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Book review
Storytelling with Children cover

Creating Stories with Children cover
Storytelling with Children
Creating Stories with Children
Andrew Wright (OUP)

Review written by Liz Jones

Storytelling has been a fashionable idea for an effective & enjoyable way of teaching children for a number of years now & Andrew Wright's 'Storytelling with Children', (1995) & the sequel 'Creating Stories with Children' (1997 ) (both published by OUP) are packed with stories & lesson plans to delight the younger learner.

'Storytelling with Children' really is a step-by-step guide to effective storytelling for both the native & non-native English teacher. Andrew begins by telling us how to select, tell & read stories aloud - not as easy as you might first think! Then he goes on to examine the storyteller's manner & voice, & how to deal with interruptions & children reading aloud.

This is then followed by 'A store of 94 activities' to do before, during or after telling a story. Within this there are activities such as a quick game of pictionary to illustrate the meaning of key vocabulary before the telling or giving a child a word card before & ask them to jump up & sit down every time they hear the word during the story. 'Stepping Stone Pictures' gets children walking from picture to picture, telling the story as they move. Unfortunately there is no index of these activities - they are thrown together in this section. There are heading as you look through but some preliminary reference would be useful, to help find them again.

The following section, 'Stories & lesson plans' is organised according to level & age. I particularly liked 'Mr Page's Pet Shop' which I have used with children as young as two to great success. The children love to mime the animals & make the noises. There are well know stories such as 'Goldilocks' & Andrew's guides on how to tell them help enormously.

In the section on 'Topics & stories' we are given ideas on combining these areas using the 'story as a door to all kinds of other experiences'. Andrew chooses three topic areas; 'Mice', 'The Home', & 'Town & Country'.

We go on to using stories as the focus for language presentation in the 'Grammar & stories section'. As stories can be repeated again & again, so too can the language point & as the younger learner does not analyse language but learns new items as lexical chunks, stories are an ideal vehicle. In 'Houses into bricks; bricks into houses' you choose grammatical groupings you would like the children to become aware of, select a story & pick out 5 to 10 sentences. You then write a sentence on the board, & put the words in the correct bag you've drawn e.g. proper nouns. The children then proceed to do the same with subsequent sentences. They can then go on to write a new story using some of the words in the bags.

And if this were not enough, at the end of the book there are even 'More stories & ideas' , tips on how to draw people, places & things.

'Creating Stories with Children' is a sequel to the above book & takes children that step further from being told stories to creating their own. The activities are aimed at children between the ages of 4 & 14, & though some are appropriate for beginners, most are for elementary & above.

The sections comprise of 'Story warmers' (within which there are exercises for relaxation, trust, mime & acting & language), 'The craft of story-making', 'Retelling', 'Beginnings & endings', 'Filling in & out', 'Sorting & sequencing', 'Starting with one thing' & lastly 'Making books'.

As Alan Maley says in his introduction, 'the book is based on a passionate belief in the creative capacity of children provided they are given encouragement & appropriate guidance.' This comes through in the sensible & imaginative approach to the activities & stories.

Both books are very clearly laid out & now come in A4 size, which makes using them much easier. The pictures clarify activities & attached to the level, language, time, materials & procedure are variations of the activity.

All in all, these two books provide more than enough material to make storytelling a fun, stimulating, successful & essential part of your younger learner teaching.

To Andrew's article on Storytelling

To an interview with Andrew

Storytelling with Children cover
Creating Stories with Children cover

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