What are Americans most scared of? In second place is death. In first place is public speaking. Let's nip neurosis in the bud! What I like about this ten-lesson literature-based storytelling unit is that it gives children with a dramatic flair some time on stage, but the activities are structured incrementally so that even children who are terribly shy will ultimately find they have the skills to shine. You can use this model to teach one child to tell a story in front of a group, but why just one? Be a megalomaniac about it! Do it with a classroom of children, or several classrooms of children, or with an afterschool group, or with the dead-end kids on your block. Culminate the acquisition of storytelling skills with a festival the whole community can enjoy.

Storytelling has all the benefits of read aloud. It improves language skills such as vocabulary, prediction, sequencing, comprehension, story structure and recall. These skills will also help children become better writers. Just as is the case with read-aloud, children who engage in the activity learn about history and culture, develop emotionally and have better self-esteem. Storytelling stimulates imagination to the nth degree. And storytelling creates a love of story that translates into a potentially life-long love of books the same way read-aloud does. Storytelling and read aloud must be brother and sister. Or, at least, first cousins.

The difference between read aloud and storytelling (or story re-telling, as is the case here, since we are working from children's trade literature and less from original work or family history) is that the act of storytelling is always active and inventive. The child needs to synthesize all sorts of cognitive operations (brain stuff) with gross motor skills (body stuff) and emotional interpretations (feeling stuff) to execute this performance, and because of this synthesis, every performance is unique to the teller. The other difference is the connection with the audience. The eye contact alone makes storytelling a different animal than read-aloud. When you try it, you'll see.

This unit will show you how to memorize a story for formal storytelling settings and teach children to do the same. Once you have storytelling capabilities, you can use it to integrate literature-based learning into a variety of subject areas or add some panache to the most basic read-aloud or read-together techniques. This unit (or series of progressive lessons with a goal in mind) is divided into nine "sessions," or classes, which each take about 40 minutes, with an optional culminating "tour" or "storytelling festival" at the end of the nine sessions. Each session is divided into two parts: what you do with the children (instructions for you) and what children do at home, on their own time (instructions for them). Whenever I ran this workshop, I was working with between 8 and 65 children at a time, so of course you may have to tweak it a bit to serve your own group! If you are a teacher with a lesson plan book and/or grouchy administrators, I have included objectives. The goal remains the same as always: lifelong love and appreciation of stories and reading, and the confidence to communicate and share that love!

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Storytelling Bibliography


  • You have to learn how to tell a story yourself, because you are the grown-up and you are the model. So go through all the how-to steps yourself and learn one. Then the kids will not feel you are, how you say, "bogus."

  • You have to get a bunch of great books to serve as the stories the kids will tell. Try to get so many that the children will have a choice instead of assigning them to stories. If they feel they chose the book, they will be invested in their choice and do a better job. You can use your library card, or, if you are a teacher, maybe you can get a grant. I used to like to ask for enough money so that the children could keep the books they studied and performed. After all, they will have spent a lot of time with this book before their shining hour, and it's a shame to break up a beautiful relationship.

  • If you are really broke or you owe the library money or your library stinks, another tact is to get an anthology of stories and copy them for the kids to choose and use. This is much less exciting initially than choosing an illustrated book and may be detrimental to children who are visual learners, but I will begrudgingly admit that the children can still learn stories from them. My favorite publisher of storytelling anthologies is August House.

  • If at all possible, get your hands on a copy of Children Tell Stories: A Teaching Guide by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss (Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc., 1990) the best and most straightforward book I know on the subject. It even includes a generous collection of stories at the end that are suitable for telling. The authors are great storytellers themselves. Much of my teaching approach was adapted and modified from the great activities and ideas in this book. I can't recommend it highly enough.

    Session one: storytelling, loud and clear

    Children will watch a model storytelling.
    Children will be introduced to the idea of storytelling as an oral tradition and as a profession.
    Children will learn to project their voice.

