September 21, 2011

Storytelling tricks: hook and picturing

Storytelling is an art, and as art there is no right or wrong. Here I share two tricks that we have used successfully at school to engage young learners in storytelling. 

Hook:  before you even mentioning you are about to tell a story, you can ask a thought provoking question related to main aspects of the plot. Let’s say for example you have “Curious George”, this question could be:

 “Was there a time in which you got in trouble?”   or
“Do you know anybody that was fooled?”

Or even better, you can start by sharing your answer to that question. Then children will start to share their stories, which will activate their schemas about the plot.
As magic, they will be more interested in the story when you begin telling it!

Note that the hook question has to be a spark for interesting exchange. Asking students if they have ever seen a monkey will not produce these same results. Remember the golden rule: make questions that you do not know the answers.

Then Shazam! As they have told you about their personal stories, you can connect these to your storytelling, such as “Like John, George also played with water” or  “Unlike Mary’s friend, George didn’t realize he was fooled”. Magically, in many stories the characters do the very same things as the students! These inclusions make all of us really enjoy the story. Even if you do not use all of their personal stories you have these precious gems for other connecting moments during stories in the future!

Allow good 5 minutes for the hook. The foundations of a good story are here!

Picturing: Many Hollywood movies are known to start from general to specific. You see a small city from above, it’s snowing, and you get closer to a small old house that is different from others. Inside you see an empty fireplace, pepperoni pizza on the floor, a happy mom on the phone and a freckled boy sleeping. Got the idea, right?

After you explore the cover and title, you can start picturing. It has to do with creating the scenery, the mood, the environment in which the characters will inhabit. By slowly creating it, you are gradually involving your audience to understand better the story makers.

Explore and thoroughly describe the scenery incorporating the five senses. Guide them into what characters are seeing, smelling, listening, feeling, and tasting. Share also how you would feel if you were there. One way to ease the process is to connect your picturing to a previous experience that you have had, so then all you have to do is remember (instead of inventing) this multidimensional experience.

After storytelling, I usually ask students which part they liked the most. To my surprise many say that it was the beginning!

Try out these two tricks to begin your stories and let me know how they went!

Big frog-hug,


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