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Listening to Nysia: Storytelling as a Way into Writing in Kindergarten by Martha Horn

Language Arts, v83 n1 p33-41 Sep 2005

Keywords: elementary education


Much research has been done in the area of storytelling with young children. Storytelling, as the author speaks of it, means a specific time set aside for the oral composing of texts. For the tellers, it is a chance to think through, discover, plan, and develop the story that they may, eventually, decide to write, alongside a supportive teacher who listens and helps give shape to the story. For the listeners, it is an invitation to step into the role of the reader of text, where they try to understand the story that the writer is telling.

In this article, the author shares what she is learning about the place of storytelling in beginning writing. By re-creating the scene with Nysia, she invites the reader to see what a storytelling session might look like, and she defines storytelling by laying it alongside current research. The author reflects on this session in order to give language to the role of oral storytelling as a natural way into writing for young children, and to consider the implications for teachers.

According to her, there are reasons why writing time in kindergarten should begin with oral stories. First, because storytelling begins with the child. Second, by valuing storytelling, the teachers acknowledge the important place of oral language in learning to write. Third, the oral telling of stories gives the opportunity to teach the craft of writing before students can write.

In working closely with teachers and students, the author learns that: (a) Teachers must broaden their definitions of writing; (b) If teachers value storytelling as part of writing, they must build in supportive structures; and (c) Storytelling allows curriculum to be co-constructed between teacher and student.

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