    The time they spend with you:

    1. Give a formal storytelling.
    Showtime! Demonstrate your skills so they can see what it's about.

    2. Discuss storytelling. Why do we do it?
    When talking about storytelling with children, I tell them that in Africa, there is a saying: Every man dies two deaths. The first, when his body dies. The second, when the last person remembers him dies. Stories, too, die when the last person who knows the story dies. So the trick is not only to know the story, but to make people remember the story, so it will live on and on. Body language and facial expressions are part of making the story memorable, keeping it alive. And after time has passed, the audience will most likely not remember how silly you acted or looked. They will remember enjoying the story. And that means, you did your job as a storyteller.

    I also tell children that storytelling is an actual career that some people choose, and professional storytellers earn money. (This usually takes care of the less sentimental kids in the audience.) Is it hard? Doing anything well takes effort, but if they are willing to practice, they can be assured that they will learn a skill that they can use for their whole life. And it can help them earn money. Yes, say it twice. Children these days can be very pragmatic.

    3. Introduce voice projection. Teach children to get loud! Ask children to turn to their neighbor and say 'hi" or "hello" in the way that they normally do. Ask them to put their hands on their throats when they say it. Do they feel anything? Ask them to put their hands right over their rib cage and say "hello." Do they feel anything? Discuss the physiological process of speaking, only instead of using big words to explain what's happening, you can share the picture book How You Talk by Paul Showers (out-of-print, but usually available used at or at your public library). By the way, you are integrating science, in case you haven't noticed!

    Have children lie on the floor with a book on their diaphragm. (Wait a number of minutes while savvy children with older siblings laugh contagiously at the word "diaphragm." At this point you may choose to integrate health and family education or you may let the uncomfortable moment pass.) Instruct them to breathe normally. The books will rise and fall slowly as they breathe. Tell them to feel the movements of their diaphragms and rises slowly from the floor, working for the same movement.

    Have children keep their hand over the diaphragm and breathe in and out more markedly. Have children say "hi" when exhaling. Then let the children say "hi" like they did in the beginning. With hands on diaphragms and throats let them feel the difference. Tell them with storytelling breathing, you want to use that energy and strength used in exhaling to carry your words. Practice saying words and sentences while exhaling. Make sure you take deep breaths in between the exercise, or have smelling salts available.

    This may seem like a goofy exercise, and will probably get a lot of giggles. But it is a very important first exercise, because it helps assure the children that they will be heard. It's horrible to imagine telling a story and have listeners yelling at you, "I can't hear!" Children need to know immediately that voice projection is part of telling the story. For children who had a difficult time getting the idea, I hung a drawing of a child's head on the opposite far wall, and told that child that "your brother can't hear you." Children got used to yelling at their "brother" on the far wall. Another helpful thing was I instructed all listeners to give a silent "thumbs up" sign when the storyteller was forgetting to project. During rehearsals, this was much less distracting than kids yelling, "louder!"

    Point out the eye contact you should have modeled. Just for fun, stare at each person in the room, have the children do the same. Tell them they must try to make each listener feel as if the story is being told just for him or her, and eye contact helps the listeners feel that way. If the storytellers-in-training are too shy for eye contact, they can look at the tops of people's heads.

    On their own:

    Watch music videos and try to observe who is singing from their diaphragm from the rise and fall of their chest cavity, and who is lip-synching or has a weak voice. (Who's bogus now?) Invite children to try singing a favorite song with a record. Can you sing louder than the record, using the air in your diaphragm?

    Session two: the plot thickens

    Children will learn how to create and use a picture map to sequence a story.
    Children will use criteria to choose a book to share.
    Children will read silently and orally.

    The time they spend with you:

    1. Show children a picture map. A picture map is a bunch of index cards that are doodled upon to depict the main events of the story, kind of a pictoral "time line." Picture maps help familiarize children with the sequence of the story. A picture map shouldn't be a work of art, it can be stick figures, just so long as the person telling the story can understand what's going on. The cards should really not have words, just pictures, like a caveman would use if preparing for a storytelling. Show them the picture map you used to study the story you shared last session. Model throwing the cards up in the air, putting them out of order, and then try to get the cards back in order. Explain that you repeat this until you are familiar with the sequence of the story.

    2. Let children choose a book. Preferably, let them choose from a selection to which you have already applied criteria so all choices are suitable. When determining whether or not a book will work well, keep these criteria in mind:

    A GOOD BOOK for storytelling will...

