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Writing is a very important skill for children to master. Writing involves creativity, comprehension, fine motor skills, sometimes the ability to follow directions, reading, and so much more. Writing is one of the five early literacy practices helping prepare children for school.
Here is a simple activity you can do with your child to incorporate writing into your day.
For my example, we read the story Orange Bear Apple Pear by Emily Gravett. It is a simple story with four words: orange, bear, apple, pear. The author uses the words in fun ways through her illustrations.
After we read the story, I asked my group of children to think of four words. They could use any four words. When they had a little trouble thinking of words, I asked them to name their favorite color, fruit, and animal.
We moved to the table. I gave them each a large piece of paper, and I told them to use their four words to write a story and draw a picture to go with it.
The most important part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. The hardest part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. Yes, you read that correctly. As adults, we have a tendency to want to make our children’s work perfect or help them the entire way. For this project, it’s important to let them figure it out on their own. Let them sound out the words and “kid spell.” Let them draw an animal the way they “see” it.
We did this with a mixture of age groups from 3 to 8 years old.
This mixes a little bit of process art (letting them create on their own) with a little bit of product art (there’s a specific end result with a few instructions). You will be surprised what your child comes up with!
Today’s blog was written by one of our very own children’s storytellers: Miss Elizabeth. You’ll find Miss Elizabeth sharing stories with children of all ages as well as creating wonderful children’s programs at one of our branches. She shares her review of the book Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak.
Some say nothing is more beautiful than nature. There are vibrant colors, lakes and rivers, and animals noisily scurrying or perhaps lazily wandering. When seasons change, so does the sky, wind, and temperature. All of those pleasant experiences are captured so masterfully in the beautifully illustrated book Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak.
Pak uses conversational text between a young girl and nature throughout the book. The girl greets everything she sees on her journey through her hometown in late summer, and nature responds as it prepares for autumn.
This watercolor wonder is my top choice for the Caldecott Award this year.
Today’s blog was written by one of our very own children’s storytellers: Miss Elizabeth. You’ll find Miss Elizabeth sharing stories with children of all ages as well as creating wonderful children’s programs at one of our branches. She shares her review of the book Pete the Cat’s Got Class by James Dean.
It’s the perfect read for children as they are preparing to head back to school.
Pete heads to math class in this story, which is one of his favorite subjects. He’s such a great mathematician that he volunteers to help his classmate Tom learn to add and subtract using Tom’s favorite toy, racing cars. Using something of great interest to learn a new task was successful! Maybe Pete will grow up to be a teacher?
Be sure to checkout this book at your local library, and let your librarian know how you liked it!
Books become more meaningful when you can expand the story to a hands-on activity. Here is one extension activity you can do with very little supplies.
You’ll need to read the book Tall by Jez Alborough. (Hint: Stop by your local library and pick up a copy if you don’t own it.) Tall is about a few jungle animals who help a little monkey feel taller than he really is. This is a great book with very few words. You can use the illustrations to talk about what is happening on each page.
Next, get out the blocks or the LEGOs. You will also need a couple small animals or action figures. Now let your child’s imagination go wild. Let he/she build towers as tall as can be (just make sure no one is on the other side in case it falls!). When he/she is done building, place the small animal on top of the tower. Just how tall can the tower be before it falls over? Experiment with different shapes.
This is a great opportunity to talk with your child about the tower he/she is building. Ask questions like how tall do you think it can go before it will fall? What kind of tower is it? Why is the animal or action figure climbing so high? What is it the animal is trying to see?
Try to avoid yes/no questions as they require no other answer. To help expand your child’s vocabulary and comprehension of the story, you want to ask open ended questions.
Credit for activity idea: Teach Preschool.
Here is a simple, fun idea to make storytelling just a little bit different: Story Stones.
As you can see in the picture above, story stones are nothing more than a stone or small rock with a picture on them used to help tell stories. This is a great activity for sequencing and comprehension.
For my story stones, I found clipart through Google, sized it very small, printed it on a color printer, cut the pieces out, and then glued them using Rubber Cement. Eventually, I’m going to use a little Mod Podge on top to make sure every piece is secure and the pictures do not get ruined.
You can find rocks/stones in the floral area of a craft store for just a couple of dollars. Or go on a scavenger hunt in your backyard with your child. No color printer? No worries. If you have paint or paint markers, you can create your own illustrations on the rocks like they did here. You can use magazine or junk mail pictures. You can even create your own illustrations using fun scrapbooking paper or fabric. The possibilities are almost endless.
Once you have the story stones created, place them in a bowl or basket. Let your child pull out the stones and place them in order (either based on the specific story they are telling or the story he/she wants to tell).
In addition to the materials you use to create them, the possibilities for storytelling with these stones is almost just as endless. Create rhyming rocks with pictures that rhyme and tell a story with the rocks as if you are Dr. Seuss. Create a fractured fairy tale with your child’s favorite fairy tale characters. Ask your child for input on what characters or pictures should be on each rock/stone.
Red Hat by Lita Judge is one of my favorite (almost) wordless picture books. It’s a story about forest animals who find a knitted red hat and play with it all day long. Eventually, the hat becomes unraveled. The animals put the hat (or string) back where they found it and hide unsure what the owner might do. The owner of the hat finds the string and realizes what has happened. She ends up knitting hats for all of the animals.
The only words in the book are sounds like “wooo” and “swish swash.” The watercolor illustrations are beautifully done. And fans of Lita Judge may recognize the hat from Red Sled.
Making up the story to go with the illustrations is a great reason to read wordless picture books with your children. While the pictures dictate what will happen in the story, children can make up the words to go with the pictures by using creativity and prior knowledge–two topics that are very important when it comes to comprehension and storytelling.
Shhh…what you are about to read is top secret. Very top secret. I’m about to de-mystify storytime at the library. But you can’t tell anyone.
Librarians are people. There I said it. Storytellers are just ordinary people reading children’s books and singing songs in what might seem like extraordinary ways. Have you ever wondered how your librarian tells those stories and sings those songs so flawlessly? It takes practice. Lots of practice. Trial and error. Flexibility. Research. Flexibility. Trial and error. And did I mention practice?
So when you attend storytime with your child, keep in mind, these literacy tips, songs, stories, rhymes, and activities are for your benefit. For baby storytime, it’s entertainment for the child and modeling literacy skills for the parents. For the toddler and preschoolers, it’s entertainment and learning for the child, in addition to modeling the literacy skills for parents.
If you are looking for some storytelling ideas to try at home, visit some of my favorite storytime websites from some very talented librarians. Keep in mind these are written for librarians, but I think some of the activities, songs, and books could be translated very easily in a classroom or home setting:
Before I wrap up this post, let’s talk briefly about why libraries provide storytime to children and their families and why you should be attending:
And…if you’ve never been to storytime, please click here —-> Story Time at the SCDL.