This is the next in our series of posts about narrative therapy. You can see the introduction, Part 1 – Who/character and Part 2 – Where/setting by clicking on the links. Today we are talking about the “when” or time of stories.
Talking about the time in a story is important as part of setting the scene. Knowing that the story happened “one dark stormy night”, “on a hot, sunny day” or even “in the year 2252” helps you to picture it in your head. Specifically talking about time helps children to add more detail to their stories.
As we’ve said before, with younger children especially, a lot of the narrative work ends up being vocabulary building. This is particularly true for when, and if I’m running a narrative group, I often find it hard to know how much focus to give to this bit, as there are so many tricky concepts involved! Time words can be extremely difficult for children with speech and language problems to understand. You can see our post on teaching children about months and seasons here. Obviously we would be stuck on “when” for quite a long time, if we did every time concept in that much detail! However, for story-telling purposes, you don’t really need to work on every concept in detail. I tend to do a couple of sessions focussing on time generally, and make a note of the concepts that the children were confused by to come back to another day.
Now, without further ado, here are some ideas of activities for talking about the when/time in stories. As with the other posts, many of these ideas (as well as lots more!) are included in the Black Sheep Press narrative packs. I’ve also used parts of their Parts of the Day pack in narrative therapy sessions too.
- Use pictures of different times – Easter, night, the future, Hallowe’en etc. and ask the children to tell me “when” it is. (I reinforce understanding of the word with Makaton signing). Often with these pictures you can also talk about “who” is in the picture and “where” they are to really make sure the children understand the three different concepts.
- Talk about special occasions – birthdays are usually a good start. Talk about “when” different children’s birthdays are – which month are they in? Which season? Also talk about other special days – Easter, Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night, Christmas etc. When are they? You can also extend this to think of words of phrases to describe different times as well – what happens? What might they see and hear?
- You can also do a categorisation task – eg day vs. night. What different things might you see/hear/do? Which animals might you see? With older children you can extend this to talk about how these things might affect your story? EG an old castle might seem scary at night when it’s empty, but it might be full of people in the daytime.
- When would you use it? With younger children you could put items related to particular times in a bag. Get each child to take a turn pulling them out and saying when they might use them. Ideas include a toothbrush, Easter egg, fork, toy bed, birthday cake candle, torch etc.
- Describe a particular time and see if the children can guess when it is. (eg I feel excited and jump out of bed really quickly. I can see my stocking full of presents at the end of my bed. Downstairs, there’s a big tree covered in decorations. When is it?). With older children, see if they can describe a time to other children for them to guess. Talk about the sorts of things they might describe. This will really help them to put some description of time together to help them with story writing.
- At this point, we usually start actually generating stories. Use the pictures from your who, where and when sessions and make a pile of each. Turn over the top one of each pile and see how the story will begin. You might get something that seems quite logical (eg a fairy in a garden at night) or something that is more unusual (eg an astronaut in a jungle at Christmas). See if the children can describe each of the three elements a little more. What is the person doing? What does the place look like? How does the time make a difference to the story?
- It can also be a good time to check whether the children have really understood the difference between who, where and when. You can do an odd one out task for example – show them two where cards and one who and see if they can say which is the odd one out and why.
- Don’t forget to talk about when in any stories that you read with the children. Does the whole story happen at the same time or do different events happen at different times? What words does the author use to talk about time? Would the story be different if it happened at a different time? These are difficult questions which require imagination and logical thinking but they can be a nice extension for older children.
What activities do you do to work on the when or time of stories?
Read the next part of this series by clicking this link – what happened?