Picture the scene: Benjamin, age 5, in his twin bed. Levi, age 3, in his toddler bed. Multiple nightlights bathe the room in such a bright glow that no adult could ever hope to sleep in here.
"Tell a story about me!" said Levi.
"Ok." I responded, "Once upon a time there was a boy named Levi."
"No! I want to be Jack."
"Ok." Try again. "Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack. And he loved to draw." True enough, we know a boy named Jack who loves to draw. Secret #1: Crib details from real life whenever possible. Being original is so . . . for the daylight hours.
"I want to be in it!" Benjamin interjects.
I continue, accepting his challenge: "and, sometimes, Jack liked to draw a picture for his friends, and give it to them, as a present. Well, one day Jack decided to draw a picture for his friends Benjamin and Levi." This story is shaping up nicely!
"And he knew that Benjamin's favorite animal was a . . ." Here I paused. I promise I can usually recall my children's favorite animals. But some nights . . .
"Monkey!" Benjamin helped me out. Secret #2: Let the kids help. Roosevelt had a brain trust, I've got my helpers.
"Right, Benjamin's favorite animal was a monkey. And Jack knew that Levi liked sharks. So," time for the punch line, "Jack drew them picture of a monkey riding a shark!"
Peals of laughter. Cha-ching! A golden formula. Now when they begged for another story, all I had to do was make Jack draw a picture for someone else, or mash up two other things they liked that would be equally as ridiculous together. Secret #3: Make things easy with a formula.
Our friend "Jack" went on to draw many pictures. For Jacob, who likes BYU basketball and computers, Jack drew a BYU basketball player shooting the ball at a computer instead of into the basket. For me, Jack drew a dolphin (my favorite animal) swimming in refried beans (my favorite food).
After a couple of these, Benjamin had picked up on to the meme and insisted on telling some Jack stories of his own. Glory, hallelujah! Secret #4: Trick the kids into telling their own stories.
We had so much fun telling Jack stories over the next few days that I knew I had to run with this! I don't love to draw, but I do love to make presents for my friends. I started working on story templates like Jack's five days a week, and came up with the name Story Club.
If I give you Jack's story template, will you try it out for me? Tell it to your kids, your friends, your students. Or just make one up in the comments here. Let me know how it goes!
Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack and he loved to draw. Sometimes he drew pictures for his friends and gave them to them as gifts. One day he decided to draw a picture for his friend, _____. He knew that [friend's name] loved ___(a)___ and ___(b)___. So he drew a picture of [ridiculous mashup of (a) and (b)].