This blog is designed to offer creative ideas that you can take back and try at home or in the classroom. It was born out of the time I spent educating my own boys over lockdown and aims to make the teaching and learning of English as engaging as possible!
So much of what we do in school is based teaching children how to write stories. We read them hundreds of stories, learn stories, re-enact stories, write stories... we give them models and frames to help them be successful. But all of this explicit teaching has a far greater goal - to enable the children to use their imagination to invent stories of their own. Once they can invent these stories, they can then retell them, perform them and even begin to write them down to enable future retelling.
Storytelling is an integral part of who we are. Stories are passed down from generation to generation. Stories are invented and retold. The world of possibility is endless.
A major part of the Talk for Writing journey is enabling children to invent their own stories, narratives and non-fiction texts. We need to initially teach them how so that they can then do this independently with growing confidence. Over lockdown, we will invent a story every day, following the pattern below.
To begin, we drew a mirror image of the letter 'S'. This is a great template to plan a story as it promotes fluidity. The 'S' represents the journey of our story and also helps keep the stories on point (i.e. so that they don't begin to ramble or lose focus).
We then talked about the key storytelling language we would need to sequence our story. These are sometimes referred to as 'story signposts'. In essence, it is the key transferrable language that can be used across multiple stories. A great starting point would be:
Once upon a time there lived a ..... who...
Early one day
To help the children internalise this language, we can have images and actions that strengthen the learning, as illustrated in the picture here.
We then decided on the characters we wanted to use in our story. The joy of story invention is that you can use any characters, objects or settings. However, it helps to draw on things you know or are familiar with. Here are the boys' choices for today's story. This threw up the interesting question of how would a lion, penguin and reindeer all meet, inspiring rich inventive thought.
We were now ready to begin inventing our story. As the ideas came together, we added to the 'S' planner and practised retelling the story bit-by-bit, adding on the next sentence and then orally retelling. We also added in the key actions and thought about bringing the story to life through expression.
Here is our story map and simple oral invention:
In a land far far away, there lived a lion called Simba who liked spinning around and around and around.
One hot summer's day, he decided to go on a walk to the North Pole.
Unfortunately, he froze solid.
Luckily, a passing penguin and a reindeer got out their hair dryer...brrrrrrrrrrrrr...and unfroze Simba.
Finally, the three friends spun around and around and around, singing...Hakuna Matata...
Having created the story, we quickly rehearsed it a couple of times, slowly building confidence in the sentence patterns. Here is a video of the boys having a go at an initial retelling:
Finally, we brought the story to life through performance:
The boys then had a go at inventing their own versions, which they drew and then retold.
The whole activity takes less than 30 minutes and is designed to be a means of rapidly inventing, retelling and performing stories. Obviously, we can also write these down to treasure and savour at a later date.
Over time, the stories will grow both in language, complexity, description and detail. Today's was a very humble story, fuelled by the ideas of my 4 year old. I look forward to sharing subsequent stories once the daily pattern has become familiar and confidence is high.
I hope that this is an activity you can explore with your own children during lockdown. We must not underestimate the power and importance of story invention. In less than 30 minutes, you can invent a story, open the world of your child's imagination, introduce new language, activate dormant vocabulary, explore story dilemma...and have great fun doing it!
I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed reading this blog. If you have a great idea you would like to share, or would like inspiration for a short-burst writing idea that could become a new blog, please do not hesitate to get in touch. As my 4 year old constantly reminds me - sharing is caring.
My thanks to Pie Corbett, Julia Strong and the Talk for Writing team for inspiring many of the ideas explored in this blog.
This blog is copyright. All materials herein, texts and supporting resources are copyright to Jamie Thomas & Talk for Writing. They may be used to support children/staff/parents in home-learning ONLY and not for commercial gain or for training or sharing widely, in their original form or any variations. They must also not be shared online or on any social media platforms without prior permission.