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How To Start Telling a Story!

Updated: Mar 8

3 Ways to Get Started with Storytelling Without a Book.

girl in field with storytelling cards.

Storytelling without a book has multiple benefits for both young and old and sits at the centre of many cultures to bond generations and keep important traditions alive.

With fast-paced lives and a screen-based culture, language skills are changing and evolving rapidly. Adults with an established strong language and communication base are adapting and learning new ways to communicate but worryingly and due to how communication is evolving, those all-important skills that form a base for literacy in young children are under threat. Schools have identified a need to focus on oracy skills as a priority to recover declining outcomes in reading and writing for children leaving primary school.

Click here to read the latest findings on child speech delays following lockdown and here to find out more about oracy and why it’s becoming more of a focus in schools.

Storytelling is an excellent way to develop an array of vital language skills that under pin further literacy skills such a reading and writing. Storytelling is a meaningful activity to establish at an early age and an excellent way to bond with your child but getting started can be a bit tricky if you’re not Jackanory (you may need to google that one if you’re under 30).

What will you need?

- Paper and pencil

- A comfy space.

- A Stimulus (Enchanting Learning Cards have illustrations and story starters to get you started).

- Some company – you could technically tell a story to yourself, no judgment here.

- Errr, a cup of cocoa? Why not?!

Basically, what I’m saying is you really don’t need much, just a willingness to let your imagination wander.

3 Ways to get started!

1. 3, settings, 3 characters, 3 objects.

Ask your child to pick 3 places that they would love to visit, real or fictional and write them

a boy with his teacher using phonics cards outside.
Learning with Enthusiasm.

3 pieces of paper, if they are struggling for inspiration, you could use pictures

as prompts. Then ask them to choose their 3 favourite animals and maybe 3 favourite modes of transport. You want to create some options for a setting and characters, so you have some kind of starting point. You also want this storytelling session to be a joint effort and for your child to feel like they have had some input. To give them some further ownership over the ‘story ingredients’ you could put the ideas into a hat and ask them to pick out at random.

So, now you have an elephant in Disneyland riding a unicycle it’s time to start thinking about how to get started. A nice, easy way is to pick a time of day and some weather…One sunny morning, the elephant woke up feeling excited about his trip to Disneyland. Alternatively, you could use some pre-prepared story starters!

2. Questions, Questions…

If you are confident that you will be able to dream up some characters and settings with your child and think you’ll be fine getting started, you might be wondering how to build the story and keep it going. You really want the storytelling experience to be a two-way street and for both you and your child when making decisions about how your story unfolds (this type of interaction is a great foundation for problem solving!). A great way to pave the way here is to have some simple questions pre-prepared:

Is the main character kind?

Will our story move to different settings (places)?

Do any other characters appear?

Is anyone in danger?

What kind of problems do our characters face?

You get the idea! Just a few prompts to discuss as your story builds will help the flo

3. Mess with an Old Classic!

An excellent way to get started with a story without a book to develop those all-important verbal skills is to use the framework of a story that you and your child know well. Instead of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we’re talking Ben and the Three Monkeys, Jasper and the Three Frogs, Tilly and the Three Unicorns!

A teacher and pupil using phonics cards by The Phive.
Playing with Phonics!

Using a well-known framework takes the pressure off having to think about the pattern of the story and gives you the opportunity to have fun replacing the original characters, setting and actions with new ones!

If you have our Enchanting Learning Cards, you could use them as inspiration for the new characters and settings so that you have some visual prompts to encourage description. Adding in lots of descriptions is a great way to develop your child’s creative thinking. When children get older and start writing their own stories, description is key. We say that a good piece of description paints a picture in your reader’s mind. Doing this verbally from a young age will equip your child brilliantly for this. Great speaking and listening massively helps reading and writing further down the line and right on into secondary school.

We hope these tips are useful and give that little bit of extra confidence to those of you wanting to support your child’s oracy skills, confidence, and creativity through storytelling.

You never know, you may actually give Jackanory a run for his money!

Let us know in the comments what you think.

Happy tale-telling!

Photoshoot Credit to Terra Libra & Alexis Knight Photography

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