Oct 26, 2012

Children's Stories




Ted Hughes once wrote, “Stories are like candles in the mind”. In his book Traditional Storytelling in the Primary School, Grainger, T. (1997) we read –


“As tunes of the tale are twirled on the tongue the storyteller shares his work and simultaneously hears these words. So there is ore than one kind of active listening happening as the teller relives the tale in a creative community of listeners.”


Storytelling builds on the differences between spoken and written language. In telling and retelling stories to each other children develop an understanding of how language works. They soon realize that some words have more impact and can be powerful and can show anticipation, pace, suspense. This can all be orchestrated with the voice, the spoken word and possibly gesture. The dialogue in story can make the teller aware of the colloquial and idiomatic language. Teachers need to see how a wide range of different language styles increases language knowledge.


In telling a tale to a multi cultural group of students I have used their own languages to tell the tale even though as participants we don’t all know what is being said. Gesture and voice tone leads to great performance.

The techniques cited are all available on my storytelling disc. I have been revising and trialling them over a long period of time. They have crossed all ages, cultures and places. They have grown from my background as a child in a school in London working with Dorothy Heathcote, to being a drama student at teachers college, to becoming a teacher of drama and English, to being a storyteller and Literacy Advisor.


Rosen tells us that children do not realize that all their grunts and noises can be written down, including their dialect, for through this richness we can celebrate and record the variety of oral language. In teaching I believe we hold a privileged position in weaving the spoken tale into the written and beyond.


I hope once you have taken a “butcher’s hook” as cockneys say, you will be inspired to try these ideas in your classroom and become tellers, as well as teachers. The honeycomb planning is just a fraction of the workshop material which will be published later in the year.


Enriching Your Storytelling

  • Storytelling is lively, using facial expression, movement and gesture
  • Storytelling is adaptable to the needs of the group or audience
  • Storytelling creates the opportunity for group participation

Choosing a Story

The following are guidelines which may be helpful when selecting a story:

  • A clean chronological sequence of events
  • A story shape introducing a scene, characters, building to a climax
  • An interesting tale with human elements
  • Convincing language, rhythm and rhyme

Many people hesitate at telling a story rather than reading one. The majority of stories suitable to tell are never very complex in structure, but they do become richer and deeper in meaning the more they are told.

When selecting, look for phrases you particularly like to include in your own telling. Ones that give off flavour and character. Develop a feel for the words. Consider the pace of the story. You may wish to read it aloud a few times, or even tape it. Remember, the conclusion is as important as the beginning.


We are looking at shoes
We are looking at feet
We are looking at toes
How do they meet?
We are looking at boots
We are looking at socks
We are looking at jandals
How many have you got?

Which shoes would you choose?


Interactive Story


Dragon, dragon, where are my shoes?

I do not know, ask cat.

Cat, cat, where are my shoes?

I do not know, ask pirate.

New Shoes

Each time
I slip on
a new pair of shoes
I’m a new person.

They change the way
I look.
They change the way
I feel.
They make me new, too.

My new shoes
and my old feet
take all day
to say hello.

‘From this day and going on forever’, proclaimed the Sky God,
‘my stories belong to Ananse and shall be called “Spider Stories.”
A Story, a story (Haley 1972)


A Dragon's Tale

The tale of Sophie and the dragon was the first story I ever told in public. It was once again written for girls to feel and be brave. It was one I believe I told my own daughters.

Sophie is sent out to gather fire wood because there is going to be a great feast. She makes sure she has her knife and the woven shawl her mother gave her before she died. It had been her grandmothers and her mothers before her. It was her only treasure.

The mist is very thick as she gathers the wood and then she realises it's not mist but the breath of a dragon. The tale unfolds with showing how sacrifice of your greatest treasure can give you a lot more.

The complete version of "A Dragon's Tale" will be available on the next CD - Coat Tales 2