Guided By Values

9 Questions to Encourage Storytelling in Elementary School Students

Posted by Jane Attah on Oct 30, 2019 2:39:05 PM

Jane Attah with Author Peter Reynolds, one of the two focuses of her Deep Dive.At Peck, veteran faculty members embark on a robust professional development journey every four years called a "deep dive." These deep dives are self-directed yearlong processes that promote profound personal development, self-reflection, and a ‘ripple effect’ of innovation and energy in the classroom. This year I am embarking on a journey to explore the power of words that are portrayed in children’s picture books. 

At the core of my deep dive is the essential question: How can words be used to help students create, tell, and write their personal stories? This year, second graders will be immersed in the themes of two authors whose books feature stories that highlight the self and the importance of embracing one’s uniqueness. Todd Parr and Peter Reynolds are two of my favorite authors. Both write exclusively for children, and their stories are written from the heart. In addition, their stories are inspirational, relatable, welcoming, and most importantly, inclusive. Throughout the year, I will be guiding my students to look closely at the stories written by Parr and Reynolds, and creating opportunities for them to reflect on their own experiences, connect to the characters, and learn about the authors’ lives and the inspiration behind the stories featured the books. 

The themes that Parr and Reynolds highlight in their books are ideal for guiding students to have authentic discourse amongst each other. The themes also allow my students and I to further explore Peck's second-grade essential question: How does learning about myself and others help us connect?

I encourage parents to ask children reflective questions to encourage storytelling such as:

  • How do I show courage?
  • What makes me creative?
  • How am I a friend?
  • What does it mean to be different?
  • How do I use my voice for good?
  • How do I show patience?
  • What does it mean to be mindful, kind, and calm?
  • Are mistakes okay?
  • What makes my family unique?

My deep dive is meant to be a journey in which students can tap into their inner selves—to realize that words can be used in meaningful and powerful ways to tell and write stories about themselves. The hope is to ignite a passion for words that highlights students as they are and all other aspects of life that they are naturally curious about. Through this journey, students will begin to recognize the invisible thread that connects them to their peers and be motivated to share aspects of their lives that are unfamiliar, thereby making them culturally competent to “see” their shared difference. It is going to be quite an experience to observe students reflecting on the words in a picture book in ways that will be both transformational and powerful. 

Throughout this journey, I will highlight student written reflections, comments, videos, book discussions, and other student works through the blog. If you are interested in exploring this topic with us, I encourage you to check out these selections: 

Books by Todd Parr
celebrating empowerment, uniqueness, compassion, love of self and others

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

Reading Makes Me Feel Good

Be Who You Are

It’s Okay to Be Different

The Feelings Book

The Feel Good Book

The I Love You Book

The I’m Not Scared Book

Love the World

The School Book

Teachers Rock

We Belong Together


Books by Peter Reynolds

The Dot (bravery)

Sky Color (creativity)

Ish (confidence)

The Word Collector (joy of words)

Happy Dreamer (resilience)

So Few of Me (balance)

The North Star (potential)

Playing from the Heart (joy of music)

I’m Here (empathy)

Rose’s Garden (patience)

Say Something (voice)

Anyone who visits my second grade classroom knows our motto is "A good start is half the task.” I hope with the "good start" I have on my deep dive we will enjoy this enriching experience together. I invite you to follow along!