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Monday, September 24, 2012

make story maps (and a book review)

Inspired by the recently published book, Show Me a Story, by Emily Neuberger, my kids and I sat down one morning to work on a story map. What started as a creative kick starter, turned into a four hour project that kept us highly engaged until lunch. 

We love making maps, so this was not something too new. What was different was the scale (the entire floor of our learning lab) and the inclusion of many, many plastic creatures (and cotton balls, blocks, fabric trees and more). 

We became consumed by the creation of our paracosm and all the details that had to be negotiated so that each participant had their needs represented in the map. 

After the map was basically complete, the characters came to life. We had the primary inhabitants of the island, their protectors (a group of wild cats that could be called in times of danger by means of a special whistle), the reptilian antagonists and a band of misfit animals that just did not fit in anywhere. 

Once the map and characters were settled on, the imaginative play and stories developed. A baby washed on shore and had to be saved, special gems were being protected from giant worms that crawled underground and sprung up at inopportune times, and many visits to the wise one (Yoda) who lived in the volcano were made. 

Story and plot developed on top of each other almost like a kaleidoscope (that is what happens when you have three energetic authors). 

Neuberger's book shares 40 ideas, crafts, and games aimed at helping kids invent and play with story telling. Her entire philosophy spoke to my sensibility with her support of open-ended creative play and an emphasis on ample space with simple items to spark imagination.

She offers projects like story disks, dice, grab bags, blocks and stones that get creative juices flowing to start inventing new worlds and adventures. 

After a story (or three) is created, she provides projects that let kids "play" with what they wrote. From puppet theaters and stage set pieces to maps and story jars - her ideas are impressive and inspirational. As I read through, I marked many pages of projects I wanted to do with my kids and other home school kids in my circle. 

One of the best things about Show Me a Story is the wide age range the activities accommodate. Most of the projects have an appeal from preschoolers to middle schoolers with slight variations and adjustments. I have already marked several writing games to play with the young writers' workshop I host. 

I highly recommend this book for any home schooler, crafty parent or teacher. In fact, this would be a fabulous gift for your child's teacher, scout leader or Sunday school teacher. 

I received a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own. 


  1. We've been coming up with similar ideas for story-telling in our home as well. I might have to check out this book for more inspiration to be inspired!

    1. You will love it! So many good ideas!

  2. I just ordered a copy! I can't wait to pull out the butcher paper and get started! Thank you for the wonderful suggestion. ~Val

  3. The real language learned by living in a story this way is unmatched. Awesome!

  4. The meaningful language learned by living a story this way is unmatched! Awesome!

  5. Love this! I showed it to my kiddo, and he thought it looked really fun too. I requested the book from my library. Can't wait to get my hands on it!

  6. Thanks for such a lovely, enthusiastic review, Amy!

  7. You just gave me a great idea for tomorrow :)
    And the book is on its way too me via Amazon!
    Also, I love your blog. You and I seem to carryout homeschooling in a very similar fashion. I wish we didn't live on opposite coasts as my creative kiddo would love to get together with yours I am sure. I have yet to find someone near me who shares the same visions I do. Most I have met/know are very classical minded and do school all day long. Ugh.

  8. Thanks jocelyne! You are going to love it! And I am glad you like the blog - it is hard to find your tribe. Most people around me are pretty traditional too.

  9. I love this idea! My little one is too little for this, so I might have to buy it for a cousin/niece for Christmas, and keep a copy for when Max gets a little older. Thanks for all the pictures! Looks like you had a blast ;)

  10. I love the idea of a story map. Emily's book sounds wonderful!

    Thanks for sharing at the Sunday Showcase. I'm pinning this to our feature board as well as my Storytelling board. :)


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