- To prepare for my visit to your school, you might tell your class that a storyteller is coming to share stories and songs from his family and from around the world, and ask them if they have ever heard anyone tell stories before. Does anyone in the school tell stories? In their family? What are some of their favorite stories? You might talk about your own cultural background, and find a traditional and/or picture book story to share with them that comes from a cultural heritage that you represent. You might also tell a story from your own childhood, or a family story or folktale that you heard growing up, and use this as a springboard to the class having an impromptu story swap of growing up, family stories, and/or folktales.
- After my visit, ask the students which of the stories I told they liked best, and why. Why do they think that story might be told? Does it teach a lesson and, if so, what? What sort of settings, besides a school, can they see the story being told in? Can they imagine the story being different in any way, having a different beginning, middle, or end? Have them make a picture book version of the story, perhaps incorporating changes, and take the picture book home to help them tell the story to others. This activity works especially well in younger grades.
- Ask the students to find a fictional ghost story, and a true life ghost story, either from a book or from someone they know, and bring them to the next class to share with other students. How are these stories different? How are they the same? What sort of feeling do each of these stories convey? What are some of the images in the stories, how do they work together to keep the listener's interest, to convey the story, and to keep it moving? Have them create their own original ghost story. This activity works especially well with older grades.
- Have students find out about their family heritage by going home and asking their parents what countries and regions of the world their ancestors came from. Have them bring the list back to class and use it to make a map of the world with each students name linked by thread to the countries that represent their cultural heritage. Have the class find out as much as they can about each country and put it on the map. Using the school library, or resources at home, have the students look for a story from one of the cultures from their own family heritage, and bring that story back to share with the class. You might have them summarize the story, rather than read it, as this gets them telling the story to others. Ask them why the story appeals to them, and what it tells them about that culture.
- Help the students share "first time" stories with each other: stories such as the first time they rode a bike, the first time they went out trick or treating, their first day of school, or the first time they were ever scared. Sometimes a good way to start this off is to share a first time story from your own life. Or you can play the "Apple pudding, apple pie" storytelling game that is outlined below, and use first time stories as the subject that the students tell about. Then, as a homework assignment, have the students find a "first time" story from someone at home, and bring it in to the class. Students can brainstorm on the types of stories that they might ask about during class.
Apple Pudding Apple Pie Game: With the teacher or a designated student as counter, the participants, (which should include any adults in the room) recite the following counting rhyme:
As I sat under the apple tree, all the apples fell on me.
Apple pudding apple pie, did you ever tell a lie.
The counter points at individuals to the beat of the counting rhyme that everyone (including the counter) is reciting. At the end of the rhyme the person counted then tells a short story about something that happened to them. It can be true, or it can be false. It could really have happened, or it might not have happened. But they don't tell which. After they tell the story, everyone votes on whether they think it was true or not. The counter asks "How many think that story was true," and those that do raise a hand. "How many think it was false?" After the vote the teller says whether the story was true or not. The object of the game is to fool as many people as possible, either by telling an outlandish truth, or a believable fiction. You can play this game as long as you have time for, but it is advisable, as people tell, to leave them out of the counting rhyme until others have had a chance to tell. This game is a great way to discover and share personal stories.
- Students might also try to remember a place that is special to them, to make a list of reasons why that place is special, and describe it, including what they see, hear, and smell in that place, and perhaps even tell or make up a story about something that happened in that place.
- Have students bring in an object from home that has a story associated with it - either an object of their own, or one that has been in their family for more than one generation. Have them write a description of that object, and use that description to write the story. To play with viewpoints and perspective, they can even pretend to be the object, and write the story in first person narrative. This activity can also be adapted to tie in to issues of cultural heritage by having the students bring in objects that are related to their; family's cultural history.
Please, feel free to adapt these activities, and to use the one or ones that are most suited to you and your class. There are plenty of other ways to encourage storytelling, writing, and reading aloud. The best way to encourage your students to tell stories is to tell them yourself in class. Try telling a story from your own life, or a story that you've heard, at least once a week, and see what stories you are told in return.