Bring a Story to Life!
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s difficult to get kids interested in books as well as reading. But literacy is becoming increasingly important in our lives as more and more communication turns to the written form. Kids need to know how to read well, write well, and interpret words well. So how can we ensure that they develop these skills in a fun and meaningful way? (BTW, the average school-aged child’s literacy skills decline over the summer holidays. Eep!)
How about bringing a story to life?
The Story Behind This Story
Last year my nephew’s teacher handed her students a project to help them learn about the USA as part of a geography unit. They read the story of Flat Stanley* by Jeff Brown as part of her lesson plan. (My brother’s old copy is pictured above.) Then she had the students create their own Flat Stanley. (My nephew’s is pictured above.) And then, true to the storybook, they mailed their Flat Stanley off to a friend or relative in another part of the country; only Flat Stanley came to Canada. Once here, he gathered information about the area and geography. He also went on a photo shoot (see photo above). Then he traveled back home to the US and shared what he had discovered in a meaningful and interesting way for the kids. And you can bet your buttooshy they were intrigued and that they absorbed every tidbit. Why? Because they were suddenly invested in Flat Stanley. He had become interesting, real and multi-dimensional.
The Benefits of Bringing a Story to Life
When kids have the option of bringing a story to life it gives them something concrete to hang on to. It brings meaning to the story and can solidify the theme, characters, and plot in their minds. Kids learn best through play and by bringing a story to life by acting it, cooking it, crafting it, singing it, or what-have-you. It builds neural pathways in their developing brain. But the biggest thing is the way it boosts a child’s imagination, creativity, and even problem-solving. For how do you bring a story to life? And it also creates empathy and an interest in learning about others and what life would be like for them.
So many wonderful things.
How to Bring a Story to Life
There are dozens of ways to bring a story to life. Look to see what appeals to your child (i.e. drama, singing, crafting, etc.) and get creative. But of course, choose a great story first. It can even be as simple as a book about big trucks. The sky is the limit–or your imagination. Whichever comes first. 😉
Hints: Google the story’s title and “lesson plans” or pick a theme or element of the story and Google it to help juice up your inspiration. (Also look up The Hungry Caterpillar on Pinterest.com for tons of crafts ideas associated with that picture book if you are stuck. It’s a popular book with tons of story crafts and activity ideas built by teachers due to the way it fits so nicely into the science curriculum.) In the meantime, here are a few ideas that might help get the ball rolling for some story-inspired play with your kids:
- Create the book’s main character in the book as a craft (sock puppets, toilet paper roll characters, paper dolls…).
- Reenact the story’s plotline.
- Act out the story with costumes, voices, and mix up the plot. Change the characters or what they have to accomplish. It can be a great way to springboard some very creative play.
- Build story-themed crafts or other projects. It could even be a bird house or bird feeder for a bird themed book.
- Cook story-related food (my daughter’s class hosted a fairy tale feast last year which was a huge hit. What did she decide to bring? The Poisoned Apple (Slices) from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.).
- Toys. Bring them into the mix. A dinosaur book? Gather up those plastic dinosaur figurines and let ’em rip!
- Sing it. Sing the story. Sing about the characters and their emotions and how they are feeling or thinking. Make it a musical. Sing the story or simply make up your own lyrics.
Have you brought a book to life for your kids? Is there a storybook you think might make a fun project for your kids and instigate some story-based & inspired free play? Share it in the comment section. I love to hear from others.
— Jean Oram (@KidsPlay) July 16, 2012
* Flat Stanley is a story about a boy, Stanley, who is flattened by his bulletin board while he is sleeping. He wakes up just fine, but is now rather flat. As part of the story he wants to go visit a friend. Being short on cash, his parents fold him up and mail him off to visit his friend. 🙂