Storytelling is one of the the most powerful tools to affect the human condition. But instead of letting people learn to tell stories from their hearts and souls and guts -- instead of teaching people right from the start to tap into stories in a way that will help them cope with fears and dreams and wild feelings of joy, we have turned what used to be a mentored cultural activity into a checkbox item on a first-grade teacher's list.
From the very beginning of education -- in first grade -- many of our children are being taught to tell stories in an absolutely terrible, almost clinical way.
"First there's a beginning, then something happens, and then it ends."
Think about it. Do you remember sitting there in high school and college, staring at the wall? Do you remember how being told just to "write a beginning" could give you a dose of literary constipation that lasted until right before your deadline?
Just think about it. Can you think of a better way to teach children how to write a story?
I have. My way is just one way, of course. There are tons of ways to write a good story. My way, which I call hero-based storytelling" is time-honored, however, and it gives a nod to Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey method for writing.
"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."
So here's my suggestion for helping your child learn to write. This version is VERY simplistic and my particular version is written specifically for a little boy (I have a boy). So just adjust it a bit for a girl as needed. Every kid is different, so whatever stimulates your child will do, but it should be gut-level, exciting stimulation.
Buy your child a special book. Also, some file cards. 4 X 8 are my favorite for this.
In my humble opinion, every kid out there is stimulated at some level, by a hero.
In my son's class last year, I was amazed about how they introduced stories to kids. They essentially said "say a problem. Say one solution, which doesn't work. Then say another solution." Yawn. This was the German school, but ... good lord. What an amazing way of stripping the excitement and gut-level pull of a STORY - one of the fundamental tools of our human-ness - to a dry bone.
Here's the thing. Preliterate cultures communicate through stories.
Your son, if he lived in a primitive tribe, would remember the stories. This is a cultural imperative.
So how can you make the concept of story more real to him? Does he like stories? I'd go a bit primitive. When my son was four or so, we used to play "Theseus and the Minotaur." Greek stories can be good. Theseus was thrown into a pit with a scary animal. He tied a piece of string to a door so that he wouldn’t get lost in the maze. Then he killed the minotaur and came back out.
Make sure that you read him gut-tingling stories with plenty of heroes. Something that he will relate to. Even if the hero is someone who can fix the space ship when it's broken.
You will do this over a length of time, by the way, not just one day.
My initial advice for you would be for you to talk with your child about heroes. I would sit in a special study section that you have at home I would start by asking him which heroes he likes.
When he can think of a hero that he likes, I would have him tell me why the person is a hero, in the most simple terms. "Batman saves people." Then I would work to flesh it out, by asking questions. "From a burning building?" "How?" "Doesn't he get burned?" and so forth. The first time that you do this, you should write down the most simple aspects of what he tells you. You should write these "hero story descriptions" on 4 x 8 file cards. One for each hero.
Later on, you can ask questions about the hero. What does he look like? Does he have anything wrong with him? What does he wear? Who does he love?
Batman is a hero.
He saves people from burning buildings.
He has a cape.
His friend is Robin.
First step: identify heroes and their identity and put them onto a card.
Separately, use a multisensory approach so that you can walk through some of the plots with him. Help him to feel it with more than one sense.
Second step: Play the heroes with him.
You can take the heroes description to the next level of detail by giving each hero a page in his book and having him describe the hero more. As you play heroes with him, ask him questions and have him add to the book.
Third step: Generate a list of terrible circumstances.
Use more cards (or his book) Color code them if you want to, to keep the heroes and circumstances different.
On your Terrible Circumstances cards, have your son describe scenarios where a hero could help. You can have him give each bad thing a page. Earthquake - and describe what terrible thing happens in an earthquake. Fire Storm. Meteor Shower. Alien coming to earth. Whatever. The thing is that, for each situation, your son should be able to describe it a bit. Have your son cut out pictures about the terrible circumstances.
Fourth step: Create a "rule" for him.
Hero + Terrible Circumstance = Solution.
When he writes the story, he can take a hero, and a sentence about that hero. That will stimulate him to write another sentence. Then he can choose a terrible circumstance. Have him figure out how the hero hears about the circumstance, then take a sentence or two from his description and put them into the story. Then look at him and say "wow. How does the hero get out of/save people in the terrible circumstance?"
This creation of tools and then lining up the tools to create most of a story from the start, then asking him for the solution, seems to me that it might be a good way of taking the burden off of his shoulders to start a story from scratch.
Seems to me that once you get the ball rolling with a hero standing there, **right next to*** a burning building....... that it's enough of a build-up to encourage him to use his problem-solving skills to help him write the story.
So there you go. One approach.