Setting the story stage

If you’ve already told stories in your classroom, you’ll know just how magical it can be.  However, you might have also experienced a session where the students couldn’t concentrate properly or get engaged in the story you were trying to tell.  Below, you’ll find are a number of things that you can do to ensure that telling stories in your classroom will go smoothly.   Like any well thought out lesson plan, you have to plan each step of a storytelling session too. Let’s look at some way we can do this…

Lucy telling a captivating story

When children know what will happen, and understand how your storytime really works, the chances are the session will be wonderful and everyone will have something to gain from it. If you can establish a routine in your storytelling space, this will help children know what is expected of them. It’s important to create an atmosphere of comfort and sharing where the children will feel safe and ready to listen and this starts with the classroom space itself.

Seating arrangements

Thinking about where and how your audience will sit is important. The closer they are, the deeper the feeling of intimacy and sharing will be.

  • Young learners are better off sitting in a semi-circle on the floor, while older children can sit on chairs or desks. Very young children are better sitting on a parent or caregiver’s lap in case, for some reason, they need to leave the room.
  • It will be important that everyone is comfortable and away from school objects and other distractions.
  • Make sure anyone with special needs is carefully looked after, ex. larger chairs, space for a wheelchair, clear exits to doors and access to toilets, etc.

Interventions within the space

It’s true that stories can be told anywhere; under a tree, in the classroom, on a bus, at bedtime, etc. but for a group of children listening to a story in another language, there are a few considerations we must think about.

When we take the time to make small changes to a classroom that the children are already very familiar with, it will make the story just that bit special, don’t you think?  Here are some things that I have used in my school that you might like to try…

  • Roll out a special storytelling carpet or piece of cloth for students to sit on that marks out a specific area of the classroom.
  • Darken the room and before you start the story, ceremoniously light a candle (if it’s allowed), which you can blow out when the story ends, (I learned this at a Waldorf school).

Make a special doorway curtain

This is an idea that I have used many times to make my storytime special.  It is also a way to separate the outside world of the classroom from the inside one.  This gets the students excited and curious about what is going to happen in the lesson.

You will need a large piece of brown paper measured to the size of your classroom door frame. Write or draw whatever you think connects to the story that you are going to tell.  It can be words from the story, the beginning sentence or an image or drawing of the characters for example. You can use both sides so that the students have a message as they come into the classroom or as they leave. Next cut the paper into strips so that it becomes a curtain that students can walk through. Finally, stick it onto the door frame before you start your class. This simple entrance will create a buzz of interest and add excitement to your session.

Resultado de imagem para children sitting on chairs in a semi circle for story time

Story warm-ups

Now that your audience is in place, here are two simple story warm-ups, that you can use before you start telling your story to get the audience’s attention and to draw them in.

Two Little Feet (a physical warm-up for your learners)

Two little feet go tap, tap, tap,

Two little hands go clap, clap, clap,

One little leap from behind the chair,

Two little hands reach high in the air.

Two little feet go jump, jump, jump,

Two little hands go thumb, thumb, thumb,

One little child turns round and round,

One little child sits quietly down.

Storytime Poem (A descriptive verse for primary students and teens)

Are you ready? Sit right down,

Ready for a story? Hear the sound,

Brave heroes, many dangers

Beasts and kings, old men, strangers.

Sit as close as close can be,

And listen shhhhhhhh….. to me.

I hope these simple tips will help you enjoy your storytelling session even more and encourage you to be the best storytelling teacher ever!

 List of materials for this:

  • Large roll of paper 210cm X 80cm
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Colored markers, paints or crayons

Author: Lucy Crichton

Graduated in Drama, Design and Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Lucy Crichton is a teacher, teacher trainer and storyteller who has given lectures and workshops around the world. She has been writing for the primary classroom since 2008 and has been involved in projects in South America, Europe and Asia. Lucy is the founder of The Secret Garden English School in Florianopolis, where she teaches children and teenagers using, music, art, drama, gardening and cooking. She has been living and teaching in Brazil since 1992.

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