  • have a clear beginning, middle and end (folktales often fit this bill)
  • will have text that stands independently from the illustrations
  • have places where the audience can join in (repeated verses, cumulative tales)
  • make you laugh or cry or feel scared...plays on basic emotions!

    A TRICKY BOOK for storytelling will...

  • depend on the illustrations to help tell the story
  • have a lot of dialogue
  • have flowery, literary language that makes it hard for the teller to re-tell in her own way.

    Not sure which titles to choose? See the storytelling bibliography below for a list of tales that are tried and true.

    Each child should have their own story to tell. Other things to consider are dialect and first-person voice. Sometimes these can be well-matched to a child, other times these voices can seem forced and uncomfortable, making listeners uncomfortable as well. Some stories include bouts of singing. This may be another hurdle for some children who are tone-deaf. Ensure a successful experience by helping children find a tale that reflects their comfort level. Stories should also be brief. Ten minutes is enough time to choke a horse for novice storytellers.

    On their own time:

    Read the book three times. This increases the child's familiarity with the story.

    Try to write the story without looking, and/or create a picture map. Children should practice throwing them in the air and putting them back in order.

    Read the book out loud, recording it onto a tape. This is just practice, and it will be used later. They can read the straight text, right from the book. Check to make sure children have tape recorders at home, otherwise, let them record before they leave you.

    Session three: who's who


    Children will watch a model storytelling.
    Children will identify and map main characters in a story, identifying outstanding characteristics.
    Children will memorize the first and last lines of a story.

    The time they spend with you:

    1. Check the picture map to make sure some kid's map doesn't consist of, like, three cards.

    2. Deliver another formal storytelling. Come on, you can learn two! Children benefit from a live model. (If you teach storytelling more than once, you can bring in a child you've taught.)

    3. Model character mapping. A character map is a circle with the character's name in the middle, with rays around the circle that say what is unique about the character. In the end, it looks like a spider or a sun covered with words. For instance, a character map of Baby Bear from Goldilocks and the Three Bears might have rays that say things like, "likes to go on walks," "had chair broken by intruder," "will not eat porridge when it is too hot," "observant." The point of a character map is to really reflect upon and get to know the characters in a story, so when the time comes to dramatize the characters, you have insight into them.
    4. Check that children are happy and comfortable with the stories they have chosen. If they change stories much later than session three, they will be far behind. If they need to make adjustments, now is the time.

    On their own time:

    Map all the main characters from your story.

    Memorize first and last lines of story. Now, storytelling is not about memorizing. Memorizing is potentially horrible because memorizing too much and recalling too little can make a kid "blank out," freeze and forget what is memorized if nerves get bad enough. Memorizing first and last lines, though, offers a sense of confidence. It assures the child that he knows how to start and how to end, so he can at least get on and off the stage.

    Session four: storytelling express

    Children will add expression to their story by employing variety in their voices, facial gestures, pauses and volume.
    Children will practice telling their story using these conventions.

    The time they spend with you:

    1. Check character map to make sure some kid's map doesn't consist of, like, three rays.

    2. Ask children to say the first and last lines of their story from memory.

    3. Teach children to speak with expression with the "Counting from One to Ten" game (from the marvelous Hamilton and Weiss handbook I was telling you about).
    Read a paragraph from a book in a monotone, then read with expression. Discuss their reaction. What is the difference between the two? Clearly, monotone is the way we speak when we don't want people to be interested in what we are saying, so we need to put expression into our storytelling.
    Call on different children, asking them to count from one to ten:

  • As if you were an angry parent who said, "I am going to count to ten and if you're not in the bedroom by the time I get to ten you're in big trouble."
  • As a toddler just learning to count
  • As if you were very sad because you throught everyone had forgotten your birthday, but then you walked into your living toom and saw ten birthday presents sitting on the floor. How would you count them?
  • As if you were a referee for a boxing match and you were counting someone out
  • As if you were telling someone a telephone number over a bad connection
  • As if you were counting pennies as you dropped them into a piggy bank

    4. Teach the children to use facial expressions with the "Pass the Face" game (also courtesy of Hamilton and Weiss).
    Sit in a circle. Start by making a face and showing it to everyone in the circle. Then, turn to the person beside you. That person copies your expression and shows it to everyone, then makes a different face and passes it on to the next person. Round and round we go!

