When I was young, there was a TV programme called 'Storybook International' and although it was actually an incredibly disappointing watch most of the time, I absolutely loved the animated title sequence with its cartoon fox and Robin Hood-esque storyteller playing his lute. It was truly, truly magical and for those two minutes, the world felt alive with endless possibility and something that lay beyond life on a housing estate with its copycat houses, middle England-ism and the illusion of Thatcherism's new world order. It was akin to watching the video for 'Rio' by Duran Duran, a doorway to a world far away burning bright with optimism's flame. If you've no idea what I'm talking about then here's the opening titles...
Rio by Duran Duran - though perhaps this video is more like a glorified Bounty bar advert, it's worth watching just to see John Taylor :)
Storytelling in the classroom however, can seem like anything other than a Bounty bar advert, with no yachts, white sand, or John Taylor in sight. Instead it frequently feels like a performance that at any moment might tip over the edge or descend into mumbling of forgotten lines that no matter how much you rehearsed the night before, just will not stick.
For all its potential for language development, high engagement, writing, collaboration, role play and above all, joy, the undoubted impact of storytelling relies on one thing to be effective: you.
No pressure then!
Trying to find a story, attempting to lodge it into your brain and then, under the glare of 30 children, all slowly beginning to slide towards disengagement as you stumble over your words, desperately regretting not spending more time learning your lines, is all too much for most of us!
As a storyteller, you need to be a performer capable of bringing a story to life, of capturing the attention and imagination of your audience through your delivery, your choice of props and your physicality. I'm not necessarily into prescribing how storytelling should or shouldn't be done once you've told a story - there are many great people out there with helpful ways of developing storytelling within your practice. I'm a huge believer however that storytelling should sprinkle magic over the top of your children's day-to-day, give a context within which they can explore if they choose, and be a skill that children can grow into as you model and show how telling stories can develop into story mapping, chat, acting, friendship and fun. The beauty of storytelling is that you can use it how you want.
Seeing as the skill of remembering stories is possibly the biggest challenge, I've created a pack of twelve simplified stories. All of them share common phrases and rhythm, many have little songs contained within them which the children adore singing, and above all they are deliberately repetitive so that remembering them is made a whole lot easier!
Here's an example of The Three Little Pigs, which I hope you'll enjoy - it's up to you to decide whether my cat Yoda enjoyed it...
Not only is a simplified story easier for you as the storyteller to retain when it comes to retelling it, it also gives you the opportunity to change the characters and setting with the children so they can focus on that and retell it by themselves without having to remember huge swathes of words that might face them like a daunting army on the brow of a hill.
The simpler the tale, the better. Children very quickly begin to see themselves as storytellers and storychangers if the number of words they need to recall is smaller - it makes stories more accessible, more within reach. If you want to, you can then add additional vocabulary to the tales if you decide to use storytelling as a source of communication skills growth or for writing. It is far better to add, than have to take away and a 'skeleton' story makes each tale inclusive to all.
Telling stories should be a magical thing. It should offer a mosaic of potential within your setting. Getting it right from the off is vital so I hope the tales in the pack will enable you to bring stories to life with your children.
Let's see if we can't use storytelling to fulfil the Storyteller's wish in the 'Storybook International' title scenes: "And always a happily ever after..." - the power to do so lies in your hands...
Happy tale-telling, Greg :)
I'd love to hear about your storytelling experiences so please feel free to use either FB messenger or my email to do so... email@example.com
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....