Monday, June 6, 2011

Sixteen Sensational Storytelling Ideas

Oral storytelling is one of mankind's oldest traditions. It's probably the origin of teaching too. Storytelling skills are excellent ones for children to learn, and attending storytelling sessions given by an adult will pay dividends. Kids learn to improvise, gain an understanding of basic story structure, sequence a story correctly, speak with confidence and engage an audience.

  • I think storytelling cubes are a wonderful idea. The ones in this picture were made by Maggy Woodley of Red Ted Art. Maggy tells you how to make your own cubes in her blog post. I've also seen cubes constructed from cardboard and paper (just draw the net of a cube and young artists add their own pictures, or use clip art.)
  • If your craft skills aren't up to Maggy's, why not make some little storytelling cards instead of blocks? Choose some common elements like a couple of scenes (forest, mountains, beach), a couple of characters (boy, girl, wizard, grandma, fireman), animals, props, and maybe some problems (a wolf, a monster, a wand, money.) You could laminate them, or put magnets on the back so kids can use them on a metal tray or the fridge anytime they want. Follow up with recording the stories you create sometimes.
  • A fun storytelling activity is to collaborate with other people. Try throwing in a word while someone else tells a story, and they must then incorporate your word into their story. Try a circle story, where each child contributes a sentence at a time. Add a twist by throwing a ball to the person who must continue the story, or throwing a ball of wool across the circle back and forth to see the story unravel.
  • One my students always loved was a story box of tiny things. This also works as a story bag. Read more about it in my article, Create a Story Box.
  • Share a story from your past with your kids. Kids especially love to hear of the mischief their parents and teachers got up to! At school, have kids bring something important from their past and share its story. If you're having special guests visit the class, having an artefact for them to share with the kids can help them, and give the kids a focus while they listen.
  • Make a family time capsule. This can be something simple like a cardboard box. Each family member brings something special from their lives for the capsule. Before they put it into the box, they tell the story of that object and why it is special for them. Seal the box and open it in 12 months or two years time. This would make an excellent activity for the classroom too.
  • Try storytelling with puppets. You choose a well-known fairy or folk tale, and kids manipulate puppets while you tell the story aloud. Once children are comfortable with the process, change roles.
  • Have children choose some pictures they like from magazines. Ask them to tell the story one or all of those pictures makes them think of. Or start with one picture, begin a shared story there and incorporate the next picture soon after you look at it.
  • Listen to music, allow a story to develop in children's imaginations. Share it. This can lead naturally to wonderful drama improvisations or art work, and makes a great prompt for creative writing.
  • Give your kids five random words eg bird, chair, bucket, happiness, swim. Have children create a story that encompasses all the words. This is a fun one to do in the car. Challenge older kids to come up with four average words and throw in a wacky one.
  • Use a tin tray as a backdrop (vertical) and manipulate magnetised plastic people and shapes to tell a story. Or you tell the story and have your youngster listen and perform the actions. It might be as simple as: "One day Mrs Flappe came home and shut the door. She looked for Tabby cat under the table. But she wasn't there. She looked for Tabby cat on the chair. But she wasn't there. She looked for Tabby cat behind the bookcase and there was Tabby, fast asleep." If you don't have plastic shapes, draw and cut from card, and glue magnets to the back.
  • Make an inkblot by folding a blob of paint or ink inside a piece of paper. Tell a story about what your imagination sees in the result.
  • Start with a squiggly line on a piece of paper. Hand it to a partner who adds another line or two. Swap back and forward until someone says stop because they can tell a story about the squiggle. Any Aussies remember Mr Squiggle on TV?
  • Use songs as the basis for a story for kids to tell. Have them listen to ballads like Puff the Magic Dragon, or Alexander Beetle, and tell the story in their own words. In this as in other activities, we're not aiming for 100% accuracy of re-telling. Encourage kids to add their own twists and turns.
  • Raid the dress-up box for storytelling ideas. Lots of storytelling will start spontaneously from a child becoming a pirate or fairy queen.
  • Why not have your kids choose a favourite well known and short story and practise telling it? If they're happy with the result, you could video it and they can take a look at themselves performing. This is valuable feedback so long as it's approached sensitively. Well-rehearsed stories also make great party pieces for events like family concerts.
Creative thinking, improvisation, developing imagination, self-expression - all these skills can be encouraged in kids via storytelling. If you have any other ideas for storytelling activities, I'd love you to leave them in comments.

Update 1 - here's a wonderful storytelling activity from Erin at Small Type. This will entrance the gamers amongst your kids. Yes, it makes Seventeen, but this is the most sensational of all!

Update 2 - here are some more storytelling activities from Rachel at Quirky Momma. I particularly like the paper city from Made by Joel. Yes, I know that makes Eighteen - so sue me! Better still, add to the list by leaving a comment.

Update 3 - more storytelling goodness, this time with magnets, from Catherine at Sun Hats and Wellie Boots. Makes 19.

Update 4 - Dee reminded me in comments that picture books are great to use for storytelling. Simply substitute different elements to see what you create. Scroll down for Dee's more detailed comment below. Makes 20. Any advance on 20?
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