    5. Discuss pauses and volume in storytelling. When is it a good time to speak extra slowly? To hold a facial expression? To speak loudly? To use a stage whisper? At which place in each of the children's story could one of these expressive devices be employed? (Except, don't say, "when will you employ these expressive devices?" Say, "So, where exactly will you use this stuff you learned today to make your storytelling unbelievably super terrific?") Some examples are a slow, quiet voice during scary or suspenseful parts, and a loud cheering voice and skipping pace at the conflict's denouement.

    On their own time, the children will:

    Practice. Read/tell with expression.

    Read story aloud straight from the book to self.
    Read story aloud to mirror.
    Read story aloud to somebody else.
    Tell story to self (try not to look at the book).
    Tell story to mirror.
    Tell story to somebody else.
    Tell story into cassette tape.
    These repetitions will help the child develop fluency and confidence.

    Session five: acting up

    Children will add body language to their storytelling.
    Children will journal about their feelings before performing.

    The time they spend with you:

    1. Collect tapes. Listen to the tapes at your convenience and jot down suggestions about pacing, speaking more loudly, characterization and so forth, tailored to the individual child. You might also consider compiling a single tape of their recorded performances to donate to the library (and for sentimental reasons, too, of course).

    2. Ask children to say the first and last lines of their story from memory.

    3. Teach children to use body language by playing pantomime games. Did I mention that the Hamilton and Mitch guide has a ton of great storytelling games? These are the ones I used, but there are many games that might fit your style of sharing).

  • Game #1: Catch it! Everyone stands in a circle. Call someone's name and an object such as a spider; a cold, wet, slimy fish; a china teapot; a feather; a dinosaur or a balloon. As the name of the object is called out, pretend to throw it into the circle using appropraite body movements and facial expressions. Once children get the hang of it, let them call out objects and throw them to each other!

  • Game #2: Walk the Walk. Have children walk across the room, pretending they are walking:
    - home from school knowing there are tons of chores waiting;
    - through a foot of snow;
    - barefoot from a very sticky and squishy swamp;
    - through a blistering hot desert;
    - through a graveyard at midnight;
    - with your right foot in a cast;
    - through honey.

  • Game #3: Ten count freeze. Say a word, and let the children act out that word. Count to ten, and then say freeze. Say a new word. The rules are no touching each other, and don't look at or work with anyone else. Once children understand how to play, let one of them call out words (avoid swimming, fighting, drinking, smoking, kissing and love. The results are trite and profane). I like this activity because it encourages children to concentrate and ignore extraneous action around them.

    On their own time, the children will:

    Practice, and add body language to telling. This will make the story more interesting to watch, but it will also help children remember the story, as body movements offer cues to what comes next in the story. As performance nears and children start to feel nervous, it's good to have this kind of help.

    Write about feelings before performing. Just a few sentences will do. Sometimes writing about apprehensions helps to alleviate them. Encourage children to also write about anticipating or wishing for success.

    Session six: let us introduce ourselves

    Children will create an introduction for their storytelling.
    Children will continue to rehearse their presentation.

    The time they spend with you:

    1. Create an introduction. Explain to children how to introduce themselves and their book.
    1. First, they should say their full name.
    2. Second, if they have a prop, they should share it with the audience. Now, for novice storytellers, I do not encourage the use of props during the telling as they can be clumsy and distracting, but used in the introduction they can create "anticipatory sets," which translated from educationalese means it will get the audience geared up for what is to follow. For instance, if a child is going to tell The Chinese Mirror by Mirra Ginsburg, the child can say, "what do you see when you look in this mirror?" and hold the mirror up to the audience. After they answer, the teller can say, "when I look into it, I see [describes self], but when a merchant from China looked into it, he saw something different, as you'll find out when I tell you the amazing story of The Chinese Mirror by Mirra Ginsburg." Another example would be if the teller held up a lemon and pretended to suck it. When the audience puckers, the child may say, " Puckering up? Why, that was just what the folks in Alto, Ohio did on that historic day, captured forever in the book Lentil, by Robert McCloskey, which I will share with you now." Or, a child may hold out a broom. "Think this is for sweeping? Then you need to meet a friend of mine. Tilly Witch, by Don Freeman."
    3. Lastly , the child will give credit where credit is due by holding up the cover of the book and giving the book's title and author.

