A 4-Step Process for Writing and Storytelling in Kindergarten

A simple, consistent approach can help teachers create a learning environment where young students are excited about literacy.

May 22, 2024
Wavebreakmedia / iStock

In my last article, I outlined my daily experience of creating a beneficial culture of story writing and storytelling in my wife’s kindergarten classroom. I have always set up storytelling cultures in my own classrooms, and I‘ve helped teachers do the same in theirs. When I speak to colleagues about the concept, they accept the many benefits but pose a valid question: How do you maintain a culture of writing and storytelling? 

That’s something I’ve been exploring recently as I continue to visit my wife’s class daily, and the students continue to write stories and enjoy telling them to their peers. Below, I have some tips about how to achieve this, based on what I find works for this age group. 

How to Maintain the Motivation for Storytelling

In the beginning of establishing this culture, there are usually complaints that the storyteller is only picking their friends as performers. I allow this because it’s a highly motivating reason to write a story. To the students who complain, I say, write a story, be the storyteller, and pick your friends. This always works. In addition, I always make sure to find little ways to include the whole class in the read-aloud performance. For example, they can all be trees in a forest, flowers in a park, clouds in the sky, the rushing wind, etc.

The motivation remains high with storytelling because it presents a kinesthetic and engaging way to share a story. Not every student writes stories every day. My wife had other literary options and curriculum points to meet, but there was always an excess of stories being deposited in the Storytelling Basket and cheers when we announced it was storytelling time. Here’s a four-part approach to implementing ongoing procedures that can help teachers maintain the culture and practice.

Step 1: Sort out the Basics, Build kids’ Stamina and Patience 

When a student completes a story, they first read it aloud to their teacher or me, and we help them rewrite any hard-to-read words. This is also a good time to reiterate a need for those basic writing conventions: uppercase letters and periods. The student then spends some time practicing reading their story to themselves to develop their fluency. Then they can place the story in the Storytelling Basket.

Students have to build stamina in order to be patient and wait their turn. We only get to a maximum of two stories a day, sometimes just one if it’s longer. Student stories range from a single page to 16! 

Step 2: Provide Encouragement to Build Up Students’ Confidence

The more you do storytelling, the more confident students become and the more they want to express their imaginations. This can sometimes lead them to going off script. I always have them go back to what they wrote on the page. If they create something fun on the spot, I invite them to write it in a sequel. That way, the student appreciates that the fun is generated by the writing.

Any student who has written for the very first time skips to the front of the queue. This scaffold helps celebrate your more reluctant writers and support them so they don’t feel overwhelmed by the volume of stories ahead of them. Recently, a new student in the class watched storytelling for a couple of weeks, then she started participating as an actor, and last week she wrote and told her first story.

Step 3: Offer Multimodal Storytelling Opportunities 

Filming the stories and posting them on digital platforms such as Seesaw to share with parents is another powerful motivator. This has led to students writing and telling stories at home with their families, as well as parents being able to enjoy their child’s newfound confidence. As I’m at the front helping the student who is storytelling manage the interactive process, a classmate films the story using the basic camera function on an iPad. While some films may not come out as clear (or steady) as desired, the families know that a student is taking them and gaining a valid experience. The students all love being the filmmaker!

In terms of performance, my wife has included new rituals for the end of each story. First, everyone bows as if they were onstage. Next, the students give three compliments to the storyteller. My wife then puts the paper copy of the stories up on display. 

I think it’s important to note that students in the class with special educational needs have all engaged with these activities. For one student, they have been a tool for him to learn how to connect with his peers, develop patience, and have a desire to write. For another (who often leaves the classroom for special interventions), the activities have helped him participate in class and feel a sense of belonging.

The children who receive speech language intervention need support in the expression of some words, but they are all willing to tell stories, which builds their confidence. With the most confident writers, I’ve also done some very short, small group sessions on editing stories and adding in other language elements, such as transition phrases.

Step 4: Keep Making the Time

One of the biggest challenges we have as classroom teachers is making the time for those activities we know bring such benefits to our students. However, in kindergarten there remain windows of play or “choosing” time that teachers all use differently. Some of this can be kept, but in my wife’s class, she makes the learning so much fun that the students choose to write and tell stories. This has the positive feedback loop effect of improving core curriculum skills.

Parents often comment how they enjoy seeing the storytelling and are amazed at what their children are writing. I am not amazed because I know how innate a love of storytelling is to all of us, especially children. 

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Filed Under

  • Literacy
  • English Language Arts
  • K-2 Primary

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