models. Third, the stories we use as models need to be easily relatable for our students. Finally, we need to honor that every single one of our students has something to say and that as educators, we believe in our own ability to help them find and say it. Remember to begin with the end in mind, not to begin with the end!
Stay with me in this blog series focused on the steps building toward the end goal of children putting their stories on paper. My next post will focus on drawing as the next stepping stone in learning to write.
Giacobbe, M. & Horn, M. (2007). Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers. Stenhouse Publishers.