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.
As 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.