Thanksgiving time story telling with symbols in preschool

We have been talking about symbols this week and how symbols can be used to tell a story…

During circle time, I drew some symbols on large chart paper and had the children tell me what they thought the symbols represented.  This was a fun story telling activity and the children asked to do it several times…

At first, I drew the symbols and told a story as we went along but by the second day, I would simply draw a symbol and the children would tell me what they thought the symbol was and what was happening in the story…

The children would make suggestions along the way as I made the symbols like “She needs a feather.” or “draw a bow and arrow.”  It was interesting because I didn’t suggest to them any thing ahead of time about the story, I just started to draw and they immediately had their own idea of what should be in each story…

During the second day of symbol story telling, I told the children that I would draw the symbols but not say any words out loud.  Their job was to tell me what they thought was happening in the story by looking at each symbol and tell me the story.  The children loved this and the further we got along in our story, the more the children began telling me what they wanted to happen in the story and the sillier our story got…

At the table, I set out some symbol cards for the children to organize into their own stories and then invited the children to interpret their stories for me or Miss Abby…

The children had some wild tales to tell with the symbol cards.  Some of the children felt the need to animate their stories for me as they told them to me.  They couldn’t just leave the cards on the table and interpret their stories, they had to pick them up and show me how the bear danced or the girl walked across the mountain.  It was interesting that many of the children needed to physically move the story cards to tell their stories…

Not all the children enjoyed telling the stories with the story cards but I think this may have also been because there were lots of other more artsy and creative things going on in the room at the same time so they were easily distracted and ready to move on.  I think we might try using the cards as a large group activity later on this week and see how that goes…

I also noticed that some of the children set their story cards out horizontally to tell the story while other children set their story cards out vertically to tell a story…

We have also been integrating symbols into our art and journal writing as well! Who knew creating symbols could lead to so much fun and learning!

By |2011-11-10T06:00:54+00:00November 10th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Ninočka November 10, 2011 at 6:15 am - Reply

    This is so interesting and creative!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 10, 2011 at 8:04 am - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Ninocka

  2. Brenna November 10, 2011 at 6:51 am - Reply

    We did something similar. We used American Indian pictographs to tell stories.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 10, 2011 at 7:17 am - Reply

      I didn’t have any real pictographs to share:)

  3. Janice @ learning4kids November 10, 2011 at 7:19 am - Reply

    What a beautiful idea! I just love how you told a story without speaking and the kids had to retell what they thought was happening….fabulous! 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 10, 2011 at 7:40 am - Reply

      We really enjoyed this Janice and will do it again – I think it is great for anytime of the year!

  4. Jackie November 10, 2011 at 7:59 am - Reply

    Great idea!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 10, 2011 at 8:04 am - Reply

      Thank you Jackie:)

  5. Heidi Butkus November 10, 2011 at 9:13 am - Reply

    This is a wonderful way to tell the Thanksgiving story, and I love how you got the children to retell the story by letting them manipulate the pictures. Even better, they were making up their OWN stories! This is a fabulous activity that I will definitely try in my Kindergarten class! Thank you so much for sharing!
    I think it would go well with my Thanksgiving Sound Effects Story, too. Your readers might want to try that out with their kids. I think I’ll make some little pictograph icons as a free download for next week’s blog for the “drawing impaired” (LOL!) and for people to copy, and add them to the Sound Effects Story. We’ll see how they combine to encourage kids to tell their own story. That’s the only element that was missing in my story time last year!
    The Sound Effects Story from last year can be found here:
    Thanks so much for another fabulous idea, Deborah!
    Heidi Butkus

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing the sound effects idea with us. We are going to be exploring our five senses a bit next week and this will be perfect!

  6. Becky Helms November 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    My children loved the sound effect story!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      I can’t wait to try it out too!

  7. Susie November 10, 2011 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    I did this with my 3’s last week. I have some symbols – rain, sun, arrow, turkey tracks, river, forest, mountains, canoe (which they love to call a banana!) I start the story with a picture card and they take turns choosing a card to put on the white board to continue the story. The more we do it the more creative their stories become! I’m not sure why I only do it in November. We really need to revisit the process with new symbols throughout the year! Thanks for the ideas.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 10, 2011 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      I agree Susie – I was just thinking that myself that it is silly to only do such a creative and engaging story telling process during one season out of the year. Our kids have gotten much better at story telling from this process than anything else I have tried so far.

  8. Brenna November 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Check out this post I did with Indian pictographs. The students remembered them quickly and loved making up their own stories.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      Headed over there now Brenna!!

  9. Amanda February 7, 2012 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    This is an amazing way for preschoolers to begin to use descriptive words when looking at pictures. It will also help with reading when the students look at a book and are able to tell what is happening. We use picture clues a lot in my room and I find it successful with my students. I can’t wait to try this activity because I know my students will LOVE it. Thank You!

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