    2. Plan business cards. Have children give you information they would like to appear on a business card. Since I ran this program from schools, this usually meant their full name, room number, and the name of the story they could tell. If you run this program out of your home or community center, take care to be discreet about children's addresses, for the children's safety. Before computers, I was able to make cool business cards for the kids using copy machines and rubber stamps (wonderful literature based rubber stamps are available through Kidstamps, 1-800-727-5437) and with the advent of computers, printing up business cards was a breeze. Business cards were terrific affirmations of their status as storytellers, serving both as rewards and as encouragement to continue.

    On their own time, the children will:

    Practice telling with introduction.

    Session seven: troubleshooting

    Children will troubleshoot pitfalls that may occur while performing.
    Children will rehearse storytelling in front of a very small audience.

    The time they spend with you:

    1. Troubleshoot their problems and weaknesses.
    Return the tapes and suggestions you wrote down. Then discuss common questions and concerns about storytelling in front of an audience.
    1. What if I forget the story?
    The only insurance you really have against forgetting is practice. If you have been practicing, if you memorized your first and last lines, if you did picture maps and character maps, the worst that can happen is you will blank out for a moment. In this case, the story is still there, in the attic of your brain, just buried under other junk. Just take a deep breath, pause a moment to think, smile, and it you will find the story again. If you are really stuck, just try to repeat the last thing you said, that sometimes jars the memory.
    2. What if I make a mistake?
    Don't apologize. Most likely, the audience didn't even notice. If you accidentally skip over something important and realize it later, just throw it in: "oh, yes, and did I mention," or "you should also know...".
    3. What if my audience isn't paying attention to me?
    They will pay attention if you make eye contact and speak loudly and expressively. Is there a part of the story you can invite the audience to join with you, a funny name they can call, a refrain they can repeat, can they clap to the rhythm, can they join you in making a scary face or a silly face? Welcome them in to your story whenever you can, and they will pay attention. If for some reason you have a rude crazy person in the audience and you aren't getting the attention you deserve, stare at that person and wait until you do. You worked a long time to share this story and you deserve respect.
    4. What if I throw up or pee my pants?
    You won't throw up. Go to the bathroom before you perform.
    5. What if I get stage fright?
    Some people suggest imagining the audience in their underwear to combat stage fright. I find this distracting. Better, remember that people are there to hear a story, and you are there to keep a story alive by doing your best to tell it. You and the audience are a team, they aren't your enemy. If you are nervous, open and close your fists a few times. Take a deep breath. Smile so all your teeth show. Relax and shine like the star you are.

    2. Let children practice in pairs or sets of three.

    On their own time, the children will:

    Practice telling with introduction. Try to practice in front of an audience of family or friends.

    Sessions eight and nine: aspiring professionals

    Objectives: Children will see storytelling modeled by a professional storyteller.
    Students will perform stories in front of an audience.
    Students will watch stories being performed by their peers.
    Note to teachers: The ninth session is where you can do a lot of cumulative evaluation of whether the children have successfully made their approximations towards the goal. This is like the "test" (though I wouldn't use the "t" word, they're shaky enough as it is), and you can assess whether children have done their personal best.

    The time they spend with you:
    1. Watch a professional storyteller. This can be done a variety of ways. If you are lucky enough to live where cultural events abound, you can take a little field trip to watch some of the professionals that regularly perform at museums, libraries, festivals, bookstores and community centers. Or, if you are running this program through some place with a budget, you can hire a storyteller to come to you. You can find one on the National Storytelling Directory which is part of the amazing National Storytelling Network home page. Some storytellers have performances available on videotape, available at libraries, direct from storytellers, and a few videos are widely distributed and may be ordered through book chains and video stores. Performances are also available on audio cassette, and although these are lots of fun, a video cassette is preferable so that the children may see the body movement, facial expression and eye contact modeled. Discuss what made performances strong or weak at length.

