When Children Tell Their Stories

Stories.  That word alone is groundbreaking.  It means listening, looking, hearing, and thinking.  Stories light a fire.  That means learning.

Children have more ideas and thoughts in their heads than we realize.  Their brains are gigantic sponges; they see it all and hear it all.  The last part to develop, and the most important, is verbalizing everything that is in their brain.  In order to do that, they need words, lots of words – and then more words.

When the school year begins, I jump into reading aloud picture books and chapter reading books with both feet.  Children are constantly hearing words- oh, their brain is soaking it up.  The next step is writing picture stories, because they need to use their language and verbalize what they are thinking.

In September we write about what we like to do in school.


Imagine being three or four years old and asked by your teacher what you like to do in school.  And then, your teacher carefully writes every word that you say.  That tells a child that words are important.  The ‘frosting on the cake’ to validate a child’s words is asking the child to illustrate what s/he has said.

Writing picture stories brings thinking and language together.  It empowers children.

The day after Halloween we write picture stories again.  Children have many memories and thoughts.  By now, their language has become more descriptive.  Two months of reading-aloud is proof.

img_1938As the year progresses, we read, discuss, debate, write, and facilitate vocabulary.  This past week one of the words in our current chapter reading book, Little House on the Prairie, was “wavering”.  Of course that was an unfamiliar word, so we stopped to talk about it.  When we read the final chapter in Mr. Popper’s Penguins, titled “Farewell” we stopped to learn about the word.  Children at the end of the day were saying “farewell”.

Our final picture stories for the school year were, “When I Grow Up”.  This sparked new thinking.  We were writing about the future.  Our earlier picture stories were about the recent past, or what is currently happening.

As I wrote the words, I carefully scribed and read aloud each one, word by word,  so children could connect every printed word to their own words.

It’s all about language.  The more words a child hears, the better s/he will do in school in all subject areas.  Period.  Now, if that doesn’t make every parent run to the library, and make every teacher institute multiple ways of promoting language, then I will keep shouting this loud and clear.

How simple; increase the number of words and a child does better in school.  Write about it, and the child wants to do better.  Win-win.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, picture stories, preschool, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, storytelling, Teaching young children, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

62 Responses to When Children Tell Their Stories

  1. ksbeth says:

    I love the stories that come from children)

  2. beetleypete says:

    Children are like sponges indeed. And I can think of nobody better to fill that sponge with ideas and knowledge than you, Jennie. Nobody, full stop.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Precious in so many ways. I am sure parents will preserve these for years to come.

  4. Ritu says:

    Oh I love this!
    I’m all for children hearing those stories and using the vocabulary themselves in talk!!!
    That will lead to beautiful stories from them 😄

  5. The things I miss most about teaching are reading with the kids and writing with them. Your thoughts on kids and learning, reading, and writing are all spot-on.

  6. Dan Antion says:

    “The more words a child hears, the better s/he will do in school in all subject areas.”

    It’s really a pretty simple concept, but the execution takes a lot of work. Your stories are proof of that.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Dan. If teachers read multiple times a day, and stopped along the way to talk about what was read, then the writing part is fun. I will keep preaching! 🙂

  7. Darlene says:

    Suh wise words, Jennie. You provide these children with such a good start in school and in life. ❤

  8. Darlene says:

    That should be such. I am too quick to hit the post comment button.

  9. Great process, Jennie.

  10. Lovely ‘presentation’ format on this post, Jennie!

  11. TanGental says:

    I love this; we have a video of our thn five year old son saying, in the poshest English voice you ever heard (long gone with exposure to all sorts of riff raff at Uni!!) ‘pasta is loathsome’. Makes my heart sing still… this is soooo true

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Geoff! Your video is definitely a keeper. I’m at the stage in life where our grandchildren are desperately loving stories of their parents. Jennie the storyteller is in her glory. 🙂 So, save all that good stuff. What a treat it will be for you to share down the road.

    • “Pasta is loathsome.” What a great line! Someone could build an entire short story off that line. Your son, perhaps?

  12. AJ says:

    Your classroom sounds suspiciously like mine:) We kept a list this year of how many books we read and it came to 360- averages about two a day:)

  13. So true, every word. Such lucky kids to have you.

  14. Norah says:

    Perfect, Jennie. I love children’s stories.

  15. barbtaub says:

    Every child deserves a teacher like you. Every very lucky child gets one.

  16. delphini510 says:

    Children often seem wiser than adults. To encourage their growth like you do is definitely a win-win


  17. Opher says:

    Spot on Jennie.
    You might want to have a look at what I’ve been doing with my grandchildren. Here’s one of the books Emily wrote (with a little help from me) :

  18. This post really resonated with me. When I was little, one of the greatest joys of my young life was learning a new word. (It still is, for that matter.) Ironically, one of the biggest challenges I have teaching the writing process to college students is purpose and audience: #1, you have something important to say, and #2 there are people who want to hear and will appreciate what you have to say. One of the challenges for the students is not having read enough to possess the words to tell their stories in the way they want to tell them.

    • Jennie says:

      I know what you mean. If your students believe they have something important to say, and there are people who want to heat it, that is a huge first step. Any reading they can do is a good thing.

      I’m taking this post as step #1 in a series of storytelling posts. Even a small event in one’s life can be a story that is (as you said) important to say, and something people will want to hear. Thank you, Liz!

  19. John Fioravanti says:

    What a great recipe for personal growth, Jennie! I often think that we adults don’t listen to children enough – as if they are too young to think about anything worthwhile. I think that as kids get older and can write that they will be given time each day in school to keep a journal about things that are important to them – a private journal.

    • Jennie says:

      Well said, John. Children have so many thoughts in their heads. If we listen and help them to verbalize, and then write, we are giving children lifelong tools. I love how you said it.

  20. Oh Jennie, If only we could clone you!!!! What magic you have produced for those wonderful children. All of them will remember you for a lifetime, and I bet their own children will grow up to be rich in words too. Thank you so much forever for being who you are. If you ran for President, I would vote for you!!!

  21. srbottch says:

    Terrific advice, Jennie. Is it ever too soon to start!

  22. sjhigbee says:

    What a wonderful way to celebrate your childrens’ natural story-telling skill…

  23. dgkaye says:

    Children tell the best stories 🙂

  24. What another great information, You have chosen a very nice comparison, with the children’s brain and the sponge. This also explains why it is much easier for children to learn a foreign language. Michael

  25. children remind us all how we use to be

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