Encouraging children to think about their audience when they write is one step towards them seeing writing as a useful tool for their lives.
Many children struggle to see the purpose of writing. As much as we try to provide this purpose, we are battling against a world which encourages consumption rather than creation – and so children tend towards wanting to take in (watch, game, and so on) rather than produce (build, write, draw).
In order to give children the impetus they need, having a purpose and a genuine reason to write is becoming more and more important. So how can we find ways to do this?
Exploring story openings can be a good way to remind children of the close link that good writers have with the reader. The first few lines of any text are really instrumental in allowing the reader to decide whether this is a reading experience they are going to enjoy. They reveal the narrative voice of the author. They show how the rest of the story will sound, the style. They allow the reader a first glimpse inside the writer’s mind.
If a child starts writing a story without thinking someone is going to read it (perhaps someone other than the teacher), then they have no reason to question their writing. They write what they want, and what they write will be right. They will understand it without explanation or expansion because they see it inside their head. They are writing for themselves.
However, if they are writing with the knowledge that someone else will be reading it, and making a choice about whether to read more, there is much more reason for them to choose their words carefully. Especially in the first few lines.
Working on Story Openings with Children
We would suggest allow children the freedom to experiment with different styles of story openings, and looking at the effect this will have on the reader. We’ve tried to translate some of our ideas on different openings into two child-friendly videos, with a twist on the usual ‘hook’ idea. There are accompanying activity sheets that can be used alongside, suitable for around Year 2 to Year 6.
Part 1: youtube.com/watch?v=Z0qGk5SXm1Y
Part 2: youtube.com/watch?v=KEgkdi49epY
Activity sheets links:
Sheet one: Researching and identifying story openings
Sheet two: Creating story openings (differentiated three ways)
Reginald and Rufus Write
Smart Stories aims to enthuse children by allowing them to tell their own stories based on exciting and informative experiences. We’re currently fundraising to support our writing workshops for primary schools. We’d be hugely grateful for clicks, shares, likes or contributions.