Storytelling at school
to master the art of speech
How to tell stories at school?
What would be the benefits?
Looking for the booklet version of this guide to read offline or print ?
WHAT STORIES CAN BE USED?
Stories dating back to the beginning of our times, handed down to us from generation to generation through the spoken word
Tales are stories from the past, told today, for tomorrow.
Amadou Hampâté Bâ
The choice of tales
How does one go about choosing which tales they should perform for children? Try to find tales that you yourself will like. You can use the tales database to look for a tale depending on age, type, location, or you can also use the thematic worksheets if you are looking for a specific theme. It is possible and even advisable to alternate storytelling with other more participatory forms of storytelling such as “small forms”, nursery rhymes, riddles, tongue twisters, finger stories…. Have fun with a diversity of stories! You can go back to the same stories from one session to the next and progressively start adding new ones. Each session can have a mix of different story types that involve the students’ participation, or don’t.
At the start of each session, you can use a riddle to gather the children’s attention, spark their curiosity and stimulate their active listening. To make sure to involve everyone, you can also use a song, or nursery rhymes and finger games for younger children. Once in a while, you can even tell a different version of the same story (there are more than 500 versions of Cinderella across the world). This is a fun way to approach different cultures.
Among the many different types of oral literature, small forms, cumulative tales, and animal tales are the most suited for young ones. These are followed by etiological tales, tales of magic and, for older children, facetious tales, myths, epics, and legends.
Ear and tongue twisters
A flea and a fly flew up in flue.
Said the flea, “Let us fly!”
Said the fly, “Let us flee!”
So they flew through a flaw
in the flue.
Sixty six sick chicks
are stuck in the stock room
full of sixty six sticks
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Different forms of oral literature
They are good tools for education and the transmission of knowledge, for the youngest.
- Nursery rhymes
- Finger games
- Tongue twisters
- Proverbs and sayings
Universal stories that everyone can make their own in their personal way. Tales come in many sub-genres.
Suitable for young children, chain stories or cumulative tales have a repetitive structure. The same formula, repeated throughout the story, creates a rhythm. The course of the story is stretched to the maximum in order to prepare the ending, for it to be unpredictable and astonishing.
Anthropomorphic animals play the greatest roles.
They are addressed to young children, especially those in the “Age of Whys”, between three and six years old. They encourage curiosity, observation and reasoning. They encourage the child to take the time to observe the world and to ask questions about it. These are short stories with a simple structure, and invite children to look at the world differently, in a poetic and fanciful way.
The facetious tale makes people laugh. Whether through satire or mockery, the characters are caricatures of conventional social types. It is a tool for social regulation.
Tales of magic (fairy tales)
They hide a great complexity under their naive appearance and one-dimensional characters, ultimately questioning the great existential topics that humans face: birth, transitioning into adulthood, death, relations across generations… They are built in an out-of-place and out-of-time setting. Fairy tales share a common structure.
There is an important sense of symbolism especially in the following:
- Numbers (e.g. 3 events, 7 brothers, 12 crows, 40 thieves, 1001 nights…)
- Places (e.g. the forest, the ocean, the castle…)
- Characters (e.g. kings, princesses, fairy-godmother, stepmothers, witches, dragons…)
- Objects (e.g. gold apples, glass coffins, glass or vair slippers, seven-league boots…) etc.
Myths are linked to beliefs. They are oral narratives that answer the great questions that mankind asks itself when it reflects on its origins. They structure our relations with natural and supernatural forces. They tell us about the key steps from the origin of the universe to (occasionally) its end. Our current world is always shaped by powerful myths that influence our daily lives.
Epics lead up to the foundation of nations through stories of the exploits accomplished by their heroes. Originally oral and told by poets (aoidos), epics are foundational and structural narratives that retell the birth of civilizations.
Local legends give meaning to places or real events and construct a mental representation of a shared territory or history.
Speechless, I shout
Without wings, I am flying.
Mouthless, I whisper.
Who am I?
Cumulative tales offer a repetitive structure that facilitates understanding and memorization. This structure allows them to take a part in the story through active listening as they identify and anticipate what will be said. Cumulative tales allow us to work on the chronology of events but also on the logical relationships of cause and effect.
In the tale The Big Turnip, the failure to pull the radish out of the ground leads to the introduction of a new character who comes to help. When the radish can finally be pulled out, it causes all the characters to fall.
Facetious tales will appeal to the older children. Here is an example, “The Word of the Donkey”, with Nasr Eddin, a popular character in the Mediterranean basin:
“Nasr Eddin, will you lend me your donkey? I have to take my grain to the miller”, a peasant comes to ask him. “Bad luck! I’ve just lent it to someone else.” That’s when Nasr Eddin’s donkey starts braying behind the stable door. “Hey Hodja, I don’t have ears as big as his, but what I heard, I heard. You lied to me!” Nasr Eddin turns red with anger: “Get out of my sight, you rascal! If you believe my donkey’s word more than mine, we have nothing to do together!”