2. Using writing to encourage reading

The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim (1976) believes that if children find ‘magic’ in stories, they will really want to learn to read. He argues that if a child believes strongly that being able to read will open up a world of wonderful experiences and understanding, they will make a greater effort to learn to read and will keep on reading.

Sharing interesting stories with pupils is one way for a teacher to make reading a magical experience. Stimulating curiosity and imagination by encouraging them to create alternative endings (and sometimes beginnings) to stories and to share these with their classmates is another. Case Study 2 and Activity 2 describe how you can help your pupils to become story makers for one another.

Case Study 2: Reading stories; writing new story endings

Mrs Miriam Muwai teaches English to Standard 6 in a Nairobi school. One day, she asked her pupils to think about the stories they had read with her and to tell her which story ending they liked best and which they found disappointing or unsatisfactory. She found they had different favourite stories. However, there was one story that most pupils didn’t like because they didn’t know what happened to three characters that ‘disappeared’ from it. Miriam asked them to suggest what could have happened to these characters and wrote their ideas on the chalkboard. Then she asked pupils to choose one of the three characters and to write an ending to this character’s part in the story. She encouraged pupils to use their own ideas, as well as those from the chalkboard, and to include drawings with their writing. Then she reread the story to remind them of the setting, the characters and the main events.

Although Miriam asked pupils to write individually, she also encouraged them to help each other with ideas, vocabulary and spelling. She moved around the room while pupils were writing and drawing, helping where needed. She was very pleased to find that most of her pupils really liked the idea of being authors and of writing for a real audience (their classmates). She noticed that they were taking a great deal of care with their work because their classmates would be reading it.

In the next lesson, when they read each other’s story endings, she observed that most of her ‘reluctant readers’ were keen to read what their classmates had written and see what they had drawn.

Activity 2: Writing new beginnings and endings to stories

Write on your chalkboard the short story in Resource 3: A story. Omit the title and the last two sentences.

  • Read the story with your pupils. Discuss any new words.
  • Ask them to answer questions such as those in Resource 3.
  • Organise the class to work in fours – two to write a beginning to the story and two to write an ending. Each pair does a drawing to illustrate their part of the story. (This may take more than one lesson.)
  • Ask each group to read their whole story to the class and to display their drawings. Discuss with pupils what they like about each other’s stories.
  • Finally, read the title and the last two sentences of the original story to your class. (They are likely to be surprised that it’s about soccer!)
  • Find another story to repeat the exercise.

How well did this activity work?

How did the pupils respond to each other’s stories?

3. Encouraging individual reading