Friday, March 4, 2016

SOLSC #4 When do we do our best writing?

During the month of March, I am participating in
the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days. My slices will be primarily about teaching preschoolers.
Check out the Two Writing Teachers website for many more reflections on teaching.

Yesterday I wrote about how challenging it can be to get a child's story sometimes, in terms of simply being able to create the time and space for listening and transcribing it, in the midst of so many other demands. This got me thinking about their story-telling in general - their oral writing.

Preschoolers share stories all day long. As Bev Bos suggests, you simply have to ask, "How does your story begin?" and children share a gift of imagination. Sometimes I'll ask for a more 'focused' story - for example, whenever preschoolers create something, I encourage them to share a story about what they made. In recent days, we have been creating 3-D engineering projects, and I encourage the children to tell me more about it, especially how it works. These stories are delightful! Some preschoolers hold fast to the story they share, repeating it again and again, and demonstrating great logic and memory skills. Many preschoolers share 'momentary stories,' something that they are thinking about just then, at that precise moment, and, without the gift of my pen to record these, these are stories you will never hear again. I often think these children with 'momentary stories' are my fiction writers - dreaming up one new imaginative possibility after another. For example, yesterday's little girl tried to share a story about a boat. Today, when I reconnected with her about her project, she had so many fabulous new details to share about a house...there was no mention of a boat. I love this! These preschoolers show such freedom and flexibility in their storytelling, wandering down the agreeable path that the moment requires, unbound by any thread or remnant of an earlier tale. 

I wonder, too, about the effect of pen and paper. I have noticed that my writing of their words begins to cement the story in the child's mind - they delight in my read-aloud of their words, and they are over the moon when I send these words home (or display them in the classroom) and a family member reads these words aloud. Then, I notice, the free-spirit storyteller disappears and a new, precise re-teller of tales appears - the preschooler is often able to repeat the story exactly as I wrote it. I know that documenting their ideas is such important work. It shows respect and investment in children's own words and helps cultivate a classroom of writers, storytellers, thinkers, creators. But, I wonder, what happened to all those other story lines, those random threads that they shared before I started writing everything down? Where did all those other story possibilities go?

Let me close with one preschooler's story about the boat she made -

This is a boat. If you push this, it puts strings out, and they tie things. The green button shoots out green beans for the people on the ship, so they can eat. And this one shoots out spoons, so they can eat the beans that fell out. People are hungry.


  1. My high school students can learn much from your preschoolers, and I bet my kids once told stories so freely, too. I wander how their desire and inspiration to tell stories diminished. We need stories, and our learning is so much more gratifying w/ Once upon a time.

  2. I thin by writing the words down there is a permanence but when they aren't written they can recreate the story every time. What fun you have with these little ones!