How To Help Your Child Write a Story
A ‘story’ is the everyday term we use for a narrative, which is a piece of fictional writing. Stories are narratives that entertain us because they contain elements of suspense and expectation in the revealing of unusual and/or unexpected events as the story progresses.
Narratives can instruct us and teach us life lessons as well, as we read about how the characters faced and attempted to resolve problems, difficulties or challenges throughout the story.
At school, children are often requested to write a story and this can be somewhat more difficult than writing a factual text, for while they can research information to be included in a factual text, for a story, children have to use their imagination to develop a story of their own.
Firstly, they need to know the structure of a narrative
- a beginning known as an orientation to the story – usually introduces the setting, including place and time and perhaps the main character or other characters in the story.
- complication – the secret of any good narrative is the occurrence or presentation of a difficulty, conflict, a challenge to be overcome, or a complication in the life of one or more of the characters.
- resolution – the series of events that leads to an attempt being made, or success being achieved, in the difficulty being addressed, problem being solved or the challenge overcome
- coda –this is an optional ending in which the writer may present a moral to the story or explain how the characters and circumstances have been changed by what has happened in the story.
For example, in the story of The Three Little Pigs:
- the orientation provides a setting in which the three little pigs set out to make their own fortunes in the world
- the complication (problem) arises when the wolf gets involved as each pig attempts to build his house
- the resolution of the problem comes as each of the first two little pigs runs to his brother’s house to escape the wolf and finally the third little pig catches the wolf in a large pot of hot water when he comes down the chimney
The grammar found in a story includes:
- particular nouns that are used to name the people, places, animals and things in the story eg pigs, house, straw, sticks, bricks, wolf, chimney
- adjectives and phrases used to build up effective noun groups to describe the people, places, animals or things in the story eg; the little fat pig; the big, bad wolf with large, sharp teeth; a house of straw
- conjunctions that join parts of a sentence together – and, but, or
- connectives that link parts of the whole text together and help sequence the events in time eg firstly, secondly, after that, finally
- action verbs to indicate the actions of the characters eg built, worked, ran, climbed
- thinking, feeling and saying verbs to indicate how the characters are feeling or thinking and what they are saying eg said, thought
- adverbials that add meaning to the verbs eg ran quickly;
Children can be supported in their development of ‘story language’ by reading, or having read to them, a wide range of narratives eg picture books, adventure stories, mystery stories, love stories, horror stories, folktales, fairytales, myths, legends, fables, parables, science fiction, ballads, photo stories, short stories, cartoons.
Coming up with initial ideas for a story can be challenging and the following are a few suggestions for supporting your child to do this:
Provide ‘story starters’
- It was the strangest creature I had ever seen …
- The hot sun burned down on her head and the sand …
- He raced down the dark street and hid behind a …
- The roaring lions entered the circus ring …
- The boat rocked and tossed on the sea and the captain …
- The wind and rain lashed the trees outside her window …
- His heart pounded and his hand trembled as he knocked on the front door …
- Last weekend we …
- She was enjoying the picnic until …
Brainstorm story topics as a family and record them on a chart for future use
Think of a theme eg ‘water’ and list the titles of stories that could be written involving water
eg our day at the beach, fishing in the river, the big flood, the surf carnival, an adventure by the creek, the breaking of the drought, one stormy night, a pirate adventure at sea
Children read a story then create an innovation on the text by making changes to the setting, characters, and/or plot eg write a story about the three little sheep, or four hungry frogs, or make the wolf kind and gentle instead of big and mean, or place the setting in the city.
Access Scholastic StoryStarters website
A free, interactive website on which children can choose a story starters theme (adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, or scrambler), sign in, then press each button and the wheels will spin to allow them to choose:
- the type of story
- a description for the character
- a character
- a scenario for the story
eg Describe a very unusual day for a snoopy explorer who blasts tunnels underground
They can change each of the parts by pressing the buttons again until they are happy with the combination and then write their own story (they do not write it on the website).