16 Prewriting Activities

16 Prewriting Activities

16 Prewriting Activities

Young children, of course, begin their writing career learning to write the letters of the alphabet and practicing their handwriting.  But a lack of handwriting ability doesn’t have to deter us from laying a foundation on which to build a writing habit that will last our child a lifetime. Here are a 16 prewriting activities for inspiring the youngest writer:

  1. Oral story telling.  Have your child describe a favorite event.
  2. Record a story.  Sometimes a child will find it particularly fun to hear his own story told in his own voice played back for him.
  3. Narration.  After reading a book, have him tell the story back in his own words.
  4. Give directions.  Have your child tell you how to do something.  Make sure you do EXACTLY what he says.  This can be very entertaining for both!
  5. Describe a picture.  Have your child look at a picture and describe what is happening.
  6. Dictate a story or narration.  You write or type the child’s story as he dictates it to you.  Then you can read it back to him, or print out a copy for him to keep in his “writing” notebook.
  7. “Read” a picture book.  If you have been spending time reading aloud to a child, he can usually tell you that favorite story (you know the one — you have read it about 30 times!) fairly accurately using the pictures for prompts.
  8. Make a booklet.  For the prewriter this is primarily telling a story with pictures.
  9. Tell what happens next.  While reading a new story to your child, ask him to tell you what he thinks will happen before you turn the page.
  10. Narrate a wordless picture book.  There are several picture books on the market that tell their stories entirely through the illustrations.  Your child can tell you what is happening.
  11. Make a picture-only book.  Have your child cut out pictures from a magazine and arrange them in order to tell a story.
  12. Tell a story with music.  Many songs tell a story.  Have your child learn and sing one with you, such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
  13. “Write” a letter.  Have your child write a letter to a relative by dictating the letter to you to copy down for him.
  14. Voice an observation.  Do a simple science experiment and have your child tell you what happened.
  15. Memorize.  Have your child memorize a short poem, Scripture passage, or quotation to recite.
  16. Add to the story.  Mom starts, “Once upon a time _________.”  Then the child contributes; then Mom contributes; and on and on until….  (These stories are rarely finished!)  Fill in that blank with a specific adventure to encourage interest.

One important note, sometimes our youngsters don’t have a story to tell.  Don’t force the issue.  We can’t expect our children to be creative until they have absorbed a great deal of input.  Just keep reading to them, keep an open dialog with them throughout the day, and enjoy this time together.  The creativity (or output) will come!


Additional Resources

Writing Strands: Level 1: An Introduction to the Wonders of Verbal Communication
This small book is very different than the rest of the books in the Writing Strands series.  Geared to ages 4–8, this book is full of ideas similar to those above for interacting with your child, including making up words, recognizing sounds, rhyming, finishing sentences, describing, finishing stories, recording conversations, and other fun activities.   Ages ago, we enjoyed working through the activities in this book, adding an activity once a week or so.  (I would try to find this used so that the cost doesn’t exceed the benefits! The CD is not necessary.)

Sheldon’s Primary Language Lessons
This early language arts book includes picture studies with prompts suited for activity number five above.   Just don’t overdo the prompts!

Itsy Bitsy Spider
Or Eensy Weensy depending on where you are from.  Animated song.

Preschool Science Activities
Very simple activities for number fourteen above.


Our Favorite Wordless Picture Books

Noah’s Ark by Peter Spier
Caldecott winner by one of our favorite authors tells the tale with few words.

The SnowmanThe Snowman by Raymond Briggs
A children’s classic where the children tell the story with the help of 175 illustrated frames.  Even the ending can be considered open-ended.

Carl's ChristmasCarl’s Christmas by Alexandra Day
Not that any mother in her right mind would trust her baby to the care of the family dog, mind you….  But children love the idea, and enjoy helping Carl and Baby spread holiday cheer. If you enjoy Carl’s Christmas, you may enjoy other books in the series.

TuesdayTuesday by David Wiesner
Another Caldecott winner, where it isn’t the pigs that are flying!  Hilarious adventure where your child tells the story.