Last week I started writing about how, in our family, we like to act out favorite books. Another fun way to help your preschoolers enjoy storytelling is through dictation. Dictation works well with young children because often their ability to tell a story far exceeds their ability to physically write it down.
To start, we usually offer: "If you'd like to make up story, I'd be happy to write it down." Often they refuse. We don't pressure them. When they are interested in storytelling, we get down on their level and set it up so they can see the paper. We write as they talk.
Carrie likes to hold set up plastic animals and she moves them around as the story develops. Don't worry if the story makes little sense or if the child makes mistakes, saying, for example, that a cow laid an egg. Corrections often stop the story. In order to encourage a young storyteller, it's important to listen and, during pauses, ask questions.
Here is an example of a poem that Pearl "wrote" last week. Marcia let her choose a picture from a catalog or magazine that she liked. Pearl chose the one she liked best and pasted where she wanted it on the paper--she chose the color too. Pearl told Marcia what to write.
The woman who can fly is very courageous. She shows people how brave she is by jumping off houseboats or ships. She soars through the air and is very courageous to be such a woman who can soar through the sky like a bird. Oh my, oh my, the woman who can fly!
by Pearl, age 5
Once the story is done, we read the story to the child, pointing to each word on the page. After each sentence we ask if we "got it right." Let your child know that she can make changes, if she wants.
At first the words your child tells you may not be stories at all. It's possible you will get a list or random observations. Don't worry. Later, when the dictation process develops into stories, you can even invite the kids to act them out!
** The ideas reflected here come from my work with the Rice University School Literacy and Culture Project.