13½ possible ways to play with/tell a known story – or – ’13½ ways to use your hands’.

13½ possible ways to play with a known story and bring it alive with the children, without using a book or a CD. A graduated series of steps towards building confidence and simply practising. Everything is hard until it’s easy… learning to walk, putting on your own clothes, becoming bilingual as a three year old… practise, practise, practise. Skill is secondary, ability to live with occasional ‘failure’ is imperative!

1. Jim Weiss has the first and most simple ½  step. Take a story book that you already know and read every second page but use your own words to ‘read’  the one in between. http://vimeopro.com/user13058727/greathall/video/48033909 from 4 minutes in, he covers the element of connection and respect, the neuroscience of storytelling. At 11.33 he tells you how to read every second page and paraphrase every second page. At 13.00 he talks about working with children who had never been read to or knew stories. At 15.00 he tells a story from Sherlock Holmes. (pretty good). In this image he is being the hare in ‘The tortoise and the hare’.




2. Take a story you already know and add gestures. Make up your own or ask the children for ideas and then tell it more than once so that the children can anticipate and join in with the story. Here is the story of Cucaracha, which is suitable for very young children who are very comfortable with copying gesture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpcHgob2i5A you can do this with any simple story. They love to join in and anticipate.

This Australian woman has created gestures to go with a short poem she has learned. http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/telling_stories_mook_mook_owl_video.html

A very simple thing to do… and gives the children a change from the perpetual old and rather ‘tired’ favourites like Five little ducks or Head shoulders knees and toes.


.Louise Coigley, who is a speech and language therapist, also talks about rhythm and gesture. Brilliantly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVvMQR6jTYc





3. Take a story you already know and act it out. Here is a family having a great deal of fun acting out the story of the three little pigs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo2LDDbwlRg

Children playing out the three little pigs at a childcare centre.

4. Take a simple known story and support the children to take part by making the gestures and singing the chorus as the story progresses. Here is a storyteller telling the story of the Hare and the Tortoise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_032nPgwdM This is a performance but the basic building blocks are the same.





This chap also teaches the children how to do their part. He also does a running commentary sharing with us how he does what he does…the importance of eye contact, the use of names and so on. It is true that it is not a well known story! one must adapt! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJU5L3ZYODU

5. Take a simple story or a simple verse and learn how to tell it with sign language. Try ‘Baa baa black sheep’ or ‘ Goldilocks and the three bears’ or ‘The very hungry caterpillar’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ePOq_S04p8

and check out the animation, vitality and generosity of this story teller doing the three little pigs.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw8u29Fa1Ag

and then there are these gorgeous young brothers (3 years and 17 months) who are bilingual in spoken language and ASL Here they are reading/telling a book together . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fha8ZsdxupI

And a child telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood in sign language. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDFxr6dMJUE Amazing.

6. Take a story you all know and paint it.

The three little pigs.

Mr Gumpy’s Outing.

7. Take a well known story and create a string game around it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQkJpTVIyeA. This one is a classic and marvellous rendition of the famous story of Jack and the Beanstalk  and his goal in this instance is to entertain rather than teach but it would make a great springboard for teaching simple string figures like the witches hat. Or the story of the annoying  mosquito which is easy to learn.

8. Take a known story and try to recall the sequence with the children, such as Going on a Bear Hunt. Maybe have the images of the story shrunk to a smaller size and then glued onto stones and put the stones in the right order.

9. Take a well known story and find the appropriate table top puppets to act it out. Use fabric of different colours to suggest a river, a mountain, a lake or snow and ice. Leave the props available for the children to tell the story, or their variation of it!

10. Take a well known story and find the appropriate animals and act it out in the garden and take photos and make your own story book for the children, with the children.

11. Tell a well known story and encourage staff to ‘act it out’/ be ‘in role’  in front of the children in the course of the day and stay in role (on dress up days!) The children were delighted, aghast and initially stunned when Cruella Deville told Cinderella she had to tidy the resource room instead of have lunch! problem solving indeed! moral dilemmas abouding! social justice issues……but fun!!

Cinderellla and the two ugly sisters and a handsome prince! They actually came as Maleficent and Cruella Deville but they were perfect as Cinderella’s sisters. Not planned but it would be great to choose a story to share. Jack and the Beanstalk, Frozen…… not many with a lot of females actually??

12. Take a well known story and tell it out with playdough. No photos of the children because of privacy issues (in many of the photos on this post).

Jack and the beanstalk.

13.Take a well known story and create our own story books about it or create a puppet set. 

The list is absolutely infinite but my patience with computer technology is not!! so 13½ is where I am stopping. It certainly gives you a taste of the infinite possibilities for incorporating stories into one’s practice. This post does not even start to address the creative possibilities for collaborating and improvising new stories with the children. Or for supporting children to create and record and retell their own stories.

I hope this has been useful!

14. p.s how ironic! I did  not include a storytelling mat as another way to tell a story. Here is an image of the mat I made for ‘Going on a Bear hunt’, complete with house and bed and all the landscapes. About a metre diameter.