Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When Imagination, Story & Creativity Work As One

Lydia reading with her Dad
I've written before on this blog about the importance of children's imaginations being fed and stimulated, and the relationship that this has to story, rhyme, drawing, play, craft, dramatisation and language. One key easy way to bring together many of these things is through imaginative recreation, that is, encouraging children to evoke or imagine past events, stories, memories and so on. This often involves the creation, reconstruction, presentation or retelling of a story in new and varied ways.

Story in its own right is critical to learning, communication and well-being. This is something that I've written about many times (for example HERE & HERE).

From a very early age, children begin in various play situations to experiment with story in the form of literature, song, film or even real-life accounts. My youngest granddaughter Lydia has been fascinated by story since her first year of life. As her Dad said one day, she can create a story out of any inanimate object - clothing pegs, pencils, shoes, cups, buckets, toys, objects, cutlery, food and so on. Not all of her stories are re-creations, many are highly original recounts, songs and rhymes, and involve the use of objects to apply names and roles in situations that she creates. Story for Lydia is stimulated by television (e.g. 'Everything's Rosie', 'Charlie and Lola', 'Playschool') as well as books, experience, play situations with adults, playground adventures, nature walks etc.
'Swiss Family Robinson' game, made by Sam after watching the film

Young children often quite naturally use re-creation as part of their play. Other children need help and encouragement to do this. Re-creation can be seen in children's experience of story in varied ways, for example:
  • Changing rhymes and songs, e.g. 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' to 'Baa Baa White Sheep' as Lydia does often.
  • Acting out 'Little Red Riding Hood' with the resources of the dress-up box and some friends.
  • Dramatizing a well-known children's song from television or CD or a children's picture book.
  • Using art or drawing to imagine a story character, mythical creature or story setting. 
  • Using Lego (or other toys, props and objects) to re-imagine story alone or with others.
  • Creating something new that grows out of an experience of story.

But why is re-creation so important? While play has a special value (see HERE) and has an important role in any child's intellectual development, imaginative recreation provides direct support to language and literacy development. It helps children to:
  • Play with and understand the complexities of plot development.
  • Comprehend any story at much greater depth.
  • Understand character development in new ways.
  • Enter 'into' a setting as they create an imagined version of the setting and events of a story.
  • Understand story in three dimensions.
  • Appreciate the way the language of story is shaped by, and in turn shapes, characters, settings and plots.

In short, imaginative re-creation is a powerful learning strategy for children that stretches them as language users and learners. As well, it stimulates their creativity and imagination.

Examples of Imaginative Re-creation by Age Group

a) Toddlers (1-3 years)

  • Being encouraged to be a wild thing as the story 'Where the Wild Things Are' reaches the critical moment when Max declares 'Let the wild rumpus start'.
  • Finger Plays and rhymes ('This Little Piggy', 'Incy Wincy', 'Round and Round the Garden')
  • Retelling Thomas the Tank Engine stories using the various engines that feature in the story.
  • Using dolls or soft toys to act out domestic scenarios.
    Using dress-up clothes in association with well-known stories.
  • Creating a story using toy soldiers, Polly Pocket toys, magnetic boards with characters, fuzzy felt and so on.
  • Joining in the television dramatization of a well-known story on a program like 'Playschool'.

b) Early years (4-6 years)

  • Many of the better story apps for iPad or android devices are an innovative way for multiple re-created experiences of stories (see my recent post on this HERE).
  • Drawing maps, key characters (dragons, people) or scenes.
  • Acting out stories with a group of children or with adult family members.
  • Creating an adapted text to re-create part of a story (e.g. poetry, a character interview, telling the story from a different point of view).
  • Using puppets to re-create a story.
  • Using modelling clay or craft materials to create characters to re-create and retell a story.
Creating knights for storytelling

c) Later childhood (7-12 years)

  • More elaborate dramatization, with involvement in making props and costumes.
  • Simple animations using one of the programs readily available (see my previous post on animation HERE).
  • Using materials like Lego to re-imagine a well-known story. The development of Lego with themes that relate to movies and stories has led to an even closer link between this toy and story making
  • Creating a board game that recreates the plot or a specific part of a story (as Sam did).
  • Creating a complex map or plot summary as a device for others to use.
  • Create a script to be acted for a specific part of a story.
  • Write a newspaper report based on an event within a story.
  • Use a variety of written genres to create a new text ('The Jolly Postman' and 'The Jolly Pocket Postman' are published examples of this).
These are just some of the ways that imaginative re-creation can be stimulated.

Summing Up

Children are capable of incredible imagination and creativity. Story is both an outcome of both of these human capacities, as well as means to stimulate their learning and growth in many areas. When imagination, creativity and story come together, we have a very powerful combination to 'stretch' our children.

Other posts

Posts on creativity
The Power of Story
Posts on Play


Michelle said...

Wow! I'd just classed my daughter's storytelling as play. My daughter, who is 3.5, would do this many times a week. Sometimes, her re-creation of church evolves into imaginative storytelling, other times she draws on stories and sometimes she creates her own new stories. So much fun!

This has encouraged me to step more into that world she creates, I tend to hang back in awe

Trevor Cairney said...

Good for you Michelle, take every opportunity.