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Storytelling Workshop Activity for Children

A student works on writing her own story in the Storyteller Workshop.

This summer, ReadBoston has been experimenting with new supplemental literacy activities in a pilot program at several Storymobile sites. In an effort to design a more comprehensive literacy curriculum to accompany the Storymobile program, we have been developing new activities and leading workshops on some new ideas to accompany our Storymobile program.
This activity, introduced by one of ReadBoston’s summer staffers, has proved to be a favorite with children of many age groups! Called the “Storytelling Workshop,” the activity complements the storytelling theme already present in the Storymobile programming and encourages children to be creative while practicing many skills that are important to improving literacy. The group conversation time at the beginning reinforces new vocabulary and verbal communication, while the storytelling aspect helps to develop memory and critical thinking. Though the individual writing component itself has obvious benefits, the focus of this exercise is on developing ideas rather than on grammar and spelling. Sometimes, a fear of being wrong can discourage children from even trying to write. However, by emphasizing the importance of creativity, children are free to practice without fear of making mistakes.

The activity is fairly straightforward and easy to do with any number of students: together, kids and their teacher come up with the beginning of an original storyline with fully developed characters, setting, and conflict. Together, the class composes sentences and begins to tell the story. However, when the story reaches its climax, students break off to write their own creative endings. Once finished, these stories can be copied and made into books!

All you need is paper and colored pens. It can be good to set up larger sheets of paper on the walls so everyone can see what the group is brainstorming (or you can use a whiteboard if you have access to one). You can start by talking about components of the story, like characters, plot, setting, dialogue, and conflict. For more advanced children, this conversation can be more in depth and include complex ideas like themes, points of view, and climax. Then, once the kids have an understanding of the story components, start to develop your own story by asking them questions about your main characters, the setting, and the plot. The more detail the better, so ask them to be specific! As you work together, you can start writing the story out as the students describe it.
Once the story gets to an exciting cliffhanger—with lots of questions, split up the kids to write their own endings. Supply them with paper and colored pens or crayons and encourage them to use the tools you talked about to finish the story in their own creative way. If students don’t feel comfortable writing, they can draw pictures to express their ideas. Once they’re finished, you can turn their endings into individual books by adding the beginning section you wrote together, making front and back covers, and binding the pages to each other.
This project can be as elaborate and advanced as you’d like depending on how much time you have and the reading experience of the children. Practicing storytelling in this way can strengthen literacy skills of all kinds while reinforcing the natural creativity of the students.


August 9, 2012 at 1:27 PM Leave a comment

ReadBoston’s Storymobile Rolls Around Town

ReadBoston’s Storymobile has been spotted all over Boston this summer, delivering free books and engaging storytelling activities in neighborhood centers and playgrounds in every corner of the city.

Now in it’s 17th year, the Storymobile works to combat the phenomenon known as the Summer Slide, which can put students without access to books as far as 4 months behind their peers when school starts again in the fall. Researchers find that while children from lower-income households make as much progress as their peers from middle-income homes during the school year, the skills of students from lower-income homes slipped away during the summer months. They further find that the effects of the Summer Slide are cumulative and concluded that 2/3 of the 9th grade reading achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during elementary school. With access to as few as six books to read and re-read over the summer months, children can start to beat the Summer Slide and hit the ground running in September.

Stopping at over 80 sites each week, the goal of the ReadBoston Storymobile program is to promote regular reading and to build literacy skills outside of the classroom. At every site, children actively engage through songs, movement and other activities led by ReadBoston’s professional storytellers. Each child who attends the Storymobile receives a free, new book to take home with them. All sessions are completely free and open to the public, so come on down and join us for an entertaining and educational hour!

The program began on July 9th, and will continue through August 17th. A full schedule of weekly times and locations can be found on our website, Check out these photos for a glimpse at some of the fun!

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July 26, 2012 at 2:10 PM Leave a comment

Help! Lend Me an Idea!

The school year is almost over but for many educators there is no summer break. I find that I get a little antsy at this time of year when some of my educator friends are planning a work-free summer and I am faced with planning another season of activities. Sometimes I need a little inspiration for fun things to do with kids.

