Close the Book: Storytelling for Children - One Day Creative
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January 31, 2017

Close the Book: Storytelling for Children

We hear them, we read them, we write them. Stories are a huge part of our lives – they form our past, contribute to our present and look to the future. They’re also a wonderful teaching tool within the classroom.

Pioneered by the Society for Storytelling (SFS) 17 years ago, National Storytelling Week is an opportunity for us to wax lyrical. Whatever the age, whatever the genre – tell a story! And where possible, break away from that stereotype that a story must be read. SFS actively promotes oral storytelling, believing that “face to face gets much more across than the dip and dunk of hurdling over the text in a book”.

Detaching storytelling from ‘reading books’ can seem scary, but it needn’t be. Here are a selection of storytelling games we love to play within schools, which are excellent at getting imaginations sparking. Try one of these with your class and see what adventures you can create together.

1, 2, 3: What are we going to be?

A  call-and-response game that encourages children to use body language to tell stories and convey characters.

  • Get the children to walk around the room calmly in any direction.
  • Shout “1, 2, 3!” and in return they stop and call “What are we going to be?!”
  • The answer is up to you! Perhaps you want to give them an emotion, a character or an action. Whatever you choose, the children must continue moving around the room using their bodies to physically convey the instructions you gave them.

Story Round-Table

Stories can go anywhere and include anything. This game shows how storytelling can sometimes take unexpected turns!

  • Sitting in a circle, start off the game by saying “Once upon a time …”. It’s then up to the children to add a single word to the story, one-by-one.
  • Keep going round until a full(ish!) story has emerged. Each and every child has the opportunity to influence the story, while still having to work with the previous answers.

This is communal storytelling, and the result is an often weird and wonderful story which every child has ownership of.

Storytelling Statues

This flexible game gets children creating scenes using their bodies.

  • Divide your class into small groups, giving them each a scene which they must ‘create’ using their bodies.
  • They can all contribute towards a single scene (e.g. Cinderella on her way to the ball – one group is a forest, another is the carriage, another is the castle in the distance etc) or different scenes from within the same story.
  • It’s always great fun to finish with a BIG team statue (e.g. the giant from the BFG!), where everybody must work together.


Sometimes storytelling is just a simple, seated affair – that’s fine too! It’s possible to get everybody involved by creating sounds to the story as you go. Creaking doors, the pitter patter of rain, cackling laughter, fading footsteps – it’s time to get noisy! Share your story and allow time for your class to imagine the sounds and deliver them altogether.

Building stories around props, physical improvisations and freeze frames are additional ways to bring storytelling to life at home or in the classroom. Storytelling is a special tool for learning, and as SFS say themselves “the web of stories [is] spun with sufficient magic between the breath of the teller and the ear of the listener”.

Love the One Day team x

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