Friday, 6 March 2015

Learning to Write Stories

Teaching story writing is something that I find a bit of a mystery so when someone on a local home education forum recommended Pie Corbett's book How to teach story writing at Key Stage 1, I decided that this was a book that I needed to read.
I have a child in Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7) and a child in Key Stage 2 (ages 8-11) but went for a book about Key Stage 1 as I thought that the principles would apply to either age group and thankfully, this worked.

The book takes story writing from basics: the need to hear tales, alter them and then for children to make up their own stories (imitation, innovation and invention). This was reassuring and achievable, in fact, we were already doing some of this. Each stage has its own chapter with plenty of ideas. We used some of the ideas with a story new to my children; the legend of Prince Llewellyn and his dog, Gelert. The innovation stage led to Gelert becoming a horse and Gelert was killed with a plastic sword during the initiation phase.

There are chapters on story planning, characters, settings, writing different sections of story, types of story and style. Each has practical ideas for example, using more powerful words or using punctuation for speech.

Does this work for home educators? I guess we have all seen books that are probably great in the classroom but a nightmare at home. I well remember wondering how I was meant to run a plenary session with a 8 year old, baby and toddler!

Generally, the ideas are easy to use at home. My caveats to that are a few games which involve more children than there would be in most families and also a few references to school marking schemes without clear elaboration about what this means. However, generally, this is something that can be used easily at home. So far, for us it has inspired

  • some rereading of favourite picture books and looking at these for story structure.
  • oral story telling 
  • acting out a simple story
  • work on similes
  • work on improving a story
  • improving sample sentences
  • altering a tale
  • discussion around different beginnings for a story
There are  suggested frameworks for how the writing process can be spread out over a few days. It does separate polishing the work from writing. In my experience, it is easier for everyone if spelling is corrected on the day of writing but other amendments left for the next day.

The beauty of this book is the number of ideas many of which only take a short time each day but should, over time, improve writing tactics.

The downside of this book is the price: £20.69 for 80 pages. If you can find a copy second hand it is worth having but no, I'm not selling mine. I need this book!

Disclaimer: I bought this book for my own use and the opinions are my own.

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  1. This sounds like an interesting way to get kid to write. I am going to put that on my list as a possibility. I wonder if this would make my son more interested in writing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  2. I'm always on the look out for good writing books, so thank you for the review. We are currently using Cover Story and even my son loves it - and I mean really loves it!

  3. Thank you for sharing, this sounds like a good book.