Twice every year, I put together a storytelling workshop for our group. I do this as a refresher course for my core group and to help draw out children who want guidance before reading in front of our group. The following are activities and games I've done with the group. I usually do six or seven activities/games per workshop.
Introductions: I start off by having us all introduce ourselves. I begin with my name, the next person says my name and then his name, and it continues around until we come back to me and I impress them by repeating everyone's name. We go around a second time, adding a word in front of our names that starts with the same sound (Crafty Cristina, Musical Mary, Exciting Eric, etc.)
Vocal Warm-Ups: I use tongue twisters. The point is to say them as fast as you can clearly. These are done to warm up the voices and to relax everyone. I explain about projecting as well. Imagine you are speaking to a person at the far end of the room. You need to be loud, but you shouldn't shout, because this is still a library. I also have my core group demonstrate the warm up they do at the beginning of every story time:
What a to do to die todayTelephone: This is a fun one. You whisper a simple sentence to the first child, they whisper it to the next, and so on. If there aren't a lot of children, add parents. I explain about the how the early storytellers would go from place to place, spreading news and stories. The group is going to be storytellers. They get to hear the story once and tell it at the next village to the next storyteller. Once they turn to the next person, they've gone over the mountain to the next village and there won't be time to go back to ask the last storyteller what they said. The point of this game is to show how stories change as different people hear them in different ways.
At a minute or two to two!
A thing distinctly hard to say
But harder still to do!
For there'll be a tattoo at twenty to two
And the dragon will come when he hears the drum
At a minute or two to two today
At a minute or two to two!
Mad Libs: These are great resources. Many of them have some short fairy tales that the kids can add their own words to. This also helps them to not feel bound to the words on the page. Sometimes fractured fairy tales are more fun to do than the actual story.
Using your voice/body: Whether they are reading from a book or reciting from memory, telling a story should bring it alive. I ask them to imagine what different emotions and characters might sound like. I show how you can use your body to depict different characters (stand to show a big character, shivering to show a frightened character) and pantomime actions (climbing, blowing wind, picking flowers). A good storyteller shouldn't need many props. I have one boy in my group that has told Rumpelstiltskin and Goldilocks and The Three Bears and his only props were hats. He does fantastic voices and can jump from one character to another.
Props: Costumes and props are OK, as long as you've practiced with them and they don't get in your way. I knew one girl that was afraid to leave the comfort of a book until she used some toys to tell The House that Jack Built. The props helped her remember the sequence. My preference is to keep props to a minimum because they can become a distraction if there are too many things to keep track of.
Retell the Tale: After we discuss playing with the story and how to use your voice and body, I sometimes play a game where I read a short tale and then pick a few kids to retell it, individually or as a group. I encourage them to tell it without worrying about forgetting parts. In fact, if they forget I encourage them to add their own parts to the story. This one can be good for improvisation.
Emoting a Tale: I take a story most of the group is familiar with, like The Three Little Pigs, and have them tell it while expressing different emotions. Make it sound sad. Make it sound scary. Make it sound silly. I usually stop the tale at different points and have different children continue it with a different emotion.
Improve me: This is the section where I tell a story poorly. The children tell me what I should do to improve. I might read with the book in front of my face, lose my place in the book, speak too softly, turn my face toward a wall, or speak in a monotone. I let them tell me how to improve my storytelling.
Name that Character: This is a favorite with my group. I usually save it for last, because it's hard to get them to stop. I explain that the story doesn't have to come from the perspective of the main character. Imagine you are another character, or even an object. What would that character say that would tell the audience what story they are in? I usually try to have them stick to classic fairy tales, folk tales and nursery rhymes for this section, since more of our group are likely to know these characters. A child can talk about Hey Diddle Diddle from the moon's perspective, become one of Cinderella's stepsisters, the flame under Jack be Nimble. The group tries to guess who the character is.
References: For story ideas and more storytelling tips and links, you can look at the website Story Arts. I also recommend the book Tell me a Fairy Tale by Bill Adler. Unfortunately, it isn't available new, but it is worth it to find used. It breaks down numerous tales with plot and character descriptions and a brief plot summary so that the tales can be fleshed out by the storyteller. Aesop's Fables, Bible stories, short fairy tales, songs and any short picture book stories are all good resources.
I hope these ideas help those of you who want to try storytelling. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll try to answer it in the comments section. Remember! If a child can talk, he can tell a story. All it takes is a good memory and the courage to stand up and tell it.