In the last post in this series, Elizabeth talked about the “what happened” of the story. Obviously this is quite a large portion of the story, so it needs quite a bit of focus! With older children the Black Sheep Oral to Written Narrative pack breaks down “what happened” into 4 helpful parts – problem, solution, emotion and dialogue. This is hard and I would really only do this with Junior or secondary children (7+).
First spend some time on the idea that a story has a problem and a solution. Sometimes there may be several problems, or the characters may try several different solutions. Talk about some familiar stories and identify the problem/s and solution/s in them. Start with very simple stories and then move on from there as the children get the idea of this. This may take a while.
There are some lovely picture sheets for working on this in the Black Sheep pack. There is a picture of a problem in the middle and the child has to think of as many different solutions as they can. For example, one I like using shows a boy delivering newspapers on a very sunny day, wearing a thick jumper. The children have to identify that he is too hot and then come up with ideas of how he could solve the problem – take the jumper off, have a drink, have a rest, deliver the newspapers another day etc. Then we talk about which would be the best solution for this particular problem.
This usually takes a while, as there are a lot of difficult skills involved. The child needs to be able to interpret the picture and identify what’s wrong, understand the situation, be able to imagine themselves in that situation, use lateral thinking to think of more than one way to solve the problem, add to and link ideas, come to a conclusion about the best solution and be able to justify why. That’s a lot of skills to work on, so it’s likely to take a little while!
Once they are starting to get the idea of this, I start to introduce emotions and dialogue into the story. Here are some ideas for how to do this!
- I usually start off by working on emotion vocabulary. Feeling words are often particularly difficult for children with language difficulties as they are quite abstract. I wrote a whole post about this here. One resource I particularly like using with this age-group is the Black Sheep Practical Pragmatics pack. There are some lovely pages in there for sorting different emotion words by their meaning – does glad mean the same as happy or sad? What about miserable? Etc.
- Then we start to relate emotions to stories. We look at a familiar story and talk about how the characters feel. To start with, or with younger children, we might just talk about how the main character feels at the beginning and the end of the story. With older children, we might talk about how two characters may feel differently about the same event and talk about the range of emotions one character might feel throughout a story. We tend to come up with happy, sad and angry a lot, so then I draw on some of the emotion vocabulary work we’ve done, to see if they can come up with more interesting words for the story.
- We also look at familiar stories and see what words the author has used to describe the feelings. How does this make the story more interesting?
- We continue making up our own stories and add emotions into them too.
Finally we come on to dialogue. With younger children, I tend to talk about “talking” rather than dialogue. Once we have decided how a character might feel, we also talk about what they might say.
By the time we come to this point, we are usually writing stories together. In a group, we often write the story up on the board and collaborate to come up with ideas. I always try to tie this in with literacy as well. The dialogue part is a particularly good time to reinforce this. We will often talk about using speech marks and explain that these tell us that someone is saying something. I might get children to come and write up an idea of what a particular person might say, and encourage them to remember to use speech marks too.
Again, there are lovely resources in the Black Sheep pack to help with this. These include suggestions for adding emotion in to the dialogue (eg “she whispered patiently” or “he shouted angrily”) as well as some work on different types of dialogue – exclamations, questions and statements. I won’t go into this in detail here, but you can see that there are an awful lot of skills you can work on with a bit of story-telling!
Click this link to read our next post on how to draw the story to an end.