Storytelling Tips

Elements of Good Storytelling
by Storytelling Coach Andy Fraenkel

Finding, Learning and Telling the Story

Find a story that means something to you.

Read the story aloud several times. Note the characters and progression of events. Then tell it in your own words. Go back and read it again in various moods - anger, joy, sarcasm, softly, loudly

Find the elements of the story that are important to you. Stories connect us to our world and to each other. A good story connects us with our own story.

Find the conflict, the tension. What do the characters in your story want most? What is preventing them from getting it? How do the characters change by the end of the story?

Who do you identify with? What characters do you expect your audience to identify with?

Know exactly what you'll say at the beginning and the end of the story.

Find your personal strengths. Each of us has our own way of telling the story.

Events and details move the story along. Caution: Too little detail will make the story an
unattractive skeleton; too much will make the story bloated and cumbersome.

Storytelling exercises the imagination. Use visualization - see the story unfold in the mind's eye and describe what you're seeing. The storyteller stands in an ordinary place, but creates a world of wonder for the audience to enter into.

What does the story tell you about how people behave with one another?

Avoid: beginning with an apology; overly long introduction; getting sidetracked; fidgeting; talking down to your audience; ending without a resolution.

Some stories use a repetitive element.

Posture - stand comfortably. Look out to your audience. Make eye contact. Don't look down on the ground

Rhythm and pacing - find the tempo of each character and each section of the story. In general, we have a tendency to speak too quickly. Slow down. Speak clearly. You may alter your voice and/or posture to indicate various characters in the story.

Punctuate the story with gesture. Find the exact word or phrase where a gesture or movement would strengthen the delivery. Don't make unnecessary, distracting movements with the hands.

Pause slightly at the end of the story.

Speak clearly (I cannot stress this enough) - learn to appreciate the texture of the words; enter into the miracle of speaking, of transmitting the images, of communicating. This is your moment. Connect with the inner storyteller.

Look at how stories begin. They can begin with
a) description of time, place, and persons
b) a question
c) a reflection or realization
d) a provocative statement

Breathe deeply. Relax and enjoy telling the story.

Further Reading

An Elementary Odyssey: Teaching Ancient Civilization Through Story (Heinemann) by David H. Millstone - offers a thoughtful approach to curriculum design. You'll find a model for creating a classroom in which the arts and literature, writing and social studies, are truly

Books That Build Character by William Kilpatrick and Gregory & Suzanne Wolf - a guide to teaching your child moral values through stories. Includes 300 titles arranged by category and reading level.

Beyond the Bean Stalk: Interdisciplinary Learning Through Storytelling (Heinemann) by Lynn Rubright - the usefulness of storytelling as an art form and teaching tool.

Story Teller Story Teacher by Marni Gillard - a great book about one woman's journey into storytelling.

Hints For Teaching Success In Middle School by Robert E. Rubenstein (Libraries Unlimited) Strategies for teaching grades 5 though 8.

Children Tell Stories: A Teaching Guide by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss - materials to help encourage young storytellers.

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim - the child psychologist explains the value of fairy tales.

The Storytelling Handbook: A Young People's Collection of Unusual Tales and Helpful Hints on How to Tell Them by Anne Pellowski.

How & Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Tell by Martha Hamilton & Mitch Weiss

Tales As Tools: The Power of Storytelling In The Classroom - National Storytelling Press 1800 525 4514

National Storytelling Network located in Jonesborough TN - National Storytelling Conference held in July; National Storytelling Festival held in Oct. 1800 525 4514

For books of stories from around the world check 398.2 in the library.