Go beyond the bedtime story with these innovative ideas for involving your children in storytelling, explains Paula Galey.
Narrative pantomime Any number of books works for this individual or group activity, but I have found particular success with Nick Bland’s The Wrong Book, as it offers a diverse range of characters within a simple story. Here’s how it works: Children find a personal space within the room (there is no need for interaction as each child is involved in their own story). Read aloud the story and each child silently acts out the physical movements of the story’s character. In this way, children get to really experience the character’s adventure and must listen intently to the storyline.
Slide show This is a group activity. One child is chosen to be the presenter, while the rest of the group become the “pictures” in the slide show. The presenter begins telling the story of their adventurous vacation. As the presenter speaks, the rest of the children form a “picture” of what they are saying, then freeze and await the next instruction. Children can choose to form any character in the picture. For example, “This is the slide of my family on the plane heading to Africa.” (Children form the picture of this scene.) “As soon as we landed, we saw a lion chasing a zebra.” (The children move on to this next picture.)
Mystery bag This is a group activity. Fill a small bag with a selection of random items. Ask children to sit in a circle. Begin telling a story, then pass the bag to the first child, who withdraws something from the bag. They must weave whatever they got into the storyline before passing the bag to the next child, who will do the same.
Myths and legends This is a group or individual activity. Fill a box with slips of paper with potential myth titles written on each. For instance: “Why leaves fall from trees”, “Why the sky is blue”, “How the dog got his bark”, etc. Ask the children to draw a title from the box and then create a story to explain it.
Conducted story This is a group or individual activity. Ask the children to form a line. Provide them with a title for a story. Point to one child, who then begins telling a story. At any point in time, point to another child at random in the line, who must seamlessly continue the story even if it is in the middle of a sentence. Kids’ cliffhanger This is a group or individual activity. Read three-quarters of a book to your kids, then have them provide their own ending to the story before reading the real one.
Treasure hunt This is a group or individual activity. Chances are you have read some of your children’s favourite books over and over. Follow the procedure for a standard treasure hunt, but relate the “clues” to events or characters in their most popular children’s books. The correct answer will lead them to the book in which the next clue is hidden.
Twisted fairy tales This is a group or individual activity. Ask your child to retell a favourite story from a different character’s point of view; for instance, the giant’s side of the story in Jack and the Beanstalk. Alternatively, ask them to modernise a favourite fairy tale; for instance, Snow White might be poisoned by a chocolate bar and go to live with seven celebrities. Or ask your children to invent a new character to add to the adventure, then encourage them to retell the story with the new character in it; for example, how would Goldilocks and the Three Bears be different if a policeman was added into the tale? Or ask your child to select an image from a fairy tale, such as the candy cottage in Hansel and Gretel,
and describe in detail what they imagine it would look like.
Headlines This is a group or individual activity. Cut out a variety of newspaper headlines and ask your children to tell a story about what the headline represents. Or give them a made-up headline, such as “The laughing tree” or “The shark that came to lunch” and have them tell the tale.
Alpha stories This is a group or individual activity. Pick a theme or make up a title, then use an ABC formula to tell a story. Each person participating states a sentence, but it must be in alphabetical sequence, so the first person’s sentence starts with an A, the second person’s sentence starts with a B, and so on.
Lost in space This is a group or individual activity. Dramatically role-play a trip into space. If you really want to set the scene, dim the lights, play appropriate background music, etc. Once you have set the scenario for your imaginary rocket trip, pretend you have landed on a different planet, and ask your child to describe a particular place on the planet; for example, what is this planet’s zoo like, or what kind of sports do the planet’s inhabitants play.
Automatic autobiographies This is an individual activity. Cut out pictures of various people from magazines and place them face-down on a table. Ask your child to pick one at random, then tell a story of who that person is. Ask questions to assist them in providing details.
This is an individual or group activity. Read a book aloud to your children, but don’t show them the pictures. Ask them to create the illustration they think would go with the story. This activity will work with any book, but you will find your favourites.
Paula Galey is a teacher specialising in working with students with learning and behaviour difficulties. She currently writes educational resources while raising her three children.