Storytelling Tips for Oral Language Development

Shirley C. Raines and Rebecca Isbell

Shirley Raines and Rebecca Isbell present wonderful stories for storytelling,
along with directions, storytelling tips, discussion questions,
story backgrounds, and accompanying activities in Tell It Again! Easy-to-Tell Stories with Activites for Young Children

The beautiful swan was once an ugly duckling. The boy who cried wolf had no help when the real wolf came. The modest turtle won the race while the boastful rabbit bragged about his speed. Some of
life’s greatest lessons are remembered best through the recollection of stories heard in childhood.

Storytelling involves three essential elements: the story, the teller, and the listener. A well-selected story told by an effective storyteller captivates young listeners’
attention and the three elements work in harmony. The gifts of storytelling are many, including
moments filled with the wonder and excitement of stories, universal truths and morals to remember
and use throughout life, and the special bond that connects the storyteller and the listener.

The Power of Storytelling

is a powerful medium. A well-told story can inspire action, foster
cultural appreciation, expand children’s knowledge, or provide
sheer enjoyment. Listening to stories helps children understand
their world and how people relate to each other in it.

children listen to stories, they use their imaginations. They
picture “nail soup” or the teeny tiny woman” from
the teller’s vivid descriptions. This creativity is dependent
upon the storyteller’s lively telling of the story and the listener’s
active interpretation of what is heard. The more delightful the
story and the storyteller, the more the children get out of the
whole experience.

storytelling experience also helps young children develop an appreciation
of the story form. Because children are more involved in creating
the pictures of the story, they are more likely to remember the
characters, the sequence, and the moral of the story. Storytelling
can motivate young children to explore various types of literature
and become a storyteller, story reader, and story writer.

How to Select Stories to Tell Young Listeners

wrote this book because we found few books devoted to storytelling
for young children. Storytellers often have a difficult time finding
the right stories for young children. We selected the stories
for this book because they are excellent tales for telling that
fit the developmental needs of
young children.

Excellent stories for young listeners often have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Easy-to-follow sequence
  • Repetitive words and phrases
  • Predictable and cumulative tales
  • Action-packed
  • Often humorous
  • Interesting and entertaining happenings
  • Exciting ending with an appropriate conclusion, and
  • Clear message or moral

General Storytelling Tips

The following storytelling tips apply to the telling of most stories to young children.

  • Observe the young children during the telling. Adjust and make clarifications as needed.
  • Encourage interaction and participation.
  • Modify the pace and length to match the experiential and developmental level of the children in the audience.
  • Use voice variations, facial expressions, gestures, and repetitive phrases to draw the young listener into the story
  • Use appropriate words and descriptions that help young children imagine the happenings in their mind’s eye
  • Retell the same story many times, since young children are building their understanding of the story

Storytelling to young children provides special possibilities as well as unique challenges. Young children enjoy predictability, repetition, humor, and active participation in the story presentation. When stories are too complicated or the storyteller is too dramatic, the child will turn off” or simply move away from the experience.

The Pleasure of Storytelling

What were your favorite stories as a child? Do you recall listening
to “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” or “The Gingerbread
Man,” or “Jack and the Beanstalk?” A friend remembered
her mother telling her these three classic stories. After hearing her mother tell
the stories, she was startled when she went to school and the teacher read them from a book. Assuming
her mother had made them up, she was surprised that teachers and parents knew the same stories.

way to appreciate the power of the told story is to recall enjoyable
stories from your childhood.
Reflect on your feelings, the strength of each character, and
the ways the storyteller involved
you in the story. Remember being scared for Goldilocks who was
lost in the forest, relieved when
she spotted a charming little cottage, and anxious for her not
to be caught when the bear family
returned. Feel the hard, not-so-hard, and just-right bed. Taste
the hot, too-cool, and the just-right

Our own delight when remembering stories and the experiences of listening should encourage us to become storytellers. Clearly the told story has found a place
in literary history. How does one begin? How does one become a storyteller? Remember the stories from your past, select an appropriate story, and tell it to a child or a small group of children. Practice
the tips we mention.

Keep a story card handy for a quick peek, then let yourself go and
enjoy the flow of the story.

Observe the positive reactions of the young listeners and you will forever
be a storyteller.

Whether you are a beginning teacher or an experienced librarian, a parent
with a first child or a grandparent of five, the message is the same. Stories told by
you are gifts that will last a lifetime.

Enjoy the storytelling experience and savor the children’s request when they plead,

“Tell it again!”

This activity (excerpt) is taken from:

Tell It Again! Easy-to-Tell Stories with Activites for Young Children

by Shirley C. Raines and Rebecca Isbell

Page 8. ISBN: 0876592000

© 1999. Gryphon House, Inc.