Young Authors at Work: Story Dictations

Preschoolers who haven’t yet learned to write can still be authors when they dictate their stories to an adult (see Illinois Early Learning and Development Benchmark 5.B.ECc. They might turn their dictations into books or let classmates dramatize their stories (see Benchmarks 2.C.ECa, 5.B.ECa, 25.B.ECa, and 26.B.ECa).

Start with dictation.

  • Set aside some time at least once a week for each child to dictate stories to you or to another adult.
  • Keep a dictation folder for each child. To save paper, you might use half-sheets of paper for the first drafts of stories.
  • Sit where both of you are comfortable. Ask the child to begin her story. Write, print, or type her words as she speaks. Some children may need reminders to speak slowly so you can keep up with what they say.  Some preschoolers cannot pronounce the “th” sound; you might write “this” if the child actually says “diss.” It’s not necessary to correct a child’s grammar or pronunciation as you go. If you can’t understand something even when a child repeats it, let him know: “I didn’t get what you said. Can you say it a different way?”
  • When a child says that the story is over, read it back to him. Ask, “Does that sound the way you want it to sound?” “Do you want to change something or add anything?” Make any changes he suggests. Read him the revised story.

Let children share their stories with peers.

  • When a child is satisfied with her story, invite her to illustrate it before showing it to classmates. If she wants to spread the story out over several pages, rewrite or retype it with a few words or sentences on each page.
  • Set aside time for children to “read” their books aloud. Some classrooms have an Author Chair where children sit when they share their books. You might do the reading if a child is unready to share her book on her own.
  • Encourage the listeners to make comments or helpful suggestions.

Invite children to dramatize their stories.

  • When a child finishes dictating a story, ask, “Would you like some classmates to act out your story?” If he agrees, read the story aloud at group time. Then let the author choose classmates to act out the parts. Remember that some children like to play rocks and other things that have no speaking parts.
  • Create a space for the actors to perform as you read the story aloud again.
  • After “The End,” encourage actors and author to bow to the “audience” and to thank each other.
  • Ask the class for comments or suggestions about the story and the performance.