I tell my writers, "If you can say it, you can write it." It's my go-to response at the beginning of the year when kids think that asking me how to spell a word is the answer to all their problems. They quickly find out that's not the case.
In light of where my head's been of late, the phrase has a completely different meaning as well. If a child can orally tell a story full of details, they can write that story full of details. I'd venture to say the opposite is also true. If a child is not an oral storyteller, they will not be one on paper.
Even though I've made jabs-in-the-dark attempts at teaching them to be storytellers (mini-lessons on how to verbalize what they want to say previous to writing), I've really missed the mark at giving them purposeful instruction. And I've known for several years that I needed to tackle this skill. I just didn't know how, and my ignorance was amplified by my own lack of storytelling abilities.
Recent events (a visit from children's author and extraordinary storyteller, Gary Hogg, and a visit to a favorite blog, Curious Firsties) ignited a desire to tackle this skill head-on via wordless picture books. Even though this is something that I should have initiated in September, I'm banking on the fact that it's never too late.
So I found some wonderfully engaging wordless picture books and tucked them into my writing workshop lessons this past week. We practiced telling bits and pieces of each story. I even incorporated some modeled and shared writing. Everything that we practiced, we then transferred into that day's small moment (narrative) writing (or at least that was the intent).
My future plan includes teaching oral storytelling through wordless picture books early in the year and continuing the process throughout, as skills develop. Since I believe kids should be writing from the start, I won't choose to delay writing workshop by teaching oral storytelling in lieu of writing. Instead, it would occur separately but simultaneously with a purposeful transfer of the skills used with the wordless picture books to their daily writing. That's at least how it all plays out in my head at this point. Who knows what I'll think when it actually happens.
If you're looking for the right books to help you do the same, you don't need to search any further. These are excellent choices.