Picture Stories, Storytelling, and Writing Letters

iStock image

Learning begins with language, building words upon words.  The more words children hear, the more they learn, and the better they do in school.  All of this leads up to reading readiness.  So, if I can give children hundreds and thousands of words in a variety of ways, they will have a head start.

How do I do this?

Letter writing
When we have a guest visit the class, or we want to ask someone questions, or we want to tell our own story, we write a giant letter.  In that way, I am helping children to visualize what is on their minds.  But there’s more; children need to touch and feel to ‘cement’ an idea or a concept.  I have them decorate and draw on the big letters.  The words are reinforced and children feel as though they have written the words themselves.  Often, they add their own writing.  This week we wrote a letter to our Pen-Pals:

Picture Stories
Children have much on their minds.  They’re constantly learning, soaking up information at a rapid clip.  In late September I ask each child what they like to do in school.  This is not a casual question; it’s the first time their teacher has asked, one-on-one.  First, they have to think.  I can almost visualize a fast-forward movie playing in their brains.  With no other prompting or questions, I get “the story”.  Each child watches as I write his / her exact works.  I have not only put their thought into a written image, I have validated that what they say is important.  Because it is.  Next, each child draws a picture of their story.  I mount the story along with their photo and hang it in the hallway.  Of course we have a field trip to the hallway to read aloud everyone’s picture story.  As the year progresses, I have children write more picture stories.  Yes, we are learning about dinosaurs!

Note the detail in the drawings and expressive, thoughtful vocabulary.

I tell stories for two reasons: hearing words without an image requires brain work and concentration.  It is much the same with chapter reading.  Children make the images in their head and vocabulary grows in leaps and bounds.  Secondly, telling classic fairy tales with voices and animation is a favorite, along with Jennie Stories (true stories of my childhood), as it connects the children to me.  There is the element of love, that intangible feeling of wanting to be part of the story and also part of the teacher who was once just like them.

And what does all this language do, along with reading a gazillion picture books?  It gives children the skills to learn to read!  There is both visual and auditory processing at work, plus making all those connections with what they hear, what they see, and what they write.  This also translates into focusing- learning and listening at school in all areas.

Children are natural storytellers.  After they hear stories, and after they write their own picture stories, they are ready to tell a story, as a group.  This is big, because it’s a group collaboration.

Of course the children told a dinosaur story.  It was detailed.  The words filled the entire chart paper!  I wrote every word.  The story is hanging alongside the picture stories in the hallway.

Finally, it is fun for children.  When the big chart paper comes out to write a letter, or when they hear the words “It happened like this”, or when the lights go out for chapter reading, children are excited and engaged.  Words make all the difference in the world.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty 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 am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, literacy, preschool, School, storytelling, Teaching young children, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

78 Responses to Picture Stories, Storytelling, and Writing Letters

  1. Darlene says:

    Introducing children to a variety of words at an early age is so valuable. Using big words like brachiousaures is an excellent way to help them pronounce words too. Such a great start in life.

  2. Norah says:

    This is all wonderful, as you know, Jennie.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    What a delightful post, Jennie. You are giving these kids such an important start in life. Thank you!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Dan. I think I get as excited as the children. Yes, it’s such an important start in life. One of my former students is in 2nd grade and stopped by school today. He was the child who loved being read to, yet struggled with words and writing. His mom told me today that a few months it all came together and he is in the top reading group. She has a hard time getting him to turn off the light at bedtime and stop reading. So, in front of his mother, I said, “Collin, get a flashlight and sneak it into your room. Then you can read under the covers and Mom will never know.” I think that’s as good as it gets.

  4. beetleypete says:

    I loved reading what sort of dinosaurs they would be, and what they would do.
    ‘Drink people for my drink’. Hilarious. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Lucy was laughing her head off when she told me her story. She thought it was so funny. Yes Lucy, it was! Every time we do picture stories, they are creative and thoughtful- and sometimes funny. Thank you, Pete.

