Lewis Carroll once called stories ‘love gifts’. Storytelling in its rawest form touches us but young children need things they can touch and feel to make sense of their worlds and people of all ages have different learning styles. Enhancing stories with resources benefits children in many ways. It heightens imagination and visualization, accentuates story rhythm, supports listening skills and gives insight to the human experience. Storytellers need to pique interest, as well as play with stories, pondering through sustained shared thinking. Stories can be punctuated by music, rhyme, games, songs, rituals, moral questions and photographs. I will look at different resources to support story sharing.
Activities and resources to extend story work. There are endless books which link with the curriculum and can be enhanced by interesting resources. Here are some of my favourites:
- The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins. Published by Turtleback Books (ISBN: 9780833530608) is a great book for counting, sharing and links with cooking.
- Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson. Published by MacMillan (ISBN: 9781447220145) can start thought-provoking discussion around memories (good/bad, recent/distant) and paper crafts.
- Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Published by HarperCollins (ISBN: 9780064431439), the story of some monkeys and the quest for returned hats is brought to life with a variety of hats and copying games.
- A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson. Published by Macmillan (ISBN: 9781405004770). Using containers and teddies to explore capacity.
- Story sacks: for books and resources, presented in sacks, which enhance classic stories (www.storysack.com).
Specific story resources to enhance stories:
- Story mat / story map: Bertrand Russell said that stories were like interlocking maps on different scales, which help children to make meaning. Taken literally, story mats can become loose maps with tangible or more implied rivers, oceans, mountains, caves, solitary houses or forests. Extend the idea by making houses, mobiles and other things with recycled materials to help embed the idea of story settings. Create a giant floor map for the Gingerbread Man’s journey or The Three Bears House in the forest. Decide where the various places would be in nursery, if it were set there or walk around the neighbourhood noticing similarities with places in stories or exploring local legends.
- Puppets: can be used to enhance understanding of characters, how they move and think. Children can make simple shadow puppets with art materials or their hands and puppets can be interviewed with a child manipulating it and answering for the puppet.
- Story banquets: set meal for scene such as Goldilock’s porridge breakfast
- Story challenge box: gather or invent stories with challenges in inviting the children to think of some. Once they get the hang of it they love thinking up challenges.
- Other boxes or displays could be jokes or songs that relate to stories. Choose a tongue twister from a collection, try these: free tree twigs, we won by one run, bubble bobble bubble bobble, she sells sea shells on the sea shore, friendly fleas and fire flies, Daddy draws doors, Six slippery snails, slid slowly seaward, she sees cheese or crisp crusts crackle and crunch. Also riddles such as What is neither old nor new, not hard to find, but hard to loose? More valuable than strings of pearls, more powerful than Kings or Earls? Why Stories of course!
- Story scenes/shrines: 3D shoeboxes or jars with a scene from a story.
- Refrain box: create a box with famous refrains from various stories ‘fee fi fo fum’ or ‘not by the hair of my chinny chin chin’ or personal ones you use ‘the forest’s deep the forests wide, the forest has many things inside, it has…’. Create a game by picking one out and seeing if the children can guess the story.
- Rory’s Story cubes (by Hutter Trade Selection) or painted disks images from a magazine (say National geographic) as story starters.
- Story museum: make a museum of objects relevant to different stories to provide a way for children to request a story.
- Story stick: collect objects relevant to a story and tie to a stick to help children remember the sequence of a story, especially when this is tricky, e.g. The Gingerbread Man.
- Epic characters: create a sheet with classic characters from stories to help children make their own, including kings, monsters, wizards, princesses, frogs etc.
- Memory cards: create cards with memories from day trip or holiday so children can create stories from their own memories. Likewise enhance much-loved real-life stories with props such as a key to for teachers to tell the children about getting locked out of their car.
- Empty picture frame: children put their face in it, using a mirror to explore their ‘framed’ expressions.
- Story-making bags: Once upon a time there was a… then pull random objects in a box or bag, children take turns to pull out objects to continue the story.
- Voice: resources to explore story voices such as a voice changer, megaphone or speaking through straws. A Talking Tin (www.talkingproducts.com) is a great way of embedded story refrains; record children saying key phrases and play it back through the story.
- Sequencing cards: out-of-sequence story fragments placed together the children to piece together. Can also be done with fabric.
- Mini mes: wooden blocks with the children’s (full-length) photos on for them to create small world stories with themselves as the heros!
- Engage the senses: use a fan for wind or cotton wool and a water spray in The Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. Published by Walker Books (ISBN: 9780744523232), encourage children to blow tissue butterflies in Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson. Published by Macmillan Books (ISBN: 9781509812493).
Paper and pen:
- Helicopter technique: Vivian Paley’s approach allows children to tell a story while the teacher transcribes it and facilitates the child’s peers to act it out. These stories should be collected verbatim in the child’s voice rather than being interpreted by adults. Children’s own stories help us understand what has become embedded. Listening to children’s own stories will help us understand the issues that they are grappling with and these might include fear, weakness, justice and loneliness. (http://www.makebelievearts.co.uk/helicopterstorieslettingimaginationfly).
- Kamishibai: Japanese moving pictures using a scroll of paper or picture cards (can be done by photocopying a book omitting the words).
- Creating shared or individual books of the children’s own stories or their retelling of traditional tales.
- Take line for a walk: start drawing a line along a large piece of paper or whiteboard. The line might go up a mountain (draw mountain), then begin to fly or bounce (use sound effects if appropriate). Again, once embedded, children will contribute their interpretations and what might happen next.
- Explore key words before story sharing and supply blank paper for children’s own representations along with shared pondering about the story.
Art Materials including recycled materials:
- Non-verbal storytelling: using recycled materials to create an unspoken story (akin to Morph or Pingu) which the children have to interpret. These can be around simple stories like a scrunched paper ‘head’ trying to reach a star by various means (jumping, reaching, kitchen roll tube rocket). Once embedded, the children can lead the direction of the story. https://visiblethinking.ltd.uk/category/non-verbal-storytelling).
- Here’s a box, here’s a lid, I wonder whatever inside it is hid: encourage children to guess what is in the box from sounds or clues or to find imaginary objects in a box. Use the object to pique interest in a story.
- Create or buy a story or nursery rhyme glove: to introduce a story, remembering nursery rhymes are stories of sorts.
- Re-enact the hare and the tortoise story but using books to waft newspaper hares and tortoises towards a finish line. Use a stopwatch to time children in races or putting shoes on etc.
Natural materials and found objects:
- A bug’s life: stretch out string along a piece of grass then co-construct a story of an imaginary bug or character and his journey along the obstacles (such as stones as mountains) they meet along the string’s path.
- It’s not a stick: pass a stick around a group of children and they have to describe the stick as anything but a stick… ‘it’s not a stick, it’s a magic wand’…
- Story stone: they say folk stories are like smooth pebbles, worn down after generations of handling. Stones can be passed as sentences are added to stories or characters and settings painted on to them.
Nothing but your body!
- Pie Corbett’s Talk for Writing (www.talk4writing.co.uk) helps children learn to tell and sign traditional stories as a foundation to them inventing their own.
- Story Yoga: Using yoga movements set in a story. Storytime Yoga by Sydney Solis. Published by The Mythic Yoga Studio (ISBN: 9780977706303).
- Freeze frame games: children dance around and when a drum is banged they try to act being old, small or other character feature or frozen scenes from a story such as the wolf coming down a chimney. Children love ‘freezing’ like a statue and it supports self-control. Children can use a camera to photograph each other ‘frozen’.
- Body story sounds: rain storm with fingers, rubbing hands for wind, snapping fingers for light rain, light clapping and patting thighs for droplets, stomping feet for heavy rain.
- Instruments to represent parts of a story such as a drum for a tiger, rainstick or thumb piano for rain, ocean drum for the sea (can be made with rice or pebbles and a large flat basket). Other great story instruments include the kazoo, train whistle, (responsibly-sourced) conch shell, swanee whistle, Tibetan singing bowls or tingsha bells to begin a story, a storm drum for monsters or baddies.
- Provocations of interesting photos for example from National Geographic.
- Food: enhance children’s sensory experience and courage to try new foods by linking foods with stories. Stone Soup by Jess Stockham. Published by Child’s Play International (ISBN: 9781846430213) provides a community cooking experience where parents bring in a vegetable each and the children create ‘stone soup’!
- Objects providing provocations: Whose purse is it? What might the key open? What will the magic shoe do? If the hat blew off, where would it go?
- Parachutes, big pieces of stretchy material or story scarves. Piquing a child’s interest in a story is much like offering a present. Wrapping a story object in a scarf and revealing it will grab a child’s attention and can be used to symbolise a bird, hat, cave, rainbow or any other story element.
- UV torch and highlighter pens: used in the semi-darkness to draw accompanying glowing illustrations to a spoken story.
- Kim’s game: a memory game with different objects on a tray, one is secretly removed and the children guess which one. Use with objects from a given story to pique interest and introduce a story.
- Clay: use to link with creation myths where animals were made from the earth.
- Button jar: using a wide variety of buttons to think about characters who might wear them.
Wordless pictures which invite children to infer the plot. Not all books work for this but where they work they can stimulate a child’s imagination and understanding of story structure:
- Tuesday by David Wiesner. Published by Anderson Press (ISBN: 978-1849394475).
- The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach . Published by Random House (ISBN: 978-0375858604).
- The Wrong Side of the Bed by Edward Ardizzone. Published by Puffin (ISBN: 978-0141370279). A story about nothing going right!
- Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins. Published by Red Fox Pictures (ISBN: 978-1862308060).
- A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer. Published by Dial Books (ISBN: 978-0803728806).
Children must understand setting, character, plot, conflict and theme. Playing with sticks, making rose petal perfume and dens are almost prerequisites to storymaking. Enhance their story skills by listening to children’s jokes and allowing them to add descriptions, opinions or sections of a story. Exploring lead characters and a story’s ‘helpers’ and ‘hinderers’ also supports story work. Allow enough time for the telling of stories, using pauses to allow reflection and solve problems, ensuring that story time can occur in smaller groups.
Discuss with children how they would feel a story. Would they go up Jack’s Beanstalk? Would they be scared of the bear? What skills do they share with the protagonists? Stop periodically to ask the child to describe an object or person in a story. Encouraging ‘fracturing’ or swapping in or characters and settings. Storyteller, Marie Shedlock, felt that the same story should be told to the same children at six-month intervals, discussing the story with them and noting their changing interests and interpretations.