Story diction is what occurs when a child tells a story or a description of a person or event, and the teacher writes it down exactly as the child said it. Here, let me give you an example:

My papa is funny. I runs around and laughs around. My momma and my papa eat supper with me. I always sleep backwards on my bed. My turtle and my bunny are snuggling together. My bunny is sometimes by herself in the washer.

Does that sound like a story that your child might have told? At St. James our teachers use these dictations for several reasons. First and foremost, these stories foster the building of relationships between the child and their teacher. These interactions are done one on one and allow for personal time with each student and the adult.

In addition, these stories provide valuable insights for teachers into the lives and minds of our youngest learners. Children will often tell stories about what is most important to them. This allows teachers to better understand each child and find ways to connect them with other children as well as engage them even deeper in the learning that is occurring in the classroom. Furthermore, what often cannot be verbalized by young children, things such as fears and anxieties, come out in the stories that they tell, if only someone is willing to listen to them.

This understanding does not limit itself to the teacher; many of the stories children tell are like mirrors reflecting their identity back at them. This helps validate things about themselves that they believe to be true. These stories also help children to build their identity even further, to test out solutions to problems, or to exhibit control over a scenario by changing how/what happens or how a story ends. Small children often feel powerless, but their stories give them the power to imagine and make anything happen. Lesley Koplow, social worker, therapist and author of Unsmiling Faces writes that “the sharing of experiences diminishes feelings of isolation and allows children to feel empowered.” And isn’t that what we want for our children, for them to feel they can be in control of themselves and of their learning?

But the benefits of story dictations go far beyond the social and emotional rewards that we have discussed already. Story dictation does a great deal to advance the story telling capabilities of each child. Through repeated experiences both at telling their own stories as well as listening to the stories of others, children begin to stretch their imagination. Research has also shown that students develop greater abstract thinking, problem solving capabilities, and a greater understanding of cause and effect. And it doesn’t stop there! Students also develop greater linguistic skills. They are able to express their ideas more clearly, their vocabulary expands and they begin to speak in longer and more complex sentences.

Students also gain greater understanding of literary conventions such as story structure and dialogue. Furthermore, as they see their teacher modeling the writing process and targeting specific skills for each student, they are given increased experience with letter recognition, phonics and beginning sight word vocabulary.

We understand that the purpose of reading and writing to be communication to other human beings, to connect. We use story dictation as a means of instilling the art and love of storytelling in our youngest learners and reinforcing the main purpose of stories as a way to connect people across time and space. With this framework and with all the benefits that story dictation has to offer, we look forward to seeing the development of our youngest story tellers throughout this year.

Read Part II : Dramatization in Early Childhood published on November 5. 

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