July 6, 2016

Story Workshop + 30 Loose Parts to Use in Story Workshop



Story Workshop

I was first introduced to the story workshop during my student teaching by another first-grade teacher: Story Workshop is a workshop process that starts with giving students the space to build their stories concretely with open-ended objects and materials (called loose parts) before putting pencil to paper. Students are thus connecting their "play" to storytelling.

It wasn't until recently though, this past spring, that I had the opportunity to bring story workshop to both my own classroom and while visiting another nearby school. Now having experienced the model in practice first-hand, I can say that this has been the most enjoyable manner in which I've ever taught writing to younger elementary students for a couple of reasons. I've found this model to naturally lend itself to differentiating instruction. Story workshop integrates a playfulness into the learning seamlessly, thus engaging and motivating children--my students who normally have an aversion to writing were just as engaged with the learning as my students who naturally love writing.

Story Workshop

There are five components to the story workshop model:
  1. Preparation: The teacher provides a menu or variety of open-ended materials for students
  2. Provocation: Questions are posed to students around writing strategies and traits (often through mini-lessons, mentor texts, etc.)
  3. Invitation/Negotiation: Students explore and 'shop' (pick) for their story materials as they reflectively begin planning them. The teacher helps students find items that will represent and tell their story well.
  4. Creation: Students play and build purposefully with their materials to create their stories while the teacher confers with them. Students then write their stories out. (Once the students have built their stories I photograph it to have them use as a reference when they then sit down to write them.)
  5. Congress: Students share their stories and gain feedback from peers and the teacher

For this particular week, my students were posed with the question "How do characters overcome (solve) problems?" We read a handful of mentor texts where the main characters had to overcome a series of problems they faced. Here were the beginnings of a couple of stories the students built and wrote:

Story Workshop

"Once upon a time there was a forest. Deep in the forest there was a river. It was a special river full of tears. All of the animals would gather around the river and also a girl. The river had rocks and trees and flowers and dirt and one bird that was a parrot. The river was full of the girls tears because she had been cursed..."

Story Workshop


One day in a farm in Paris there lived a farmer and his wife. They were very poor. They only owned a few home things and a horse and cow and sheep and piw and a goat and donkey. One day a wolf came... 

Story Workshop

Deep in the jungle there was a tree boa and a monkey. The tree boa ate the monkey. There was a sea turtle there too and he saw this along with his friend--an anteater...

Story Workshop Loose Parts

If you're interested in incorporating story workshop into your writing lessons, you'll be needing a stock of open-ended materials, or loose parts, that students can manipulate as well as use to represent different aspects of their stories in as many different ways as possible. Here are 30 ideas of materials to get you started:
  1. Glass marbles, round and flat
  2. Playdoh
  3. Pine cones
  4. Small sticks 
  5. Bark chips
  6. Various fabric squares
  7. Fake flowers (detached from wire stems)
  8. Small plastic animals or play figures
  9. Various types of blocks
  10. Toilet paper rolls
  11. Small stones
  12. Seashells
  13. Buckeyes and acorns
  14. Buttons
  15. Beads
  16. Various types of paints
  17. Small containers
  18. Lincoln Logs
  19. Straws
  20. Sand
  21. Plastic and wooden spools
  22. Corks
  23. Fabric placemats (great for representing landscapes as a story's setting)
  24. Round clothespins
  25. Popsicle sticks
  26. Pom-poms
  27. Pipe cleaners
  28. Foam shape cutouts
  29. Leaves
  30. Wikki Stix

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