By CELA on 30 Mar, 2021

Telling stories is our oldest form of teaching. Long before we could write, our ancestors passed knowledge from generation to generation through oral stories which gave answers to our largest questions surrounding creation, life and the afterlife.

Children’s author Victoria Mackinlay shares how developing storytelling skills can benefit young children, along with some practical and inspiring ideas for how to facilitate storytelling in your centre.

By Victoria Mackinlay

Children have an inbuilt love of stories. Stories create magic and a sense of wonder in the world. Children love to be read to, but have you tried flipping the narrative and putting your children in charge of creating their own stories?

How developing storytelling skills can benefit young children

“Children feel a sense of belonging when their language, interaction styles and ways of communicating are valued.” (EYLF, p.41)

Engaging children in oral storytelling is a wonderful teaching practice for language development. It helps children learn sounds and words, developing early literacy skills in vocabulary and grammar.

Storytelling is a special way for children to share their ideas. It increases their willingness to communicate thoughts and feelings and sparks their imagination, curiosity and creativity.

It also promotes brain development and develops a child’s concentration and listening skills. Group storytelling enhances the community in the room and encourages cooperation between students.  It also promotes a feeling of well-being and relaxation.

Why not try it out yourself?

“Educators promote this learning when they model language and encourage children to express themselves through language in a range of contexts and for a range of purposes p.43.” (EYLF p.37)

Ideas to facilitate group storytelling in a fun, engaging and child-centred way:

1. Sentence circle

Ask children if they would like to sit in a circle.  The educator goes first and starts a story e.g. “Once upon a time there was a bear… ”.

Then each child involved contributes a sentence.  Write the sentences on the board so the children can see their words.

At the end, read the whole story back to them.  You can also write it into a ‘book’ that the children can read to each other.

Tip: If the children get stuck, offer prompts such as “The bear lived … (Where do you think it lived?).  It liked to … One day it … and then something terrible happened… (Oh no! What happened to the bear?)” etc.

2. Puppet show

Invite children to draw story characters and props on card stock. Cut them out, laminate them and attach them to sticks to use as puppets. The children can use the puppets when telling their story ideas and perform a puppet show.  You can document the stories on the board/in a book.

3. Create a poem

Choose an item the children are familiar with (e.g. a flower, a cake, a beach) and invite the children to say one or two describing words.  Write the words in a list on the board and read it out with cadence and expression.

Tip:  Write each contribution in a different colour to help the children with word recognition.

“Children are more likely to be confident and involved learners when their family and community experiences and understandings are recognised and included in the early childhood setting.” (EYLF, p.36)

4. Stuffed animal story

Choose a cuddly animal and ask the children to help you name it.  Write an introductory first page in a booklet and send the animal and booklet home with a different child each night.  Ask the parents to encourage their child to draw a picture of the animal’s adventure and dictate what they did to the parents e.g. the animal went to the park, the dentist etc.  When each child has had a turn, share the entire story with the children.

Vicki Cadman, Head of Early Years at Hazel Leys Academy, UK, shares how she develops stories with children:

“We use Tales Toolkit which focuses children on four simple icons to work through the storytelling process.  The icons are:

  • Character
  • Setting
  • Problem
  • Solution.

A post shared by TalesToolkit (@talestoolkit)

The educator or the children choose four physical objects, one for each icon. My top tip is to use everyday objects e.g. kitchen items, china tea sets, real pans.  The best stories come from the children’s familiarity with items.

We reveal one object at a time to the storytelling group and use these to draw and write story maps.

Then we dramatise the story in a high energy, interesting and exciting way, including lots of phonics, story sounds and numerical references.

Sometimes we mix up the stories the following day, so a teddy that had been the character might feature as a problem the next day.

We use the same language across the day and embed it throughout the Early Years unit, so if a child is upset about a broken toy or there’s an incident where a child’s behaviour choice needs support, we use the same “problem versus solution” language.  The children can use these ideas and explore these issues again in their stories.

We consistently display the icons and continue to add to our amazingly long lists across the academic year.  A new story is never far away!”

Further reading and tools to support group storytelling:

Have you seen our new live webinar training calendar?

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Topics are delivered in a variety of 2- 3 hour sessions or 2 part series. Every course provides a practical, hands-on approach to professional development.

CELA has been supporting the professional needs of the early and middle childhood sector for over 40 years.

We trained over 7,000 early education professionals across 2020 through the calendar and customised sessions with a focus on developing quality practice for the benefit of children.


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About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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