Classroom Freebies

Susan Berkowitz’s Free Story Telling for Academic Success

Story-telling is a crucial skill for children to develop as they move from being strictly oral communicators to communicators who use written language.  

  • Children’s abilities to tell and understand stories is at the heart of their reading comprehension, social skills, and oral language skills.
  • Very young children’s stories lack organization and complexity of a complete story episode, but rather are “heaps” of related statements about something, someone, or sometime.
  • As their language skills grow, they begin to understand and use information about characters (persons real or imagined, animals or other creatures), settings (places and times real or not), sequences of events (including temporal and causal elements), and how a character’s feelings impact the story.
Carol Westby has done a lot of ground-breaking research on the oral-literate continuum.  She talks about the stage where children ask for the same story repeatedly at story time, until they have memorized it, and can “read” it to their audience of dolls and stuffed animals.  It’s the kind of practice with oral story structure that our nonverbal students and others with significant language disorders just don’t get.

Stories are critical.  They make up the basis for being able to tell about our experiences in a cohesive narrative. They make up the basis for our comprehension of written texts. They even make up the basis for understanding history.

Understanding and using story elements is important as our students learn through reading (or listening to) stories.  Knowing what details are crucial for understanding and how to organize them into a cohesive story or narrative gives students access to the curriculum, as well as to the world of social interaction.

Children move in a relatively predictable procession from sharing “heaps” of action phrases with little or no structure to producing complex story episodes complete with a beginning-middle-end, a set of feelings and reactions, and a conclusion/solution that ties it all up.  Sheila Moreau has done a fabulous job of delineating those stages, and how to help children understand and use them through her Story Grammar Marker. 

[Note: I have been using this tool for over 2 decades and have no financial tie to MindWings Concepts, not have I received any financial compensation for endorsing their product]

When I was doing therapy with students in the language-learning disabilities classrooms many years ago, I had sets of picture cards that were used for telling stories that revolved around a given theme.  
I have no idea what ever happened to those cards, but decided to create my own; complete with information about narrative stages of development and ideas for using the pictures to build on those narrative skills.

Enjoy!  And, keep on talking!