StoryMaking…Yes, Stories but so much more!
How a Makerspace can inspire different genres of storytelling and writing
Sometimes the term StoryMaking can be a little misleading when you just read the word for the first time. Yes, it absolutely involves the child making and providing many opportunities for children to explore their imaginations and wonderings in a wide variety of Makerspaces. And yes, many times children narrate their play or make a story with the inspiring materials to share with others. But it is not just “stories” that are made. Many opportunities exist when we take time to plan the intent of our focus lessons and/or Makerspaces. While children are making, they begin to explain how they are making things, they describe facts about a topic they know a lot about, they tell creative stories with rich characters and events, and they even voice their opinions about what they are making. Many genres are explored and created while children are making. How-to books, informational texts, personal narratives, realistic fiction and even opinion style writing and storytelling are expressed.
We always like to innovate and appreciate researchers that came before us and paved the way for us to connect and build upon the work in the field of literacy and the Makers’ Movement. One such researcher and author that we seek guidance on the topic of children creating “stories” is Matt Glover. In his book, Engaging Young Writers, Glover cautions the overuse of the word “story” with children when referring to the books that they are making. If we always write our provocations to ask, “What story can you imagine with these materials?” then we are always implying that we want children to imagine a story to make, tell or write narratives. We appreciate Glover’s perspective and it has caused us to look carefully at our teacher language and the invitations we provide in our makerspaces. Educators have options when connecting to an early writing literacy or oral language standard or goal. We can connect to a specific genre that you are required to teach and ask guiding questions to suggest playing and making a book in a specific genre. For example, if you are investigating writing informational texts you could frame your language, “What could you make with these materials to teach others?”
Sample invitation in Sculpture Makerspace to suggest informational writing
Of course, if you want to leave your suggestions more open-ended in your Makerspaces or while children play with materials, you could use the word “book” as Glover suggestions. I had the opportunity at a StoryMaking session to explain these options to a group of children. After exploring and wondering about the new materials in the Sculpture Makerspace, I suggested that when they play and make sometimes they can imagine books to make and share. However, these books could be made to teach others something that is important to them or even to entertain.
Open-ended invitations to write different genres of books not just “stories”
Then the children went off to first explore and make what they had imagined and slowly as they created they began to tell me what they were making. One child made a character and began weaving together events to tell an imaginative story. The other child began to explain all about her favorite singer and facts describing who he was. As I was conferring and listening to these children, books were being written in the air… a fiction story and an informational all-about text. It was meaningful, creative and rooted in the making experience with open-ended materials and intentions. Below are the a few Maker’s Moments we documented so you can view these amazing StoryMakers in action as they play, make and share their BOOKS!
Abbey, age 4, and her story
Abbey studied the foil sculpture anchor chart and expressed intention that she wanted to make a person. She molded the foil into a human figure and tested out the best way to add the tape. After making the main shape of her “character” she began changing the shape of the materials in the Makerspace to create clothes. She then told me that she was making Tinkerbell.
When Abbey was satisfied with what she had made, she told me she had a story to share with me.
“Once upon a time, something really, really bad happened. The fire was going out of the building. Tinkerbell had to save the day. She wanted to help her Dada and her sister. The fire went out because of the water. The water from the bank of the pool was rising. Tinkerbell fell into the water. Her magic fell out. Her wings fell down. Tinkerbell found the castle. A wizard lived there. With his magical hands he gave Tinkerbell her magic back. She went back to the water and helped her father and sister. She went home and went to bed and felt sick.”
After she shared her story with me, she went back into the Makerspace to m the wizard character and other details of the setting on paper that she had imagined and brought to life through her making and storytelling.
Sophia, age 8, and her all-about book
Sofia knew exactly what and who she wanted to make right away. She expressed intention that she wanted to make her favorite musician Allen. She began to describe how he always wore black and had red hair. Sophia really displayed a maker’s mindset of persistence when she was trying to make his clothes. She tried different types of fabric and felt, but when she tried to attach them to her sculpture she was never really satisfied. She did not give up and continued to seek out different resources as she made. She finally decided to use markers with fine tips to make the lines and the details of the clothes she imagined.
At the maker’s talk, Sofia described all the details of her musician. She first explained what he looked like, then she talked about his music and finally she explained where you could go to listen to his music. After she was done, I pointed out how she just wrote an all-about book in the air with three chapters or pages to teach us all about her topic. She felt proud of her project and was now empowered to write her book.
A few weeks later, I set up a Collage Makerspace and invited the children to imagine making with the materials. I didn’t suggest that they could make a book, but placed books from artists that used collage techniques in the Makerspace for inspiration. As the children explored the materials and tinkered with ways to place them together, one of the children began explaining how she was making her creations. Here is her Maker’s Moment and the evolution of her how-to book.
Stephanie, age 7, and her how-to book
Stephanie had chosen a picture to represent the setting or topic for her collage. She expressed that she like cheetahs and wanted to make one with the yellow materials. I captured her thinking to herself as she tinkered with the materials. “Now I can turn this into a body. I just need to cut this (referring to the yarn). Oh, this isn’t long enough.” Stephanie said as she problem solved what to do next to make the body of her cheetah. She decided to gather pieces of the yarn in longer lengths and try again. As she continued to play and make her cheetah she and asked herself, “Let me see what else can I add?” “So I need this!” she shouted as she found a bunch of pipe cleaners that she was imagining could be the tail of her cheetah.
She continued to explore the materials and liked how her tail came out with the pipe cleaner so she decided to choose another piece to make the head. All of a sudden, she began to write a how-to book in the air!
“To make a cheetah head all you need to do is grab a long one and bend it. Around and around and around. And you keep going and keep going until you’re done with the string. So this might take awhile!”
She continued to demonstrate her twisting move as I carefully watched. Then she added a tip for her readers and viewers. Even added humor, which makes a great book to keep the interest of the readers!
“You might want to be careful because if you let go it will spray out and you will have to do it again with a different one. That would be a bummer!”
Stephanie continued to describe how she made the tail and how she created water to add to her picture. It was a powerful example of how a child can write in the air and how important it is for the adult to capture these moments so they can be empowered to create any books they imagine.
Happy Story(and book) Making!