It is true that all stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But not all stories have to take place in that order. Without this awareness, we can be in danger of limiting children to only one way of constructing a story.
Opening, build up, climax, resolution, ending: the story mountain.
This is a familiar litany to teachers who model the structure of stories. Children need this firm foundation to understand the story formula. We can be very dogmatic about using this structure, but it isn’t true that stories always follow it strictly.
How can we push and challenge children once they understand the beginning, middle and end? If we always follow this pattern, stories become robotic machines, blindly following the path without the creative tweaks, loops and twists which keep the reader interested.
Smart Stories has created a video (see below) introducing the idea of using flash forwards as one way of starting a story. A flash forward shows children that time in a story can be flexible. They are allowed to look at the climax first, to pull the reader in, to make them question what is happening, before revealing how the climax was reached.
Using a flash forward is a very achievable goal for many KS2 children, especially if it is used as a way of opening the story, as a brief introduction.
Consider this modelled writing:
Down she fell, twisting and turning as the rocky floor sped toward her. Anna knew she was in great danger, and she screamed as she fell, but the wind took her breath away. There was no hope now.
It was morning, and Anna opened her eyes and stretched, looking around the room. She had a good feeling about the day. She swung her legs out of bed and scampered down the hall to her brother’s room.
This flash forward attempts to make the reader want to know how the character gets into the situation. There needs to be a suitable break or pause between the paragraphs to make it clear that this is a break in time, but this could easily be used by KS2 children as an alternative structure when starting a story.
Of course, many children may still struggle with sticking to their planned beginning, middle and end once they have planned it, so we are not suggesting that this structure should be removed, or that we should confuse children for the sake of it.
But if we want our children to think broadly and creatively about the story-writing process, and be flexible and interesting in the way they draw in their readers, then perhaps flash forwards are something to try.