top of page

Grade One


Using Guided Play to Support Story Writing

This series of activities was designed to improve students writing through play, with a specific focus on supporting idea generation and using play as a tool to support the writing process.

Step One: Using Buttons to Inspire Character Development

What did the children learn?

The focus of the learning during this period was to ease the writing process for the students by supporting their ability to develop story ideas. The play further supported students when they were stuck during the writing phase.

What did the class do?

1. The teacher first introduced the students to the book Something From Nothing, by Phoebe Gilman.


Using the button from the story as inspiration, the teacher asked the children to pick their own button - it was explained that they would be writing a story based on the journey of the button they picked.

2. Their chosen buttons were taped to page 1 of  their “My Button’s Journey” booklet (download booklet template here) where the children described their button.

3. The teacher then introduced the remaining pages 2-5 of their "My Button’s Journey" booklet, and asked the kids to imagine and describe their button’s journey using descriptive words and sentences.

4. The students worked on their button journey stories over the course of two days.

Step Two: Constructing & Playing with Puppets

What did the children learn?


The Grade one students then brought the characters from their button stories to life by creating simple stick puppets.

What did the class do?

1. They used a combination of cardboard shapes, popsicle sticks, paint, and mixed decorations to create the characters from their stories.

2. The structure of this activity was very open-ended. The students were given freedom to design their puppets and make aesthetic choices.

Step Three: Playing with Puppets to Generate Story Ideas

What did the children learn?

The students played with their puppets creating stories that included a problem and a solution.

What did the class do?

Day 1

1.  The teacher began this activity by rereading the students' writings about their individual characters in their "My Button’s Journey" booklets.

2. The students were partnered up to collaboratively create a new story. Before beginning the writing process, the kids were given time to play with their puppet characters and instructed to begin creating a “skeleton” for their story as they played. 

Things for students to think about as they played:

  1. The setting (i.e. when/where) of the story

  2. What the problem is, and how the characters solve the problem together

Day 2

3. On the following day, the students were then given more time to play with their puppets. Inspired by this play, the students completed a Story Map, while the teacher conferenced with students and provided support in editing. 

5. The students then began adding more details to their story. Pairs were given 10 minutes to play with their puppets to help develop the narrative of their stories (based on the previous activity's Story Map as a ‘skeleton’).

6. After developing their narratives, the class gathered on the carpet and the teacher introduced the jobs/roles students would have during this portion of the activity, the “Performer Role" and the "Watcher Role.”


Acted out the story without stopping.

Helped performers to create a detailed story by watching and listening carefully, and thinking of questions or comments to help the performers write a better story...


Suggested Prompts:

“Tell me more about ...”
“I’m wondering how/why/what ...?”

“Have you thought of...”


The students who were watching jotted down one or two words to remind themselves of their comment as they watched. 

7. After their performance, the students received feedback from their classmates and the teacher. 

Suggested Prompts:
"I liked..."
"I wondered..." etc.

Educator Comments:

"The feedback session proved to be very helpful. This provided opportunity for teachers to make notes on where kids needed support to move forward, and provided the authors the opportunity to articulate elements that were previously unclear (or unidentified)."

Step Four: Writing the Story

What did the children learn?


The children worked on writing their stories. Using their play and picture books as inspiration, the students worked to write stories that included thoughtful details, a problem, and a solution.

What did the class do?

Day 1

1. The class began with a read aloud of A Chair For My Mother, by Vera Williams. The children played the role of detectives tasked with noticing the details that the author included.


2. After the story, the teacher lead a class discussion, analyzing how the author began their story and looking at the details they included. 


Suggested prompts:
Who was there? Where are they?
What is the character’s relationship?

How do they meet? When did it happen?

3. The students then began working on their stories independently while the teacher conferenced with pairs or one-on-one with individual students.


*During conferences - if children were stuck, the teacher encouraged them to pull out their puppets and act out the section they were writing in order to flesh out the details.

Day 2

4. The class re-read and analyzed how Vera Williams described the problem

in the story, A Chair for My Mother. Students once again became the detectives

looking for clues about how the author described the problem.

Suggested prompts to foster discussion around the problem:
How do the characters feel? 

What did they say?

What do they see, hear, feel, taste, smell?


The teacher challenged the children to include these details in their own

story's problem.

Day 3

5. Throughout this writing project, the students were concurrently learning about inventions. To connect this learning, the students were encouraged to think about an invention that could solve the problem they described in their story. The teacher read aloud the book Big Dog and Little Dog Visit the Moon, by Selina Young. Together, they analyzed how the author described how Big Dog and Little Dog plan and make their invention. Together, they discussed the details that the author included.


Suggested questions prompts:

How did they plan the invention?

What materials did they use?

Where did they get the materials?

How did they construct it?


6. The class was challenged to add these details in their descriptions

of how their characters made their own inventions. The students 

worked independently, while the teacher conferenced 

with students, in pairs and individually.


*Once again, students were encouraged to role play with their puppets

to help them include greater detail.

bottom of page