Eliciting stories from children

iStock_000001028732XSmallLanguage Arts curricula often include the use of prompts to encourage children to tell stories. For example, pictures or “story starters” are given to students to prompt writing. Sometimes, children are asked to draw their own picture and then tell a story about it. Robert Sheehan, Cleveland State University, reports that recent research has confirmed results of earlier studies indicating that such stimuli are not necessary and may actually inhibit a child’s natural story telling ability. Children who were simply asked to tell an original story told stories that were more fluent and more sophisticated in structure than did children under stimulus conditions. Simply giving young children the time and opportunity to tell original stories seems to be the more effective teaching strategy.


“Connecting Classroom Practice and Research”, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Volume 7, Number 2, pp. 102-103.

Published in ERN September/Octobert 1993, Volume 6, Number 4.

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