Focus Lessons: Fostering the Imaginations of our StoryMakers

Setting the stage for the engagement of students’ and teachers’ imaginations is foremost in our minds as we begin our StoryMaking journey. Our students have benefitted from invitations to use their imaginations during focus lessons that address a need and inspire wonder during StoryMaking. The focus lesson for StoryMaking is a time where the educator provides direct or inquiry instruction to address strategies about either story or materials. The direct instruction style focus lesson allows the educator to demonstrate and show children how to incorporate the particular skill or strategy into their own StoryMaking life. An inquiry style lesson is where the educator may pose a provocation or ask a question for the children to discover the answer together. We recommend that you balance how you are teaching by offering some direct instruction style lessons with some inquiry style lessons.

Michelle teaches a demonstration style focus lesson where she shows the children how to study the illustrations to add character feelings when they make. Then children are invited to try with another picture from the chosen mentor text to help them imagine adding facial expressions in their own art.


These lessons enable teachers to create a learning community that has a shared language, common ways of working, and time for shared experiences and understandings. In other words, inviting children to use their imaginations during focus lessons taught to the whole group builds an inclusive learning community and makerspace for all students.

Ms. Shannon observes children in the watercolor makerspace and confers to see how they have imagined their characters in their artwork.


Our focus lessons are two-fold. Often, students need mini-lessons that align with the literacy goals of StoryMaking, such as how to start a story, how to add details, and how to use new vocabulary from the writing world.

Anchor charts are a key component of any lesson to help make the thinking visible for children to replicate in their own StoryMaking. This inquiry lesson was designed to teach children how to make their stories better by elaborating with character actions.


In this inquiry style lesson, children were presented with new materials for each maker space to help them imagine motion and asked, “What character actions do you imagine with our new materials?”


Alex, a five year old, selects wood slices to add to his train to make it move. He explained that he imagined an ice cream train going down a racecar track. Then he selected the paper tube and began making the track.


We also include focus lessons that target uses for tools and materials; for instance, how to weave using fabric scraps, how to mix paints, or how to use a low-temperature glue gun from the maker world.

Mrs. Spivey demonstrates how to tear tissue paper to make shapes, how to apply the paper with glue to paper, and the purpose of different size brushes to introduce a new material in their art makerspace.


The children are still invited to explore and play, but the mini-lessons provide a focus on which to anchor their work each day, prior to playing and making.

These children chose this makerspace to explore the new tissue paper material. After fully touching and feeling the texture of the new material and how it works, they began to play and make their stories.


We hope that by reading this article you not only understand why it is important to teach making through play with focus lessons, but that these samples and images will help you imagine your own lessons. In the spirit of the maker movement, we encourage you to innovate, make and SHARE your own versions of the lessons we have provided. We can’t wait to hear about your StoryMaking experiences with your children!

Happy StoryMaking!