Writing stories is a learned skill. It’s a process by which the writer uses written words to communicate clear ideas.
In our 1st grade class, we talk about the writer’s responsibility to the reader. For example, the writer has a “picture” of their story in their mind. It’s the writer’s job to provide clear written words so that the reader can make the same “picture” in their own mind. Young children are adept at visualizing what a good writer is saying.
Here’s a simple activity you can do to help a young child become a better story writer:
Print a simple sentence on a paper, making sure to start with a capital letter and end with appropriate punctuation. An example could be “I see a bird.”
Then ask her to close her eyes and picture what that sentence says.
Ask her to open her eyes and tell you what she envisioned. She might say, “I saw a blue bird.”
Tell her that was not what you were thinking of, but that’s OK, because as the writer you didn’t give her enough information.
Then print another sentence, underneath the first, such as, “I see a yellow bird.” Ask her to close her eyes and make that new picture in her mind.
After opening her eyes ask, “Was your yellow bird big or small?” When she answers say, “My fault again, as the writer I didn’t give you enough information to make the same picture that I have in my mind.”
Continue with a progression of three or four more simple sentences, each time asking questions such as, “Where was your bird?” or “Did the bird move?”
The last sentence or sentences should look something like this: “I see a small yellow bird in the tree outside. It flew away.” Ask her to close her eyes and make that picture in her mind. Now you both have the same picture of what the story is about.
Compare these last sentences to the first one that said “I see a bird.” Help her visualize that when writers use specific, descriptive words it helps the reader clearly comprehend what the writer is saying.
Doing simple exercises like these helps a young child know that creating an organized structure for their writing is important. It engages the reader and demonstrates understanding of what the author is communicating.
Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.