english primary teacher

How to teach … storytelling

Bring the joy of a good yarn to your classroom with these resources

A pair of 6-foot-tall ruby red slippers
Introduce your class to the plots and of famous stories, such as the Wizard of Oz, and ask them to create their own using props and their imaginations. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Once upon a time (16 years ago, to be precise), National Storytelling Week was born. The good folk of the Society for Storytelling were determined to spread a love of the art form throughout the nation – and so it came to pass, with theatres, museums, schools, hospitals, spoken-word venues and even care homes bringing the joy of a good yarn to people of all ages (and they all lived happily ever after).

The festival is celebrated this year from 30 January to 6 February, and if you’d like to turn your class into a room full of raconteurs, we’ve got resources to help you do it. A good place to start is this guide, also from the Society for Storytelling, on the educational processes that take place as children learn from hearing and engaging with stories. This guide for parents can also be handed out to encourage storytelling at home.

Decorate your classroom with this colourful We Love Stories banner from Twinkl, which also offers this simple storytelling sequencing activity based on a snowman, and this collection of ideas for story-based activities that includes games, drama, and a lovely task in which students create “journey sticks” to tell a story about themselves.

To get your class thinking about the best way to deliver a compelling tale, try thislesson on the art of remembering a poem by heart from the Poetry Society. It uses Steve Tasane’s poem The Grumblebum to get them thinking about volume, movement and facial expression – all key ingredients when they come to tell their own stories.

You can also introduce them to some of the greats of cinematic storytelling, with resources fromIntoFilm. This resource pack, based on Shaun the Sheep, gets students to identify what makes a good character and how stories can be told to the greatest effect. This lesson plan (designed for key stage 1 pupils) uses the hugely popular tale of The Gruffalo to get pupils to create their own response to the woodland fable using an app.

Then it’s time to dive in and create their own stories. This workshop lesson from author Alexis Deacon uses discussion, games and drawing to get children to come up with their own characters, which they can pool and borrow from each other to create interlinked narratives.

For more stimuli, show your pupils that inspiration is all around them. This resource from WordSpace uses a “bag of stories” (a bag containing a few everyday items) for inspiration, while this lesson uses an old coat with a few items in its pockets to produce a “pocketful of stories”. Another activity gets students to take a single woodland map and create hundreds of new stories.

When it comes to sharing their stories, this beginner’s guide from the Society for Storytelling gets down to the nitty gritty of why and how they are told, as well as how to learn them by heart and use voice and body language to keep an audience captivated.

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