How To Become A Storyteller
Once upon a time, in the year 2000, National Storytelling Week was conceived. Whether you use it to teach storytelling or to enjoy a great group activity, everyone can take away with them a new understanding of how hearing a story out loud can bring writing to life.
Whether you’re telling a tale to a group of friends or your class at school, take a look at our top tips for storytelling and see which ones you can use to become a better storyteller.
Setting up the story:
- No distractions. Pick a place where there is little to distract your listeners from looking at you. Don’t sit in front of a window, or a doorway, where things might go by and grab their attention away from the story for example.
Getting ready to read a story:
- Choose a story that you enjoy. You’ll have to read it a few times before reading it to a group, so pick something that you won’t get sick of! You will also need to make sure that it is appropriate for, and appeals to, the whole class.
- Practice makes perfect. Read the story out loud on your own. It doesn’t matter if you look daft, there’s no one there to see you! Do you need to differentiate between the characters? Practice with whimsical voices, you don’t need to do anything too over the top. Can you relate the characters to any that you are familiar with from films or TV? Try using their intonations and accents until you find something you’re comfortable with.
- Remember, remember. If you can remember pieces throughout the story it will give you a great opportunity to make eye contact with your listeners and make sure they’re all still engaged.
- Acting the part. Bring gestures into the reading. Children are easily distracted, movement will help keep their attention focused on you. Bring a hand up in a claw like pose and snarl, if you’re the Big Bad Wolf for example. If you’ve decided you aren’t good with voices this will also help them identify the specific characters in the text. Consistently use the same actions for each line of their speech and soon they will know before you even speak who is going to appear next. Also remember to use facial expressions, and everyone needs to see them so make them exaggerated. This will also add to the humour in telling the story.
- Joining in. Look for bits in the book where your listeners can join in. If Red Riding Hood skips through the forest to Granny’s house, why not have them skip once round the classroom? If the Big Bad Wolf huffs and puffs, could you get them to all try to blow down the house themselves? If there’s a question in the text, is it one you can ask the children? Sitting still and paying attentions for a long time is not suited to every child, so this a chance to give them a bit of a break from that.
- Pace yourself. Practice the speed of your reading. You might find yourself picking up the pace if you realise you’re running out of time. Try to avoid this, you can always fit the rest of the story in another day. When you speed up you’ll end up losing listeners who can’t follow the story. Slowing down will help them to follow easily and they’ll be able to understand more.
Other things to remember:
- Stories change throughout history. Don’t be afraid to change a story to help your children understand it. It obviously still need to make sense, but fairy tales in particular have always been adapted for different cultures. For example, the tale of Cinderella is known differently around the world: Babba Yaga in Russia, The Old Man and His Daughter in Romania, Katie Woodencloak in Norway and it was orignially Tattercoats in England.
- If your text has illustrations take time to stop and show them to your listeners. Ask them questions about what they see, or what they think might happen next.
- Storytelling is a great way to introduce listeners to new cultures. If you’ve picked a multicultural books or there are lots of new things that they might not be familiar with, bring other examples and/or resources so they can discover more.
- Your facial expressions along with the story will help them understand a variety of emotions that they might not come across on a regular basis, and could help them with a variety of social skills.
- Encourage them to become storytellers. Ultimately a storytelling session will teach them how to become a storyteller themselves. Why not, as a reward for something in class, let a group of children take turns reading a story out to the whole class?
Here are four of our favourite books to read out loud: