Connecting through play with
"Where The Wild Things Are"

Good readers think actively as they read and make connections with what they are reading. They connect with the characters in the story, the situations the characters find themselves in and the setting in which the story takes place.

Good readers grasp the mood of the story, anticipate upcoming events, reflect on past events and become emotionally involved in the text. Making connections is one of the key reading strategies children can use to enable them to better process the words and ideas which they read about.

If we, as parents, want to help our children become good readers, we can help them to discover these connections and read more deeply into books. One way of doing this is by asking your child to re-tell a story which you have just read to them, or which they have just read on their own. In order to re-tell the story your child will have to digest the information in the story, reflect on it and then reproduce it in their own way. In so doing they will inevitably start to connect more with the characters and events taking place.

where the wild things are

A fun way for young children to re-tell a story is by acting it out with props. With young children any purely verbal narration of the story is likely to be pretty short. However, with props you can hold the interest of your child for longer and encourage them to tell the story in more detail. This will provide more opportunities for them to start building connections with what they have just read.

My sons love playing with Gormiti figures at the moment. That gave me the idea of asking them to re-tell the well-known story by Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are, book depository amazon one of the best loved children's picture books around. I reckoned that a Gormiti is a pretty good approximation to a Wild Thing! Keep reading to see what we did.

With a lot of help from Lego, Playmobil and Gormitis we built miniature 'sets' for different scenes in the book. This was a fun activity in its own right, and I must say I enjoyed helping out! As you can see my little wild ones also enjoyed themselves.

Wild Things

We then sat down and read the book. My children are already familiar with the story so I only read it once, but if it had been a book they knew less well I would have read it a few times.

I then encouraged my sons to take turns to re-tell the story, using the different scenes and props which we had laid out on the table. Both boys did really well and had fun. I needed to prompt them every now and again to encourage them to describe the story in as much detail as possible, and not just act it out silently. But once prompted they rose to the challenge.

I was interested to see that, since they know the book quite well, they occasionally quoted verbatim from the book, particularly when they got to the bit about how the Wild Things "roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws". It would be hard to paraphrase that line of Sendak's!

Here are some pictures of the sets we played with. The quotes are all taken from the book:

"His mother called him "WILD THING" and Max said "I'LL EAT YOU UP!"

wild things1

"That very night in Max's room a forest grew"

wild things2

"...and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max"

wild things3

"And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars"

wild things4

"...till Max said "BE STILL!" and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes"

wild things5

"And now," cried Max, "let the wild rumpus start!"

At this point I played "Wild Thing" by the Troggs and we all danced around wildly to the music roaring, gnashing our teeth and showing our claws. That took me back a few years to the discos where I used to dance to that record, although hopefully my dancing style was a little better back then...

wild things6

"...where he found his supper waiting for him"

wild things7

At the time my children only wanted to re-tell the story once each. However, I would like to return to this activity again soon and use it to talk with them in more detail about elements of the story, in order to deepen their thinking about the book and so further increase the connections they make with it.

For example, I would like to explore Max's emotions at different parts of the story - when he is told off by his mother, when he sails away on his own, when he sees the Wild Things for the first time etc. I will ask my sons to think about what Max is feeling at these moments and try to give examples of when they have felt the same sort of emotion.

I will also ask them to think of other ways in which the story could have ended, and act out these alternative endings.

This method of re-telling a story is limited only by your imagination and can be applied to all sorts of books using any props you find lying around the house.

So go and have fun with story-telling, whether with Where The Wild Things Are book depository amazon or another of your children's favourites, and watch your kids play "happily ever after".

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