It’s National Storytelling Week February 1-8 and former primary school teacher Becky Cranham, founder of PlanBee, the school resources and lesson plan experts, has advice on how to make storytelling a rich experience.
Being able to tell children stories is not only a great bonding experience but also a fantastic way to develop their early literacy and emotional skills.
As well as reading stories from books, making up stories to tell little ones can be a really fun and fulfilling experience, although not everyone feels confident telling stories ‘off the cuff’.
Use your voice and intonation - Whatever story you’re telling, your tone of voice is crucial both in helping your children to understand the story and in keeping them engaged. Use your voice to convey emotions in the story. You can do this by: Slowing or quickening your voice, changing the volume, changing the pitch of (making it higher or lower).
Ask and answer questions - Stopping to ask your child questions as you are reading or telling a story can help keep them engaged and ensure that they are following the plot. Encourage them to answer questions both about what is happening and how they feel about what is happening throughout the story. Children will often stop and comment or question events for themselves. As frustrating as this can be, it’s a good idea to encourage this so that children feel engaged and included in the storytelling process.
Include repeated phrases - Another great way to help your children feel involved in the storytelling process is to tell them stories that include repeated phrases or rhymes that they can join in with. (Think of the Three Little Pigs: “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!”.)
Build on traditional stories - If you want to tell your own stories but are lacking in inspiration, you can start with familiar stories as the basis and change details to further engage your children. Try adding your child’s name as a character in stories like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid or even Thomas the Tank Engine or Bob the Builder.
Draw on your own experiences - Don’t limit yourself to fiction. Your own childhood or pre-children life can be a great source of inspiration for stories that your children will love hearing. You may, of course, embellish or leave certain details out but don’t underestimate the power of your own stories.
Use story prompts as a starting point - After a long day at work, the last thing your brain wants to do is conjure up intricate plots and fascinating characters for a bedtime story. Instead, why not try some story prompts to get you started. There are tons of story-generation tools and resources online.
Use wordless picture books - Use the pictures to tell the story and encourage your children to get involved too. Describe the setting and the characters, and make up what you think the characters are saying. Do they agree with your version of what is happening? Can they come up with their own version?