Storytelling Tips & Techniques

I picked up these storytelling tips over the years working both as a classroom teacher and working with children in drama education.  I'm sharing them with you because I think stories are one of the best ways to reach people.  -Karen


 Selecting a Story

  1. Choose a story you like.Storytelling tips
  2. Consider the interests of your audience.
  3. Review your drama objective and select a story that will focus the learning on that objective.
  4. Review the drama development of the group and select a story that is not too easy or too difficult.
  5. For early childhood students and beginning drama leaders, the story should have:
    • - A clear and simple plot with elements of repetition.
    • - A sequence of dramatic actions (activities).
    • - Characters that appeal to the students (e.g. animals, magic, humans their age).
    • - Rich sensory images in the text (e.g. smells, sounds, touch textures, tastes).
    • - Strong emotional/mood indicators.
    • - High literary quality.
    • - A strong conflict that is resolved in a positive, upbeat, or humorous way.
    • - A suggestion of music, movement, or other creative dramatic elements.

Studying & Practicing the Story

  1. Analyze the story for troubling elements like physical safety challenges or story content that needs revision, such as:
    • - Romance
    • - Value conflicts with personal life
    • - Scary
    • - Hurtful
    • - Teaches incorrect behaviors
    • - Too many or too few characters
    • - Unclear message
  2. Determine if you need to adapt the story (see “Adapting the Story” below).
  3. Study the story but don’t memorize it.  Allow your imagination to form the images of the story.
  4. Outline the plot steps on a small note card.  Use one word clues or short phrases.
  5. Practice the story out loud.

Adapting the Story

  1. Determine what needs to be changed. For instance:
    • - Number of characters
    • - The ending
    • - The setting
    • - Adding action or activity
    • - Eliminating action or activity
    • - Plot steps: adding or deleting
    • - Making the message clearer
    • - Toning down the mood
  2. Make revisions and determine if that revision supports the story or creates the need for additional revisions (be careful of the domino effect).
  3. Practice telling with the revisions.

Telling the Story

There are differing schools of thought on storytelling methods. In determining what is best for you, remember the purpose is to inspire students toward an acted drama. You want them to see action and reaction in the words. The following list assumes that you are not READING THE STORY and you have not MEMORIZED THE STORY.

The storyteller’s tools are: voice, mind, body

  • VOICE:
  1. Speak with enthusiasm and energy
  2. Use the voices of your characters
  3. Vary the pace and rhythm
  4. Use sound effects as a part of the telling: vocal or object produced
  5. Vary the volume to match the action
  6. Use good grammar and speak clearly
  • MIND:
  1. Concentrate – free your self from outside distractions. For example, close the door to the room and hang a "Story in Progress: Do Not Disturb” sign
  2. Be creative - Include some audience participation
  3. Listen to student suggestions if you request them
  4. Place the characters (see them in a specific spot) when using dialogue or creating off stage focus
  5. Playback the story (visualize it)
  • BODY:
  1. Use suggestive gestures of your characters
  2. Maintain eye contact and looking around at your entire audience
  3. Change levels, if possible

A Few Final Tips

- Keep student analysis of the story brief and in support of the drama.

- Let the student's imaginations work!  There is no need to show the pictures while you tell the story.

- Don’t worry if you make a mistake or leave something out.  The students won't know.   There is no need to go back and say, "Oh, I forgot to tell you that...."    Either find a way to work the information into the story, if it is essential, or let it go.

A Teller's ADVICE

When I read a story, I see the story unfold in my mind as a film.  I see the story visually as though I am there and viewing every moment.  When I tell the story, I play back the film in my mind.  I see the pictures, hear the voices of the characters, and relate to the students what I am seeing.  It works for me.  Try it, maybe it will work for you!


Using Student Contributions in Story Telling

As you progress as storyteller, you might want to gather student contributions for a published story or for an original story you and/or the students are devising.

An original story presents obvious avenues for student input, but published (or set) stories do as well. With a set story, you can ask students to contribute implied or nonexistent information like character traits or names.

Use the stages listed below as your guide. The more you advance through the stages, the more you will have to think like an author. But the students, too, will be thinking like authors.

  • - Stage I: Begin by letting the students add sensory details such as color, sounds, sights, or any detail that does not affect the plot. (e.g., What color was her dress? What was the name of the wolf? What sound did he hear?)
  • - Stage II: Next, let students determine more important aspects of the story: type of character that enters, when and where a character exits, what a character says, what actions a character does, etc. (e.g., What did Little Red Riding Hood say back to her mother? How did the goose escape the barn?)
  • - Stage III: When confident, let students suggest major plot elements such as a new setting, the conflict, the way the story resolves, the way other minor conflicts resolve, the events that turn the story by asking, “What happened next?”

Even More Tips and Suggestions

  1. It is best if you find a way to give all children the opportunity to make idea contributions to the story. You might try using a “selection” signal rather than having the children raise their hands to be called upon.
  2. Move between levels at the pace to which you feel ready as a storyteller and a story creator.
  3. Listen and consider the student suggestions as you hear them. Select the idea that best fits the development of the story while allowing the story to unfold with consideration for the story selection criteria for early childhood students.

We offer these tips as a convenient download for our subscribers.  Join us today!

Grade Level

CONCEPT/SKILL

INTEGRATION IDEAS

ROOM SETUP