It’s spring again, and this year’s chickadees (our youngest class) are immersing themselves in stories, storytelling, and beginning writing. As I began to think about sharing some of the current stories they have created to act out together, I discovered the following post from last spring that describes their processes well. Here are a few samples of first stories:
Once upon a time there was a dragon. It was a dinosaur too. Two more T-rexes! And 2 more dragons. The dragons had fire. There was a volcano. The volcano didn’t have fire. The T-Rex said “Stomp!” He stomped his foot. There was a truck. He threw the truck. He was building a tower. He finished the tower. The End.
Once upon a time, I was a blue princess wearing a pink dress. Rapunzel came. And a dragon came. And he blow fire. “Hi, friendly dragon!” And rain came down. And we had tea. The children had snacks. The End
Once upon a time, there was a princess, a queen, and a prince and a king. And a dragon came. And Andrasandra came too, to watch. The king and the queen were scared. Everybody was scared. They ran away, The dragon said, “I’m a friendly dragon!” They said, “Hi, hi new friend!” The End
Once upon a time there was a princess. One was a knight. There was a dragon. It was a mean one. That one was supposed to be nice but it wasn’t. He blows fire. The princess, the knight and everyone else runs away. The dragon leaves adn he runs away. The princess the knight and the people come back to the castle. They drive to Boston in their car. The End.
Once upon a time there was a big dragon. A baby dragon. And there was a big dragon that blow fire at his dog’s house. It caused fire! And the fireman came in and sprayed water. And then they build a new dog house for them. The dog said, “Hey, that’s a good house!” The End
Once upon a time a princess came. A dragon came. There was a wizard. The wizard was a baby dragon. The a birdie came up. Then a spider was on the wizard’s shoulder. Then a bird went into the tree. Then a pizza box went into the trash. The End
Once upon a time, I was with my dad. And my mom. And my brother. I was bringing my brother in school in the bus. Grandma and Grandpa came. The End
It’s clear from this sample that many children collect ideas and themes from other children and develop them to make them their own.
The original post with more detail about how story acting supports storytelling among 3 year children at Learning Circle follows:
Throughout our school year, we have been finding a variety of ways to encourage the children to think about story forms and storytelling. We’ve told “dream stories” at meeting, retold favorite folktales with flannel pieces, and enjoyed books together. We’ve sung stories and songs, and used books or song cards to help choose songs and remember them. We’ve used favorite books and stories to create our own props for plays and acted out stories. We’ve encouraged children to “tell about” their work, whether it was at the easel, in journals, or in block or dramatic play. We’ve asked children to talk with parents about favorite stories, and found out that parents often share their favorites from childhood with their children.
Following the model offered by Vivian Paley (loosely) we have also encouraged children to write stories that we can act out as a class. To write such a story, children sit in the “writing chair” to dictate their ideas. Stories must fit on one half page of paper (that way we have had more time to give everyone a turn) and include no illustrations. Children simply tell a teacher the words to write down, and then the teacher reads the story back to its author.
Later in the day, roles are assigned at a story telling meeting. The author chooses a role to act out, and we go around the circle asking for other volunteers. We’ve found that because we offer the next role to the next child (regardless of gender, etc) children have gained an understanding of pretend and acting (Girls can be princes and boys princesses; we can be animals even if we are people, because we are pretending and we need to help tell the story). The actors stand up to act out the story, narrated by a teacher, while other children become the audience.
We have two short videos of this storytelling process in the two day class, and have some sample stories written down. Every child participated in the story acting experience. Some have preferred to act out stories told by friends, and some prefer the audience role right now. Every part in the storytelling process is an important one.
We’ve noticed that children have clear themes that recur in their stories. Some of these themes are related to ideas from friends, so look for similarities between stories written on or near the same date.
Look for the writing patterns in the stories as well. A basic story follows along like a list (And he did it, And she did it, etc.) We often ask children “And then what happened?” to move a story forward.
Those children who have included many characters figured out early in the process that if we have more characters, more children are actually in the story when it is told. It has not been uncommon for teachers to be the only audience.
We hope you enjoy this sampling of our beginning stories.
For families with children currently at the school, you may log in at this link to see some short videos of children acting out their stories.
For more insight into the work of Vivian Paley, here are some of her books. The links are to amazon.com for convenience. Many of these books are in public libraries.
Bad Guys Don’t Have Birthdays: Fantasy Play at Four
The Boy on the Beach: Building Community through Play
The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter
Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner
A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play
The Girl with the Brown Crayon: How Children Use Stories to Shape Their Lives
In Mrs. Tully’s Room: A Childcare Portrait
The Kindness of Children
Mollie Is Three: Growing Up in School
You Can’t Say You Can’t Play