Three Ideas for Oral Storytelling in the Classroom

ThreeIdeasforStorytelling

Every writer has their own particular process that works for them. Some sit at a keyboard and the words just pour out. Others use a pen and paper, working slowly and deliberately. I know one writer who prefers a typewriter to a laptop.

And then there are the storytellers. Writers who need to tell their stories aloud (sometimes many times) to figure out what they want to say.

Based on my very non-scientific findings across many classrooms of all ages, I would say that at least half of the kids I know are storytellers. They looooove to talk. They are full of stories. There may not be a lot of words on the page, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t got a story to tell.

These kids benefit from having ample opportunity to build on their strengths. Building in time and routines for storytelling gives kids the time they need to tell a story aloud many times.

Here are three ideas for including a little more time for storytelling in your classroom, no matter the age of the students you teach.

  1. Squeeze in a few minutes after lunch and recess.

Playground disputes. Spilled macaroni and cheese. Sneaky Pokemon card trading. All kinds of stories are happening during lunch and recess. Many teachers make it a routine to set aside a few minutes immediately after lunch and recess. Students arrive in the classroom, find their spot at the meeting area with their writing partner, and take turns retelling whatever just happened at lunch. This is not only great idea-generating for writing workshop, but also an opportunity for important community building and problem-solving in the classroom.

If you’re having trouble seeing how to squeeze in more time for storytelling after lunch could be your solution!

  1. Narrate an experience as it is happening, then retell again later.

The next time your class is on a field trip, try this with a small group of students sitting near you. As the bus pulls out of the school driveway, you might say, “Here we go, we’re leaving the school now. What do you notice? What do you see?” A few minutes later you might say, “Look out the window, did you notice that building? That bridge? What else do you notice?” Getting students to talk about the experience as it’s happening will help you to retell the entire event with more detail later when you’re back at school.

The same idea applies to smaller events as well. A rehearsal for a school concert. Extra recess one day. Highlighting interesting and important details as the events unfold will help students remember more, and have the vocabulary for retelling the story later.

  1. Revisit old class stories from time to time.

Many teachers create stories, poems, essays, songs, and all kinds of texts with kids through shared writing throughout the school year. As the year unfolds, it’s a great idea to revisit those old stories from time to time. Reread what you wrote as a class a few months ago, or retell the story aloud, and pause to ask the kids, “Do you remember when this happened? Did we capture all the important details? Should we add anything now?”

Modeling revision this way highlights an important fact of being a writer: you are never truly finished with a piece of writing. There is always room to make it better—even months later. Sometimes the passage of time makes it easier to know which details are most helpful to the reader.

For more ideas for storytelling and shared writing, try these:

A Step Back, A Leap Forward

Three Tips for Summer Storytelling Practice

A Mini-Crash Course on Oral Storytelling

Shared Writing 101