One activity we’ve been doing at Boston Children’s Museum this month in the Art Studio is “Map Making”. Children can make a map of anything they’re familiar with: the playground, their school, their bedroom ….the possibilities are endless! Maps can be drawn with pencils, crayons, and markers or collaged with bits from magazines or made with toothpicks glued to paper (reminiscent of Polynesian stick charts).

Here are some books to go with a mapping activity:
• My Map Book, by Sara Fanelli
• Follow That Map, by Scot Ritchie
• Me On The Map, by Joan Sweeney and Annette Cable

If you get creative blocks like I do, these blogs help me recharge and find inspiration. Hope they help you too!

Do you have favorite resources that get you out of your creative ruts? Let us know what they are!

May 30, 2012 at 1:41 PM Leave a comment

National Birth Trends Catch Up with Boston: Babies of Color are the Majority

Today’s Washington Post reports that minority babies for the first time outnumber white infants nationally.  Nationally, 50.4% of children under 1 are Hispanic, black, Asian American or in other minority groups.  

Boston’s young children have reflected this trend for quite some time.  Data from the 2010 Census shows that 71.5% of Boston’s 34,741 children birth to five are not white.  29.3% are Hispanic, 29% are African American/Black, 5.7% are Asian and 7.5% are multiracial/other – compared with 28.5% who are white. 

This is in sharp contrast to data on the whole population.  Even though Boston is a majority-minority city, 47% of the population is white, 22.4% is black/African American, 17.5% is Hispanic, 8.9% is Asian and 12.3% are multiracial/other.  

For more on Boston’s demographics, check out the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Census reports.


May 17, 2012 at 5:00 PM 1 comment

“Pressure-cooker Kindergarten” – Where are we now?

In 2009, The Boston Globe took a look at a trend of increasing academic demands on our youngest students, their teachers, and families. Even in kindergarten, children and their educators are being subjected to tests and standards “that early childhood researchers agree are developmentally inappropriate, even potentially damaging.” These new expectations arose out of concern for the achievement gap between white students and minorities; mandatory standardized testing was meant to hold schools accountable for all their students. According to Globe, accountability has come at the cost of play time and other activities critical to early brain development. Their special report featured the experiences of educators and experts struggling with the balance between accountability and best practices – many of whom work in the Boston area.

Three years later, what are the academic pressures of the kindergarten classroom? Do the experiences of the teachers in this piece reflect your own? How do you balance accountability with play? What’s changed? What’s stayed the same? Where do you think we should go from here?

Continue Reading April 23, 2012 at 1:22 PM Leave a comment

Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad: Jumpstart’s official 2012 Read for the Record Book!!

“The Bug Squad is a team again!”

Jumpstart and the Pearson Foundation are thrilled to announce that the official Jumpstart Read for the Record campaign book for 2012 is Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad by David Soman and Jacky Davis!

In Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad, join Ladybug Girl, Lulu, on another adventure with her Bug Squad friends!  Together they will share their superpowers, fight off tall giants and aliens, and learn the importance of saying sorry.  This book offers great opportunities for parents and teachers to talk about friendship, encourage make-believe play, and help children realize when it is important to apologize, even if it isn’t easy or things don’t go their way.

And, for the first time this year, Jumpstart’s Read for the Record will take place over a full week from September 27 to October 4, giving record breakers across the country even more opportunity to support Jumpstart’s mission to work toward the day every child in American enters school prepared to succeed.  Again this year, record breakers will also be able to take part by reading the book for free at We Give Books (, the free digital reading initiative created by Penguin and the Pearson Foundation.

Stay tuned over the summer and into the fall for more Jumpstart updates, activities and initiatives for Read for the Record 2012.  In the meantime, stop by your favorite library, bookstore, or visit We Give Books and take a look at Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad!

April 6, 2012 at 9:15 AM Leave a comment

Celebrating the Vietnamese New Year in Fields Corner

Fields Corner Children Thrive celebrated the start of the Year of the Dragon on Saturday, January 21st.

Over 60 Vietnamese families with young children with Autism joined Mayor Thomas M. Menino at Dorchester House Multi-Service Center for games, arts and crafts, a traditional Dragon Dance, and the chance to receive “lixi”, a small gift of money meant to bring good luck in the new year.

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Fields Corner Children Thrive sponsors a monthly support group for Vietnamese families with children with Autism.  For more information, contact Marika Michelangelo at Dorchester House.

Photos courtesy of Oriole Bui.

February 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM Leave a comment

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