Language Development Through Story Telling

It’s camping week in kindergarten and today we were telling campfire stories.  Now, I’m not a big fan of spooky stories, especially with the kindergarten crowd, but we did have a fun time telling funny stories.  Someone who walks into my classroom during this story telling time might think it’s a fun activity, but not a lot of learning.  Storytelling, however provides much more than just a little fun.
Kids are natural story tellers, but as they grow it becomes harder and harder when it’s not practiced regularly.  Without practice, kids become frozen with fear when they are given a blank piece of paper and asked to write a story.  When I became a teacher, I remember how much I didn’t like teaching writing because I just wasn’t skilled at story telling.  After 20 years of learning more and more about writing, I have discovered that one key to literacy is oral language development. I have become a better writer, myself, and I think my students are better writers because of the time we spend talking and telling our stories out loud.  
Today, we sat around the campfire and I threw out a few story starters.
*We all sitting around the campfire, warming up and making s’mores, when all of a sudden…
*It was breakfast time and we were drinking our hot cocoa when we heard…
*I couldn’t believe what happened the day a skunk came to camp.
We told our stories together, asking different kids for ideas.  I would ask questions like, “Then, what happened?” or “What happened next?” or “How did it end?”  These questions led kids to keep going with their ideas and also show how stories have a beginning, middle, and end.
We documented our learning by writing our stories, but we could also have acted out our stories and taken pictures, made videos of our story telling session, or used puppets to create our ideas and document through pictures or video.  All of these methods are great ways to help kids reflect on their work.  
Camping brings great experiences, but if you are like me and don’t care for camping much, you can always bring the story telling indoors.  Working on oral language development through campfire stories is a great way to help your child learn to love language and writing rather than fear the blank paper staring them down.
Happy camping!

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