Inexperienced storytellers (and beginning writers) are often so concerned with figuring out the plot of their tales and getting to the end of them that they forget to have fun with the actual telling. When students know a story well, however, they can relax and focus instead on the details that bring it to life.

Some of the stories with which children are most familiar are those told in their families. Almost every family has some special story about the holidays—the dinner that went wrong, the unexpected guest, the amazing present. These stories can provide material for young writers for years to come!

Begin by having a classroom share time. If you start by sharing a few stories of your own family and relatives, you will probably coax your students into sharing their own. One story usually leads to another. Focus your stories around the holidays.

You may then want to read some books based on holiday family stories with your students: Uncle Vova's Tree by Patricia Pollaco, and Latkes and Applesauce by Fran Manuschkin are two excellent choices.

Now have your students go home and interview family members to collect stories. Some suggestions for questions include asking about old traditions, the worst holiday and the best, surprises, etc.

Working in groups, have students prepare one story to tell to the class. Explain to them that they may want to add details and descriptions to give their stories some "flavor." And remind them that like all storytellers they don't have to worry too much about the facts!

Share your stories, and make an audiotape of them that students can have for a holiday present to share with their families!