Last year, I wrote a story with my daughter’s Kindy class. This year I’m going one better (or at least noisier) and writing a story with my son’s pre-school class. This is a fairly fancy* pre-school, so even in pre-school the kids are encouraged to write their own names, and most can write the first letter.
I start off the class by saying that I’m a writer, and waving a book around—perhaps one of mine; perhaps one from their shelf (pointing out the author name in either case).
Optional parts of the opening (for older kids):
-Talking about how a lot of books have both an author/writer and artist/illustrator.
-Talking about how books can be true stories or made-up stories (fiction and non-fiction), keeping in mind that younger kids genuinely can’t distinguish between reality and fiction in the same way older kids can.
-Talking about how writers send their words to a publisher, who arranges printing and sends the books to a shop.
-Reading a book to the class.
The central message of the opening spiel:
I have written a book but it’s not finished and I need your help! There are no names in the book, and no pictures!
-A binder with lots of those clear plastic sheets inside, like these.
-A title page and beginning to the story, an end, and a lot of pages that are complete (and interchangeable) except for requiring a name.
Eg. For pre-schoolers:
1R [or whatever the class is called] Story
One day there was a pre-school class with lots of friends.
Middle (many copies of each):
______ is clever.
______ is kind.
______ is strong.
______ is funny.
Final page: What a great class! The End
I explained that there were four describing words and that all of the kids were all of those four things, but they needed to pick their favourite (and I also had four people—my two kids, and two teachers) stand in different parts of the room to gather their groups (the kind group, the strong group, the clever group, and the funny group). I was quite pleased with how gender-diverse the results were (although of course one boy said “[Girlname] isn’t strong!” and I said, “Yes she is!” and moved on).
Then I handed out the piles to each group, and had the kids write their names and draw a picture on their page, giving them back to me when they finished.
I put them back into the folder in random order, checked it was all legible, and then when everyone was done I gathered them back on the mat and read the finished story. Then I let the class have the finished story. (The teachers can photocopy it and email copies to all the parents if they want.)
Feel free to use and adapt this lesson as much as you like.
If you feel grateful, buy one of my books from my store. The Monster Apprentice is suitable for 8+ (it’s like Narnia with pirates) and the Antipodean Queen steampunk fantasy books are suitable for 13+ (with bonus bits of much-mangled Aussie history). In both cases, advanced kids can go ahead and read them at a younger age. I read The Monster Apprentice aloud to Louisette when she was 5, but skipped a couple of scary bits.
*debate the merits of early literacy training in the comments!