    2. Perform stories.
    The children have been moving incrementally from performing for themselves, performing in very small groups (friends, family, pairs) and now they are ready to perform in front of sympathetic fellow storytellers. If you wish to discuss performances afterwards, start with the positive: "what makes this performance strong?" Even suggestions should be made in the spirit of encouragement rather than criticism: "Is there anything that could make this terrific performance even smoother?"

    Some children may have not committed to the activities and rehearsals and when the chips are down may in fact not feel prepared to perform in front of a larger group. This will not be news to you; you will have observed this in their small groups and heard it on their practice cassette, you will have seen the effort reflected in character and picture maps. If they do not wish to perform because they are unprepared, don't make them. It's too sadistic. Even if they don't perform, you can bet they will have a sense of appreciation for the children who do, and for the practice and process that goes into a storytelling. Maybe next time!

    Being unprepared may exempt a child from performing, but being afraid should not. If you know a child is prepared, do everything you can to get them to do it, no matter what they may complain. Their training is their parachute, so push them out of that storytelling airplane. It's an exhilarating ride and there's a soft pile of success waiting for them to land on.

    3. Pass out business cards personalized for all children who performed.
    What a status symbol! You may want to give children who did not perform "good audience" medals. Let everyone go away happy. You only live once. Sessions eight and nine can be the end...but it can also be the beginning!

    Storytelling BEYOND!


    I compiled a list names of all the children who performed in front of the larger group and the stories they could tell. Since I was working at a school, I had a sign up sheet for teachers who wanted a visiting storyteller. I sent out three storytellers at a time for any teacher who requested one, for variety and for moral support between storytellers. When the children entered the classroom, they presented one of their business cards and introduced themselves. I sent the children with simple forms for the teacher, consisting of the child's name and a few simple questions with boxes to check: Knew story? Told story expressively? Had eye contact? Good voice projection? There was also space for comments. Teachers returned these to me confidentially in a sealed envelope. These forms helped me to determine which children would perform at the schoolwide storytelling festival. Children loved the celebrity of "touring" and in fact some were quite popular and heavily requested performers. Teachers also used the list I compiled to integrate the storytelling performances into their social studies curriculum, which was easy since so many of the stories were multicultural.

    If you are running the program from a community center or from your home, children can still tour by hooking up with a hospital, nursing home or daycare center.

    The Storytelling Festival

    For some children, telling the story to a friend was enough. For others, a small group was perfectly gratifying. But there's always a few Broadway babies who aren't satisfied until they hit the big time. All stars need to shine to their fullest potential. A festival allows the storytelling supernovas to blind an audience with their brilliance while bringing satisfying closure to the program. Select the children with the most confidence and ability to represent the program.

    Stars need space to shine. Where to have it? I vote for the library. If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere. Or, if you'd prefer, those big chain bookstores have plenty of room...tie it in with a fundraiser. Or have it in the local cultural center, the Kiwanis/Elks/Veteran's building, the school, the party room of an apartment complex. Auditoriums tend to be somewhat cold and make performers feel Carnegie Hall amounts of presure. If possible, keep the space cozy and folksy.

    What are the components of the festival? In the ones I have held, I have always trying to have three other things happen before the storytelling commences: food, fundraising and fun. For fun, I had games that were tied into the literary theme, such as Teddy Bear Cake Walks; "Grand Prize Game" with old plastic Halloween witch's cauldrons for buckets and an unlucky "beanie baby" frog being thrown; a "Magic Fish" game, in which children used a magnetized fishing pole and tried to hook the lucky fish; an "Ugly Duckling" game using floating ducks found in the fabulous Oriental Trading catalog (1-800-875-8480), and a "Three Billy Goats Gruff" basketball toss (which didn't make a ton of sense but was enjoyed all the same). The prizes we gave away were mostly bookmarks, which can be purchased inexpensively through Upstart (1-800-448-4887) or made. Face painting was also popular! I let children who were in the storytelling program but were not performing on this day to run the games and attractions so that they were involved and important in making the event special, too.

