Story Starters – A Resource Review

I wanted to review a resource we have been delightfully enjoying and using lately:

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Story Starters: Helping Children Write Like They’ve Never Written Before by Karen Andreola

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Story Starters provides intriguing, exciting story beginnings as story writing prompts, but it goes well beyond this original purpose and acts as a wonderful general writing guide, encouraging and supporting the mom that approaches language arts using Charlotte Mason’s methods such as narration.  It’s a fantastic resource that we’ve been enjoying, so I wanted to take a minute to review it since I know you’re all beginning to think about next year!  🙂

The bulk of the book is built around lovely stories that have been started by Karen Andreola.  The well written and engaging stories have been left incomplete – the ending is left up to your child!  These are not your average stale, “tell me about your summer vacation” writing prompts!  Karen Andreola provides engaging, exciting narratives that enter the imagination and invite an eager and equally imaginative response!  The stories, timeless and classic in their style, can be enjoyed and completed by any age child.  I have been reading one story to all my children each week – my 6 year old orally narrates an ending to me, my 5th grader is just beginning to write and eagerly anticipates the time when he can write his endings, and my 9th grader writes interesting and exciting conclusions – all to the same story starter.

Each story is accompanied by a charming (not to be mistaken for “girly”) vintage black and white image (these are also peppered throughout the book).  These add to the simple delight of this book which is not jarring in substance or appearance, but rather a delight and so easy and straightforward to use!  Read aloud.  Find yourself captivated, engaged, excited.  Finish the story – gladly!  The stories are fascinating, captivating and well written.  I find a variety of stories to choose from that satisfy both boys and girls.

If these story starters were all the book contained, it would be a wonderful supplement and resource in itself, but Karen Andreola goes further and offers a wealth of additional information to round out this resource, adding to its value!  I wanted to list the contents for you to consider:

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Section One
Notes for the Teacher

Exciting WritingKaren’s essay which can be read at her site.
A Flexible Resource
Optional Teaching Tools
What Are the Symbols?
How to use the Story Starters
Four Methods  this section is very valuable to those of you hoping to use this resource across a span of ages, detailing the different methods this book can be used from your youngest, non-writer up through your high schooler.
A Word About Internal Motivation and Grading  though grading is discouraged for grades below 8th grade, a simple rubric is provided to assess your high school student’s writing.
What is the Value of the Learning Activity?

Section Two
Story Starters
67 stories listed
Section Three
Hints for Polishing
Introduction to Hints for Polishingthis entire section is such a wonderful resource!  Step away from a dizzying array of complicated materials and curriculum that seek to pound writing into a square, molded, gelatinous blob!  Refresh yourself with this approach which provides a framework to the budding writer (and their moms), already inspired and filled with vision and vocabulary from feasting on a generous variety of living books!
Sensory Language
Vivid Verbs
Artful Adjectives
Advantageous Adverbs
Three Kinds of Narrators
Description of a Setting
Character Description – Physical Appearance
Character Description – Personality
A Lesson of Review for Additional Challenge

Section Four
Just Pictures

Introduction to Just Pictures
A Lesson on the Basic Elements of a Story wonderful for introducing the parts of a story to a student ready to progress and grow their writing skills.

Section Five
In Closing

Narration: Tapping into the Talking Resource(also available to read at Karen’s site) This is a wonderful and simply written explanation of the method of narration.  For those of you that have children that find it challenging to narrate, or need help in inviting a narration, the wonderful *WAYS OF INCORPORATING NARRATION WITH NARRATION REQUESTS* section lists a number of practical examples for inviting narrations.  I enjoy so much reading the *why* of a method, but the practical examples help me fit the rubber to the road!  This is a valuable section!
Index of Literary Terms and Techniques index of terms relevant to the stories in the book – very helpful!
Writing Resources
About Dean and Karen Andreola

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My closing thoughts…

This non-consumable book is a treasure of support, encouragement as well as practical tools for budding writers (and the moms that love them!)  Its value is increased since it can be used in the family across ages and grades!  Its content and suggestions are natural and comfortably fit into the day.  This is a supplement you could use 5 minutes after opening the cover, but do grab your cup of tea and sit down with the rest of the book for an afternoon.  It will leave you refreshed and encouraged as you consider what is often an intimidating idea – teaching writing.  Allow writing to flow naturally from beautiful, rich literature and authors inspired to convey their ideas through living books!  And, consider this for your shelves next year!  It has been a richly rewarding book for our family!

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I leave you with some additional reading and reviews for Story Starters by Karen Andreola:


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  1. Oh , I have this beside my bed ! I confess I bought it in the fall and then it sat on my shelf all this time .
    I saw it and was inspired to try it out . You are giving me that extra boost I need 😉
    K.A is one of my all time fav authors .
    when I look at this book I think it is something the boys will be okay with some things they just totally reject but I think ( heres hoping ☺) they are going to enjoy it .
    Thanks for the review !

  2. Jen
    I'm sitting here blushing. I have this resource and haven't really used it. I haven't really opened it Just thinking about it now for 'Writing Club'. Dusting it off now.

  3. How Funny, I have been toying with buyung this book daily for the last week or two… Thanks for the great review!!! Blessings!

  4. What a wonderful review!

    I work at a Montessori school and I was wondering, do you think this is a book children could use independently? If I were to give a lesson on how to use the story prompts and put the book out on a shelf, could eight and nine-year-old children use it successfully on their own?



  5. Hi Brenda!

    I do think this book could be used in a Montessori setting in an independent way. If I might make a suggestion – I would type up a checklist type listing of all the story starters that are appropriate for the age group you work with. Each child can use his/her own checklist to check off when they have completed a particular story. As stories are submitted and collected, if you have access to simple binding resources in your school, you might consider binding each child's own collection of exciting stories! What an accomplishment for them!

    Good luck and let me know how this works for you if you pursue it! I'm sure others would love to read how this works for you in this way!!

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