This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.
By Cynthia Salazar
As an early childhood educator, I strongly believe that imagination plays a huge role in every child’s education. Reading and imagination go hand in hand as it helps the child envision their books from their own perspective. A child would not be able to comprehend a text without using background knowledge, reading strategies and of course his/her imagination. The following are some examples of activities that promote children’s use of imagination.
Pretend and Play
Pretend play is an activity that contributes to children using their imagination meanwhile they develop their language skills as well as their social interactions. Children can invent their own games and entertain themselves with the simplest things an adult wouldn’t. Why? Because they can use their imagination to create, innovate and adapt to different scenarios from the ocean to the sky and from super heroes to ordinary people. Children are experts at pretend and play. As teachers, we should take advantage of their imagination to make writing and reading interesting for them. Of course, there are some children that may not know how to use their imagination. It is our job to explain and model for them how to use their imagination conveniently for learning.
We have heard a million times that children learn through hands-on activities, and we should provide them with different opportunities to use and expand their imagination. A particular activity I like to use with my students is the mystery box. The mystery box consists of placing random objects inside a box and students need to create a story using the objects. This allows them to use their background knowledge and imagination about each object. It is a great group activity because they can discuss, convince, and persuade their peers using their story. One of the rules of this activity is that there is no right or wrong story. This allows students to be creative and also allows their imagination to fly. Afterwards, students can tell the story to the rest of the class or write it out so everybody can see it. Teachers may adapt this strategy depending on the grade level being taught. However, the idea of not involving print in this activity may be more appealing for the lower grades because they can also develop their language throughout the use of conversations with their peers.
Reading Classic Fairy Tales
Classic read aloud, such as fairy tales and fantasy books, will help children have a better understanding about the use of imagination. Some fairytales can include but are not limited to The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and Where the Wild Things Are. Children will get motivated to become authors and use their imagination to write or retell their unique stories.
Exposing children to a different end or twisted version of these classic stories will give them the opportunity to appreciate the book from a different perspective. Books such as The Stinky Cheese Man, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Wolf’s Story are just a few examples of books that present children with the other side of the story told by another character from the book. This will not only teach children to use their imagination but also think outside the box. Children can decide which side of the story they like best.
Another great idea to help children unfold their imagination is to expose them to wordless picture books where they can interpret and create their own story lines guiding themselves by only using the illustrations from the book. Some picture books that can be helpful for this activity and that my students really enjoy are Chalk by Bill Thomson, Flotsam by David Wiesner, Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka and Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola . Wordless books are a great asset in the introduction of imagination to the lower grade students which also gets them hooked on reading.
Children of all ages can practice these activities and expand their imagination which can significantly contribute not only with their reading skills but also with their writing and language skills.