    Raise funds during the festival by combining it with a book fair. If you are a school, you can arrange a fun and easy book fair with a company like Scholastic (1-800-724-6527, my favorite) or Troll ( but bear in mind that you may possibly get a better profit margin by arranging a book fair with your local independent book store; many of them cater the fair to your group's individual needs. Shop around! Or, coordinate the festival with a used book sale, using library discards and donated items.

    I don't think you can call anything a real shindig if there's no food, so we had a bake sale. One little girl dressed like Red Riding Hood and wandered around with basket and napkins, selling her grandmother's cookies and keeping the change in her apron. We dyed frosting green and had frog prince cupcakes. We also served Giant's Rings (doughnuts), Brownie's brownies, gold bricks from Aladdin's cave (Rice Krispie treats) and washed it all down with magic potion (punch).

    When the frenzy has reached fever pitch, ring a bell, flick lights or give some signal and direct children and families to the performance areas. The average attention span for a crowded grade school audience watching other children I would safely gauge at about a half hour. otherwise, the audience may be squirming or yawning by the end. This is not necessarily a reflection of the storyteller, of course; most children are gifted at squirming and yawning. However, this will be little consolation to the performer. If you have a large group of performers (more than five), create two stages, in separate rooms or in areas distant from each other so the performances do not distract from each other. Call the stages by different names: one year we had the festival, it was the "sun" stage and the "moon" stage. When audience members entered, they were alternately given a picture of a sun or a moon along with their program. When it was time to listen to stories, I asked the people holding "sun" cards to find a seat near the "sun" stage and the folks holding "moon" cards to go to the "moon" stage (both decorated accordingly). This way, the audience was evenly divided for both groups of performers. On the program, simply put who is performing at which stage.

    Introduce the program, or better yet, have one of the children from your storytelling program introduce it.

    Our introduction (which you are free to use non-commercially):

    On the antennae of the smallest insect, they quiver.
    In the whine of a dog in the deepest darkest night, they penetrate our bones.
    Across the savannahs of Africa,
    Under the bridges if China,
    Through the traffic of our city streets
    They reach us, they find us.
    The Storyteller's Workshop is proud to present "Storytelling: The Tell-Tale Art." The performances you are about to see are the result of children who have worked hard to share stories they have enjoyed. Please show consideration by using eyes that look, ears that listen and by remaining until all performances are completed.

    From long ago and far away
    And from close
    For you today, and for our children in the future...

    When all the performers finished, I presented roses and certificates to the children who participated in the program. After the ovations, the autographs flew. Storytelling: the glamorous life.

    Storytelling Bibliography

    Over 40 storybooks that can get you started!

    Aardema, Verna. Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears.
    A cumulative tale in which lion finds the culprit in a crime against the owls.

    Abolafi, Yossi. Fox Tale.
    Fox is out-foxed after trading his tail for half a jar of honey.

    Bannerman, Helen. The Story of Little Babaji.
    A culturally sensitive retelling of the dreaded Little Black Sambo, a boy matches wits with some fashion-conscious tigers.

    Bishop, Claire Huchet. The Five Chinese Brothers.
    Revised and more politically correct tale of cunning septuplets who survive unfair punishments.

    Brown, Marcia. A Story, A Story.
    Pourquoi tale from Africa explaining how stories came to earth.

    Bruchac, Joseph. The Great Ball Game.
    Sporting Native American pourquoi tale explains which team little bat is batting for.

    Bryan, Ashley. Ashley Bryan's African Tales, Uh-huh.
    Animal stories, morality tales, funny stories...pick any one of these, and you'll have a great storytelling, uh-huh!

    Calmenson, Stephanie. The Teeny Tiny Teacher.
    Sweet and only slightly spooky story of a ghost haunting a classroom, seeking the bone that the teacher is using for science class.

    Clements, Andrew. Big Al.
    The biggest, ugliest, scariest fish in the sea finds friends.

    Cole, Brock. Alpha and the Dirty Baby.
    When her parents are replaced by wicked trolls, Alpha throws the baby out with the bathwater and cleans up the situation.

    Cooney, Barbara. Miss Rumphius.
    World-traveling woman seeks to make the world more beautiful...and find a way.

    Czernecki, Steven. The Singing Snake.
    Jealous snake swallows a bird to win a contest.

