Writing and storytelling are great skills to teach your children. Parents and teachers alike can instill the love of storytelling in children to enhance their language skills, encourage reading, and stir their imagination. The trick, though, is to understand the roadblocks that kids may face and the storytelling techniques that help them overcome these issues.
Fear of public speaking: This fear is common in adults and children alike. If you can get children comfortable with speaking in front of an audience at a young age, it’s less likely for the problem to linger into adulthood.
Spelling problems: Stories aren’t always delivered orally to a live audience. They’re just as often written down. However, children who have difficulty spelling may devote too much mental energy to this task, leaving little energy left to develop their ideas.
Difficulty composing a story structure: A story plan is the first step in the writing process, making it a substantial roadblock for children who struggle with it.
Reading disabilities: Dyslexia and other learning disabilities are huge roadblocks to learning proper storytelling techniques. They can cause problems with recalling words, organizing thoughts, memorizing information, and understanding implied meaning.
General writing roadblocks: Poor handwriting and difficulty grasping punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary can make children dislike writing.
Disinterest in the topic: If children aren’t engaged in the story, they may get bored quickly. In this way, selecting interesting story topics is critical for instilling a love of reading, writing, and storytelling.
Effective Ways to Teach Storytelling
Expose kids to good storytelling: Your local library is a great resource for hearing and seeing professional storytellers in action! This allows children to learn what good storytelling looks like, so they can imitate it when it’s their turn.
Let children choose the story: Expose your kids to many different short stories and let them choose the one they want to retell. The best stories have a definitive beginning, middle, and end. They teach a lesson and make the audience laugh or cry with their powerful message.
Tell string-along stories: This is one of those storytelling techniques that works best in a group. Participants make up sections of a story on the fly, passing the story along to the next participant when it reaches a climax. A predetermined title helps set the stage for the story. This technique helps children follow along and use their imagination to invent what comes next.
Build chain sentences: Similar to string-along stories, this method involves teams of two or more children who improvise a sentence one word at a time. Each participant takes turns saying a single word until a coherent sentence emerges. You can expand this technique to create entire chain stories.
Teach ways to be expressive: Verbal storytelling techniques use a combination of gestures, facial expressions, volume, pacing, and eye contact. Tell a story with these techniques and invite your kids to mimic your method when telling their own stories.
Use wordless storybooks: With nothing more than a few images to draw from, children must use their imagination to invent a plot. Encourage them to get creative!
Go on a story treasure hunt: Select a well-known fable or fairy tale. Simplify the plot and break it up into short sections. Transcribe each section of the plot on an index card. Then, hide the cards around the classroom or your home and supply a treasure map revealing the cards’ locations. Once the children find all the cards, it’s their task to piece them together in the right order. Then, the participants act out the story.
Find stories in songs: Teach your children songs that tell a story. Choose anything from folk ballads to contemporary songs; the options are practically endless! Provide lyrics for the children to read as the song plays. Then, have the children retell the story in their own words.
Describe a stone: Pass a stone or another small object around, and take turns saying one word that describes it. Without repeating any words, see how many times the stone can go around the circle.
Sign up for lessons with a writing tutor: If your child is struggling with writing skills, one-on-one tutoring can be an excellent resource for helping them step outside their comfort zone and expand their imagination.
Storytelling Writing Prompts
Help children define the key components of their story with these writing prompts:
Who is the main character? What other characters are in the story?
When and where does the story take place?
What does the main character want to do? What do the other characters want to do? Do these desires conflict?
What happens when the main character does what he or she wants to do?
How does the main character feel after making this decision? How do the other characters feel?
How does the story end?
Go even deeper by asking other questions about the characters and their situations:
What do the characters dream about? How do they feel about their dreams?
Where does the main character like to spend his or her time? Describe the scene in detail.
What “mask” does the main character wear to hide his or her feelings in certain situations? Who does he or she trust enough to let them see behind the “mask?”
What is the main character’s favorite childhood movie? How old was the character when he or she saw it for the first time, and who was he or she with? Does the memory make the character happy or sad?
What is the main character afraid of? (Heights? Spiders? Confined spaces?)
How does the main character feel when he or she looks in the mirror?
With guidance, support, encouragement – and the right storytelling techniques – you can help your children down the path to loving reading and writing. Have fun!
Photo by Erin Kohlenberg