Building Stories

Part of Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers

We were building a story. I say we, but the second graders were doing the heavy lifting. I will never tire of building stories with kids. Did you know they have the best ideas?

Our character was an ice cream cone, and he was having trouble. He kept melting in the summer! What he wanted most in the world was to be an Olympic swimmer, and he knew he had to find a vacation place somewhere on an iceberg so he could practice swimming without melting.

So good, right?

Things weren’t going very well for sprinkles — that was his name — sprinkles. First he forgot his plane ticket and luggage, then his flight was delayed. On the plane he ran into his arch -nemesis, Hot Chocolate and while he was running away, part of his cone broke off.

I’m telling you these details, not so you can steal this idea from the 2nd-graders and make millions of dollars in the picture book industry, but so you can understand why I was so excited about the kids’ ideas.

For each element of the story, kids turned and talked, and then we took a few ideas, and I picked one to go in the story. Or sometimes the ideas were all so good so we combined them all together. (Now the part where Sprinkles needs a vacation to an iceberg to practice swimming might make a little more sense to you.)

Each time I took ideas from the class, I would exclaim how it was, “so good!”

And it wasn’t a lie, or even a stretch. These ideas were so very good.

Maybe I should take the idea and make millions of dollars in the picture book industry. (No joke, I would love to publish an anthology of all the books classes have written. They are so good. So. Good.)

One second-grader was thrilled that his idea was picked for the class story. He was so excited, he interrupted my next sentence to point at himself, and raise his eyebrows very high.

“That great idea was from the birthday boy. Me.” He said.

“Well, that’s great!” I said, “Thank you.”

I started to go to the next part of our story.

“Well, aren’t you going to wish me a happy birthday?” He asked me, incredulous that I missed that part of the exchange. Of course I did, right away!

Finally we continued building our Sprinkles story, and I sent the kids off to make their own ending. But I was left thinking about that boy and his unabashed plea for celebration.

What would happen if we took a little of that energy and took it out for ourselves whenever we need to be celebrated?

Seems like a pretty good way to build your own story.

2 thoughts on “Building Stories

  1. Love this slice, Ona. Love the fact that you’re bringing in imagination and play and make-believe to writing, love how you reveal the details, and LOVE the birthday boy. And the names!!! You really could write this as a picture book and send it off to agents!

  2. This is the best reminder that allowing student agency and creativity is better than any scripted, step-by-step lesson when it comes to motivating children and showing them that learning can be FUN! Let’s celebrate that! Great post!

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