Friday, February 27, 2015

Let’s Celebrate World Storytelling Day

Let’s Celebrate World Storytelling Day
by Susan Stephenson,

As I mentioned in A List of Book-related Special Days, World Storytelling Day will soon be here. Celebrated on March 20 each year, World Storytelling Day is a wonderful opportunity to immerse our kids in storytelling activities.

I love what storytelling offers children, and believe it should be a tool in every parent and teacher literacy toolbox. It’s an activity we humans have been fascinated with since we lived in caves, and sat around a fire making up tales about the mastodon that got away. Some kids who’ve been exposed to books and other forms of story might be natural storytellers; others may need some guidance. Here are some storytelling activities you could try on March 20.

* We tend to read books to our kids and that’s absolutely wonderful. But another great idea is to ignore the text and make up a story ourselves about the illustrations in a book. If it’s a story you’ve shared many times, kids may well recite much of it by heart. No problem! There’s no right to wrong way to do this activity. It’s great for exercising our imaginations and creativity.

* Create a story for your kids using characters and scenarios they’re familiar with. You could make up a story about a character called (your name) and one called (your child’s name) who go to visit (a friend or relative’s name). If your child is afraid or nervous about something, a story like this can help him rehearse what will happen.

* Tell a story using props you have at hand. Make up a story about Teddy who puts a saucepan on his head and rides a trike to the park. Or a story about a wooden spoon who decides to invite his kitchen friends to make music together. Kids pick up lots of vocabulary as we use everyday items in stories too.

* Do you remember any nursery rhymes, folk tales or fairy stories? Tell these to your kids in your own words and invite children to join in with actions, facial expressions and noises. Encourage kids to take over the storytelling when they feel comfortable doing so. It doesn't matter if the story wanders off onto another pathway - again, that's where imagination and creativity take charge.

* Lots of storytellers tell true stories, perhaps ones that have been handed down through families or cultures. Seek out such stories to share with your kids.

* Listen to some music and let the music create a story in your heads. Share those stories orally with each other.

* Look closely at a painting or some other form of art. Let that be a prompt for a story.

* Invite your kids to use puppets, props or toys to tell their own stories. Little brothers and sisters make an appreciative audience!

* Some storytellers tell stories accompanied by drawings they do, or with instruments, with balloon sculptures, string or snippets of rhyme and song. Some dress in costume. Have children research storytelling techniques and experiment until they find ones that feel comfortable.

* With an iPad, or another tablet, kids could try using an app like ChatterpixKids, 30 Hands or Shadow Puppet to record themselves telling a story.

* If you have an opportunity for your kids to experience a good storyteller, I hope you’ll take it. We can all learn so much from those who practise this wonderful art form!

* Play a storytelling game where children throw in words every now and then that must be incorporated into the story. This can be done seriously, where a child uses his reader instincts to predict what (for example) might be found in the forest, or inside a cave, and you build a story collaboratively. Or it can be done as a challenge where a child thinks up a totally inapposite word, and throws that element at you to weave as best you can into the tale. Both ways are fun.

* Find more fun storytelling activities to share with your kids in Sixteen+ Sensational Storytelling Ideas, Story Bags as Prompts for Writing and Storytelling, Storytelling with Children, and Create a Storybox.

When I'm telling stories to kids, I use all my skills to communicate with them and pull them into the story. I engage them with my eyes, vary my voice's pace and tone where appropriate, use gestures and movements for effect, ask rhetorical questions and use repetition to enhance my tale. Not only does this make for a more interesting storytelling session, but it also serves as a model children can use in their own communications.

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