The other day in a moment of PLAN B, I tossed out my original pre-scheduled plan for our creative writing activity and decided, instead, to do a little family-style story writing. This is a great school day activity to help build sibling connections as well as encourage younger writers who may not yet have the skills to write a very engaging story all on their own. (This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)
While there are many ways to write group stories, one of my favorites is an "Add on-Story"...a story that is written a piece at a time from one sibling to the next.
To write an "Add-on Story", you will need:
- a wordless picture book with lots of action-packed scenes (This time around, we used Daisy Gets Lost by Chris Raschka)
- a piece of notebook paper or a writing journal
- a pencil or pen
Step 1: Read the title of the wordless, or nearly wordless, book to everyone. Explain that everyone will be working together to create a story based on the pictures of the book. (While you can create an add-on story without a picture book, I always find that a picture book provides inspiration for novice writers and gives unity to the group-created plot.) Dismiss everyone to go and play except one child.
Step 2: Show Child A the first page(s) of the book and ask him/her to dictate a captivating starter sentence to the story. Write the sentence down. Dismiss Child A to go play and call Child B over to you.
Step 3: Show Child B the same picture that you showed Child A and read him/her the starter sentence that Child A dictated to you.
Skip a line on your piece of paper, turn the book to the next set of illustrated pages, and ask Child B to dictate the next line of the story...based on the illustrations of the second spread of pages. Dismiss Child B and call Child C over to you.
Step 4: Show Child C the same illustration that you showed to Child B (the second spread page of the book) and read him/her the sentence that Child B dictated to you.
Skip a line on your piece of paper, turn the book to the next set of illustrated pages, and ask Child C to dictate the next line of the story to you.
Step 5: Continue to repeat this same process of reading the previously dictated line and encouraging the current child to add another sentence or group of sentences, as the case may be, to the story. Remember to skip a line on your writing paper each time you write out the narrative for a new set of pages. (This will help when you attempt to "read" the story and match the narrative with the correct illustrations.)
Once all of your children have gotten a chance to add one sentence to the story, rotate through the children again until all of the pages in the book have been used to create narrative.
Step 6: Gather everyone around to "read" the story using the book for illustrations. Don't worry about proper grammar or technique, simply enjoy the silliness of creating a family-style story TOGETHER. Little ones will be able to hear the differences in technical style and be encouraged that their words helped to create an engaging story. Older kids will get the benefit of hearing how their writing has most-likely progressed from when they were younger.
Remember, the secret to a good Add-on Story is SECRECY. Try not to let any of the children hear any additional parts of the story until the very end when the completed story is read out loud.
In case you're curious, here's how our story turned out.
Daisy Gets Lost...an Adaptation
Daisy, the frisky dog, could feel the wind ruffling her fur as she ran towards her ball. (Sweetie Pea)
"Ruff, ruff," Daisy said as she pounced onto the ball. Oops, it bounced up into the tree. (Super Boy)
"We can't climb that high, Daisy. How can we get on top of the tree to get the ball?" (Blonde Warrior)
Daisy saw a squirrel. She dropped the ball and started chasing the squirrel. (Greased Lightning)
The squirrel started scampering up the tree. But, Daisy was close behind rushing toward the squirrel. (Sweetie Pea)
"Chick, chick, chick," said the squirrel as she scolded Daisy. (Super Boy)
"Mr. Squirrel, please get my ball and lead me to my owner. It's getting late. I really want my dinner." (Blonde Warrior)
While Daisy was scampering here and there, on the other side of the forest, her owner was frantically looking for her. (Sweetie Pea)
"Daisy! Oh, Daisy!" she called. (Super Boy)
"Daisy, where are you? Daisy, your ball." (Blonde Warrior)
Both Daisy and her owner were busy looking for each other. They did not realize that they were closer to each other than they thought. (Sweetie Pea)
"Aaaawwwooooo," howled Daisy. "I'm tired and hungry. I want to go home." (Super Boy)
"Daisy, I'm coming to help you!" (Blonde Warrior)
"It's my owner, I can't believe she found me," said Daisy. (Sweetie Pea)
"Ruff! Ruff!" said Daisy as she snuggled up in her owner's arms. (Super Boy)
Daisy felt glad that her owner came to help. (Blonde Warrior)
Since writing this story, we have re-read it many times. My kids each take such pride when their portion of the story is read and are quick to claim their well-written words.
Add-on stories are perfect for igniting passion, both for writing and for family...one story at a time!
Other Great Wordless Books
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer