AWAKENING IMAGINATION: A GUIDE TO STORYTELLING
“Some people think the world is made of atoms... but I think the world is made of stories.” -Native American storyteller
The art of storytelling can enliven the imagination, awaken the spirit, and pass along life lessons. Even before written language, stories were used as a way to both teach and entertain. The simple act of telling a story can create feelings of happiness or sadness, fear or calm. Susan Perrow, author of Therapeutic Storytelling, explains how “all stories are potentially healing or therapeutic. If a story makes people laugh or cry – or both! – the laughter and tears can be healing.” As parents and teachers, we have the gift of stories to guide, soothe, and amuse our children. At The Playgarden, story time serves as an anchor in our daily rhythm; it is a time for bonding, expanding our creativity, and celebrating the season. At home, story time can also serve as a sweet time to connect, as a way to guide behavior, or to offer an explanation. Some people, and perhaps many of you, are natural storytellers. However, for many of us (myself included) telling a story for the first time can be an intimidating task. Beyond that, being asked by our wee little ones to “tell a story” on the spot can feel overwhelming. With this in mind, I would like to share some ideas to make your journey into storytelling a little less daunting and hopefully quite enjoyable!
The 3 Elements to Every Story (by Kevin Cordi):
1. The Beginning: Unwrapping. Special gifts are always wrapped, making the recipient eager to find out what’s inside. As you prepare a short story, try to ensure that the beginning does not delay the exposition of the actions; instead, it should grab the reader from the first sentence, or better yet, from the very first word. Avoid the use of predictable beginnings such as “Once upon a time.” Instead, inject some unexpected flavor: “Once when there was no time...”
2. The Gift: The present revealed when the wrapping is removed should satisfy the recipient’s eagerness to open it. Just as the story beginning builds anticipation, the middle of the tale should resolve it. To be effective, a story must have conflict and a dominant idea or purpose. In addition to relating a problem and its solution, a memorable tale must convey some sort of mission (the story of St. Michael and the Star Children is a wonderful example of this). Guide your listeners on a journey of discovery that leads them to uncover the mission for themselves.
3. The Conclusion: Re-wrapping. Like a precious gift carefully stowed away, stories should be “re-wrapped” for savoring later on. Avoid predictable endings such as “The End.” Instead, try to leave the listener with an intriguing or provocative conclusion. Stories neatly re-wrapped become gifts for another day.
As adults, we love to have the details of the story; we want the picture painted for us. However, the art of telling a simple story that allows the listener to create their own image of each detail in their imagination is an incredible gift to children. When we include enough details for the listener to follow along but leave out enough that they can create their own picture, we are truly activating the imagination.
Additionally, there are many ways to set up a story. If you have access to silks, needle felted puppets, and wood elements that is wonderful. But if you don’t, do not fret! Use what is available to you. In the Hummingbird-Forest class, some of our favorite stories are told with natural elements. Together we collect items from nature to serve as the characters and setting for our story; with a unique stick, leaves, pine cones, stones, shells, acorns we can create an entire story world. Again, as a storyteller the key is to activate the imagination and carry your listener on the journey with you.
Here are some songs and verses that we use at The Playgarden to transition into story time:
Before the story begins:
Open, shut them Open, shut them Give a little clap, clap, clap Open, shut them Open, shut them Place them in your lap, lap, lap Creep them, creep them
Creep them, creep them Right up to your chin, chin, chin Open up your little mouth, But do not let them in!
To Open the Story:
Story time, Story
time Carry me away To the land of story, Near and far away. To Close the Story: Snip, snap, snout This tale is all told out
Below are some tips for becoming a confident storyteller (shared by The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers):
1. Take ownership of your story. Don’t be afraid to make it your own! There is nothing wrong with creating your own version of a tale. Your listener will sense your authenticity. 2. Practice. Tell your story out loud, over and over, until your feel comfortable with it. 3. Don’t memorize. You don’t need to memorize every word; let the story pour out of you. A wise mentor once told me “remember the magic, not the material.” 4. Read and Listen. Read lots of stories and listen to even more! You will know when you come across a story that speaks to you; again, your listener with sense your authenticity. 5. Follow a Path. When creating your own stories, make sure you are leading the listener on a path to the purpose of the story. Listen to what you are creating and make sure to carry the listener along.
Story Suggestions by Age Ages 3 and up:
Simple, repetitive nature stories, and simple stories about daily life are well received and well suited for this age group.
The Giant Turnip The Mitten Little Red Hen The City Mouse and the Country Mouse
Ages 4 and up:
Simple, sequential stories with repetition are of great value for this age. Stories with simple and clear conflicts, easily resolved, with good always winning out.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears The Gingerbread Man Sweet Porridge The Billy Goats Gruff Stone Soup
Ages 5 and up:
These stories can have more challenge and more detail. Again, good always wins.
The Elves and the Shoemaker Hansel and Gretel The Golden Goose Rumpelstiltskin
Finally, we all have the ability to be storytellers. This gift is hidden more deeply in some of us than others, but it surely exists in us all. I encourage you to nurture this skill and awaken your imagination!
“Stories are gifts. It is up to us to give and receive them”