Teaching kids to write stories is a year-long process. To build strong structure, use these four steps. 1) Begin with a simple story line. 2) Help them focus on the compelling part. 3) Use the story arc. 4) Add dialogue that shows characters’ traits and motivations.
Every story begins with a good idea. As the year progresses, kids can develop lists of stories they’d like to write.
At the beginning of the year, however, they need some guidance. Start with something short and familiar, like fables. Even though you’re limiting the structure, kids can choose their own characters, settings, plots, and morals/themes.
Cut to the Guts
As students begin writing their own stories (especially personal narratives), they tend to go on and on. They need help finding the compelling part.
You can help them focus on the main event with a simple craft. First, cut construction paper in half horizontally. Give a strip to each child. Ask them to fold it into fourths. Tell them to close their eyes and let the story play through their minds. Then they should sketch the four main parts of their story.
The next day, provide each child with a “frame.” Ask them to find the most exciting part of their stories. Then they should glue the frame onto it. Provide strips of paper (or sticky notes), and ask them to write what the characters are saying and doing.
This activity helps kids focus on a story’s climax. Now they’re ready to explain how the characters got to that point.
Organize the Structure
When you’re teaching kids to write stories, use a story arc. These simple steps help them develop great narratives:
- At the beginning, introduce characters and setting.
- Let the audience know the character’s goal or motivation. (It’s best to use dialogue to achieve this.)
- Now explain the character’s struggle to reach the goal.
- Finally, at the climax, tell how the character reaches the goal (or not).
- Since the plot has been resolved, wrap up the story with a conclusion.
Why should kids use the story arc? It’s all about the audience! First, without the arc, a story has no tension. Sadly, it is boring. The story arc also provides a predictable structure that the audience understands. The reader needs some background information before diving into the story. And when it is over, the audience needs resolution.
Good stories mix narrative writing with dialogue. At the beginning of the year, students need to know how to write dialogue. As time goes by, they can develop finesse. Their characters’ words and actions bely their traits – and motivations.
Teaching students to write dialogue is easier than you may think:
- Make a new paragraph every time a new character speaks (or the setting/event changes).
- Place quotation marks around spoken words.
- Keep all punctuation in a direct quote the same, but replace periods with commas when they come before a dialogue tag.
- Use commas to set off dialogue tags.
- Helpful hint: The comma comes before the quotation mark.
If you’re looking for a fun and easy way to practice writing dialogue, try using comic strips. Kids love it!
Teaching Kids to Write Stories – The Next Step
Today we’ve explored the first step in teaching kids to write stories: the structure. The next step is to bump up the quality with revisions. Remember, writing is a process. It’s constantly evolving.
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