  5. pastorpete51 says:

    Oh, I love the letter writing idea! There is nothing that makes us ask ourselves, what we really think as much as having to put it down on paper. Have a blessed week!

  6. Oh so smiked at the child wh wrote if they were a dinosaur they would catch someone and eat them for dinner lol
    Love children’s imagination.. And wonderful that you put an importance upon allowing them to express themselves freely.. So important.. 💕
    Love it.

  7. quiall says:

    I lived through most of this with my parents. It helped to mould me into the woman I am today. Engaging a child is perhaps the most important step someone can take. An engaged child will become an engaged adult and that can only benefit us all.

    • Jennie says:

      Pam, you hit the nail on the head. And you were lucky enough to have parents who understood and gave you freedom, stories, and encouraged you to write. That freedom is the spark to engage a child. And an engaged child… you said it so well. Thank you!

  8. Ritu says:

    We love getting the children to tell stories! And also to get them to think of alternative endings to favourites!!!

  9. Love seeing your students’ writing and artwork, Jennie!

  10. Words, words, wonderful words! ❤ Thanks for all you do to share the wonder, Jennie. Kudos to you and your wonderful students! xo

  11. I think that last story is the second one they’ve written featuring the effects of eating too much? (I remember one about pancakes.) As I read this post, the thought occurred to me that the language activities you’re doing with the children should help develop their visual literacy as well, which is increasingly becoming a critical life skill. (Six pages of visual literacy standards from the Association of College & Research Libraries!)

  12. I need an appointment at your class, Jennie! 🙂 xx Michael

  13. Lovely post Jennie, the dinosaurs are great teaching helps! It all reminds me of the Flintstones!

  14. petespringerauthor says:

    Any opportunity for kids to use their imaginations when writing is worthwhile. I love the idea of writing a community letter. We occasionally wrote a letter like yours to another class on large chart paper. Part of the fun for the kids was then making a large envelope for the letter. That meant opportunities to learn how to address an envelope. Then we’d “deliver” the letter by having as many children as possible carry it over to the other class at a prearranged time.

    I got home today, Jennie. It’s great to be home, but that was one of the best trips ever. Your students will be hearing from me soon.

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Pete! You are so right. The community letter or story is a favorite with children, and it gives a wealth of opportunities for imagination. I love how you wrote a letter to other classes and also made an envelope. ‘Delivering’ is the frosting on the cake.

      Welcome back home, Pete. I’m truly glad it was one of your best trips. The children will be thrilled to get your cards!

  15. These are wonderful stories, and great lessons they’re learning. I bet it doesn’t feel like it though. Your class seems like it’s fun, fun, fun! 😀😍

  16. beth says:

    you are such a natural at this and why the kids love letters and words, too! (I think I see a Mac note in there))

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, there is a MAC letter in there.😀 I hope your kids enjoyed it. I will be writing another Pen-Pal post, as Ritu’s class in the UK sent cards and we opened them today. Our Pen-Pal wall has now become a full. corner. It is wonderful! Writing stories is so important and fun for children. Thank you, Beth.

  17. Your students are learning and don’t even realize it. You make it so much fun for them. I do not think I thought much as a child. You are teaching them to think! Brilliant.

  18. Pingback: Picture Stories, Storytelling, and Writing Letters – Nelsapy

  19. frenchc1955 says:

    Hi Jennie, thank you for another wonderful example of teaching!

  20. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, Is your reblog button working? I cannot reblog your post for some reason.

  21. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is another example of excellent teaching from Jennie!

  22. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, the issue with reblogging was on my end. I was finally able to do it.

  23. Wonderful, Jennie. Another great way of creating interest in reading and writing, Jennie.

  24. swamiyesudas says:

    1. very nice. 2. on ‘if i were a din…’ …gosh!

  25. Pingback: Picture Stories, Storytelling, and Writing Letters – Site Title

  26. dalyawittenberg says:

    Language is everything

  27. dgkaye says:

    Just beautiful ❤

  28. Sndrjesic says:

    Omg , I wish someone told me how to tell a story, teacher didn’t thrust me…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s