    Daughtery, James. Andy and the Lion.
    After taking out a book from the library about lion, the home-spun boy meets the real McCoy.

    Demi. The Empty Pot.
    The Emperor offers his kingdom to the child who shows his best effort. Why won't Ping's seed grow?

    DePaola, Tomie. Strega Nona.
    When a bumbler forgets a magic spell,a town is overrun with spaghetti gone amock.

    DePaola. The Legend of the Bluebonnet.
    A girl sacrifices her most precious posession to stop a drought.

    DuVoisin, Roger. Petunia.
    A silly goose learns the hard way that that reading is the first step to being wise and helpful.

    Galdone, Paul. The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
    A bullying tollkeeper meets his come-uppance when three goats cross his bridge.

    Gilman, Phoebe. Something from Nothing.
    A talented tailor proves that you can always reuse and recycle. (Also, see Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback.)

    Ginsburg, Mirra. Mushroom in the Rain.
    A mushroom mysteriously protects all who hide beneath it.

    Ginsburg, Mirra. The Chinese Mirror.
    Silly story of a family who has never seen a mirror before and does not realize it reflects whoever is looking into it.

    Goble, Paul. Gift of the Sacred Dog.
    Story of how horses came to the Native American people.

    Hurd, Thatcher. Mama Don't Allow.
    A saxophone player escapes the crocodile¹s bite with the help of his music.

    Keats, Ezra Jack. Whistle for Willie.
    Oh, to be able to whistle, every little boy's dream! With a little frustration and a lot of practice, one little boy makes this dream come true and calls his dog to boot!

    Ketteman, Helen. Armadillo Tattletale.
    A pourquoi tale in which a big-mouthed little buddy needs to learn to

    Kimmel, Eric. Anansi and the Talking Melon.
    The spider weaves a web of trickery to get some delicious fruit.

    Kleven, Elisa. The Paper Princess.
    A cut-out doll, caught in an updraft, works hard to return to the girl who created her.

    Leaf, Munro. The Story of Ferdinand.
    Classic story of a peaceful bull who would not fight the Matador in the big bulfight.

    London, Jonathan. Froggy Gets Dressed.
    Froggy want to come out of hibernation, but he can't seem to dress for the weather, despite his mother's help.

    Melmed, Laura Kraus. The Rainbabies.
    A childless couple is magically blessed with a dozen tiny babies, and cursed with disasters that test their dedication.

    Orgel, Doris. Sing, Little Sack!
    A gruesome green guy who has kidnapped a girl is outwitted by her mother.

    Pinkwater, Daniel Manus. The Big Orange Splot.
    "My house is where I want to be and it looks like all my dreams," explains crazy Plumbean, who soon convinces his neighbors to decorate their homes to match their imaginations.

    Polacco, Patricia. Thundercake.
    With the help of a patient grandmother, a girl learns to be brave during a storm.

    Rathmann, Peggy. Ruby the Copycat.
    Imitation is not found flattering to Ruby's classmates and teacher, so she learns to find a style all her own.

    Ray, Jane. The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
    A dozen party girls magically ouwit their father so they can go out dancing every night, but a lucky suitor finds them out.

    San Souci, Robert. The Hobyahs.
    Creepy forest-dwelling goblins plot mischief against a tiny houseful of almost-helpless people. Good scary fare!

    Van Allsburg, Chris. Two Bad Ants.
    High adventure found in a day-in-the-life of two exploring insects.

    Waber, Bernard. Ira Sleeps Over.
    Ira is excited about his first sleepover, but will his host understand that he just can't sleep without his bear?

    Wood, Audrey. Heckedy Peg.
    A mother's love knows no bounds when a witch turns her seven children into plates of food, and her only hope is to recognize them in their plate state.

    Waddell, Martin. Farmer Duck.
    Quaaaack! Poor duck! Overworked and underappreciated by his lazy boss, but not for long in this primary level Orwellian take-off.

    Yolen, Jane. The Emperor and the Kite.
    A small daughter makes a big rescue when an emperor falls victim to a coup.

    Want more performance ideas? Visit Poetry Power! And don't forget to e-mail me with success stories and pictures to post!
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