Enjoy this guest post by Cara, a LITI student and full-time PK teacher. It reminds us how reading and writing begin with oral storytelling. Thanks, Cara!
There are many worthwhile learning activities that take place in any preschool classroom. Every day, I plan mini lessons, games, and centers that will help prepare my 3- and 4-year-olds for kindergarten. One of the biggest challenges is building children’s early literacy skills. Some of my students are reading pattern books and others have minimal letter recognition. Some of my students can answer inferential questions about the way a character might be feeling, while others struggle to retell what happened on any given page. The most helpful classroom tool I have yet to find is a simple deck of “Tell Me a Story” cards.
The “Tell Me a Story” game begins with one student pulling out a card from the deck. The student looks at the interesting picture on the card and makes up a story based on the image. Everything is up to the student’s imagination – there is no right or wrong answer and the student is set up for success. It is through this seemingly silly game that students can show off their literacy knowledge or receive gentle support to nurture it. They develop characters and a plot, incorporate dialogue, and begin to identify as early readers and writers. When we play “Tell Me a Story,” my students are all on the same level – how much they can or cannot read doesn’t matter. It is an authentic and meaningful confidence-building exercise. It’s laying the foundation for their future reading and writing work.
It is important to note that you don’t need the deck of cards to play “Tell Me a Story.” Since beginning this kind of oral story time in my classroom, my students have grown to make their own choices. Some children prefer to choose a book from the classroom library and use that to tell a story, some prefer to weave a story from their imagination. I have even had students describe a dream that they had in such vivid detail that all of their peers were enthralled.
Being part of the “Tell Me a Story” experience proves to be genuinely enjoyable for all involved. There is something amazing about watching a shy student come to life and show just how thoughtful and creative they are. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that “Tell Me a Story” is the most requested game in my classroom – it has become a treat for both the students and the teachers.