The basic idea is simple: learning to tell stories from memory is a great way to learn all sorts of essential skills. Children who fill up with stories by listening and retelling create an inner store of language, ideas, and imagination.
They will then draw upon this store in their work and life. Speaking, listening, confidence, empathy, ideas, facts, sequences, plots … you name it, storytelling can teach it.
We believe that all children benefit from developing their storytelling skills throughout their education. In schools where improving basic literacy levels is a priority, the Storytelling Schools method has been used to quickly raise standards. Storytelling provides a natural way of developing rich and active story language, for children to recycle in their own story making and writing.
In this way, attainment can rise quickly and be sustained. In other schools, where low literacy levels are not the main issue, the simple joy and magic of storytelling is seen as a crucial part of an all-round education, a core skill for learning and sequencing ideas, a way of developing skills and confidence in speaking and performing, and a way of developing ideas about stories that enable high achievers to go further in their story making.
So How Do You Become a Storyteller?
I recommend the following:
- Read as many different world folktales, fables, myths, and legends as you can.
- Watch professional storytellers and take notes about how they do it. Every storyteller is different, and you can learn something from them all.
- Build your confidence by reading your students’ picture books or chapter books with an interesting voice. Stop to ask questions. Make the book reading interactive. It will help you create a shared event with a story.
- Pick stories with small numbers of characters and repeating events, as these are easiest to remember. Having said that, pick any story you like — no, that you love! If it captivates you, it will captivate the younger ones, too.
- Write the stories down in a notebook. Writing helps you remember a story, and it models the same to the children.
- When you start “telling” your story, it’s OK to have the book nearby and to take a look at it if you forget a part. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are a student again.
- Get yourself a “prop box” made of old bits of linen, and fill it with hats from charity shops and random objects that children can use imaginatively. I got a lot of my materials from recycling centers.
So What’s Next?
Sure, becoming a storyteller takes effort and inclination on your behalf, but with so many benefits, isn’t it worth trying? You might surprise yourself. You will certainly surprise your students. In relatively little time, you can be telling stories, running storytelling clubs, capturing the attention of the whole school assembly, contributing to school events and PD training schedules. I never thought I would be doing any of this when I started my teacher training seven years ago.