Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Storytelling tips for the occasional Christmas storyteller

There are few times in a year when breaking out the books and doing some storytelling with your students feels like the most appropriate thing to do. But Christmas is definitely one of them. I was one of those lucky kids who got to be told countless stories using countless voices and some pretty nifty face mimics by various family member starting with my mom.

I need to clarify that my native Romania might well be the place that storytelling got invented or was born. If you've ever met a Romanian, you'll know what I mean since he or she has told you at least one fantabulous story complete with mimics, body movement, several voices and at least 3 jokes. That's what I love about my genetic pool.

I'm a storyteller. It must have rubbed off my family. I enjoy telling and listening to stories and I've brought that into my classes more times than I remember. I do the voices, I do the face mimics, I run around the class, I go on chairs and I have cool sound effect, literally at my fingertips (thank you Keynote).

Here are some tips and tricks of the trade. The storytelling trade that is.

1. Start small. Plan for a short session where you will introduce the students to the story. This will give the opportunity to create a bit of anticipation, give students a chance to practice their predicting skills and introduce any illustrations.

2. Depending on where you're storytelling and who your audience is, have them sit around you. On the floor is better cause it puts you above them and hence it's easier to hold their attention. Of course, if you're doing it with adults (and I have), mind the knees. Us, adults, have crazy knees that tend to ache.

3. Make sure everyone can see you and the illustrations and can hear you clearly. Cue Keynote. Or PPT. Or any other presenting app, device or program. Just make sure everyone can see.

4. Read slowly and clearly. Not too slow to bore them but slow enough to allow the students to see the illustrations, see the connection between them and the text, get the emphasis in your tone. This will also allow your students (especially the tiny people) to think, ask questions, make comments.

5. If no one does, make comments about the illustrations and point to them to focus your students attention on them. Also encourage your students to dive in the storytelling through those comments.

6. Assigns students chunks from the story that they can repeat while you tell the story. If that's too difficult, give them an emotion. An "Aww!" or and "Ooh". It will make them part of the story. I remember I used to be in charge of providing the Oohs and Awws when I was a kid and I loved it!

7. Do I need to say this? Use gestures, mime and facial expressions to help convey the meaning of feelings and actions. Run, jump, duck, yell, stretch, fly and all other actions one might find necessary to show your students what's happening in the book. So yes, take your self-confessed dignity and throw it out the window if you will be doing storytelling. You can get it back later.

Pause for dramatic effect. Pause in order to allow what you have just said to sink in.

9. Do voices as much as possible. I know it's not easy and you feel silly but it will give your story a whole new feeling.

10. The same goes for sound effects. If sound effect are not your thing. Go to findsounds.com or nosili.com (great background noises that are meant to improve productivity and help you relax) or finally go to soundsnap.com (if you're feeling splurgy since everything needs to be paid for, but hey, you could recycle the story over and over and cut your costs and the quality of their audio is ah-mazing).

11. My last tip is quite simple. Choose a book you like. You need to feel involved and enjoy yourself or else it will show and nobody likes to feel like having fun should be a job.

Come back on Thursday for my top 5 Christmas books to use in the classroom!

The Sound Eater

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