Creative Storytelling with Almost Any Audience

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner

I recently came across some notes from a creative storytelling seminar I took part in several years ago.  One of the things I like to focus on in my children’s and youth lessons is telling the story in a unique and memorable way.  Or in other words, how to make it REAL to the students you are teaching.

So many times, I see teachers start to tell a story, open the Bible and start reading …. LIKE……..THIS…..AND….THEY…..READ…. SO…. SLOW…. THAT…..I…..CAN’T…..FOLLOW…..ALONG…..  I hope you understand what I mean.  So how do we reach those we are trying to teach?  How do we make a connection, and use creative storytelling in an exciting and memorable way?  The first thing to prepare is to make sure you know the story well.  So how do we do this?

How to prepare your story

Start off by reading the story to yourself.  Your first time reading the story should not be in front of your class.  Come up with questions.  What questions do you have?  What questions might your students have?  Are there any words that you don’t know the full meaning of?  What is the time of year and setting in which the story takes place.  One thing that I have learned while studying in order to tell a story well, is that the culture and setting and even the time of day that the story is told can make a huge difference as to the lessons learned and what we want to get across to our students.  So, make sure you READ, READ, READ and study well. 

The second thing to do is practice.  This may sound strange, but go over the story in your mind.  Is there anything that sticks out to you from the story?  Does anything repeat?  Is there any character that stands out that should be learning something but is perhaps not?  These are the clues you will use in determining the best way to tell your story and get it across.

After you have gone over this in your mind, try practicing when you are with yourself, or with your kids at home.  Sometimes, while I am practicing out loud I will notice things that otherwise I would not have known if I had not been practicing or saying it out loud.

With that said, I will now show you some of my top creative storytelling methods to get students engaged in a way that they will remember.  Many of these things can work for almost any age.  (Just a hint:  Adults as well, learn in the same ways that children do.  We do not outgrow our learning styles.)

1. Use silly voices

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner

Have you ever told a story where two or more people were talking to each other?  Of course!  My kids always love it when I do the voices.  Let’s say I am telling a story about Abraham and Sarah. I might want to have one voice for what Abraham says and another voice for Sarah.  Then still another one for God, and an angel and so on.  Don’t be afraid to be silly.  After all, when our students experience the story through creative storytelling, they will remember it.   

2. Act it out as one of the characters from the story

creative storytelling
acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner

In a lesson plan I recently wrote, “Adam” comes to the class as a very old man and tells his story. Adam wears a simple Maasai blanket, carries a walking stick, has slippers and has used chalk to make his face look old.  Of course, there is no fooling the kids as to who Adam really is, but they don’t need to know that we know that.  As you are teaching you may say something like, “I am looking for my visitor and he’s a bit late.  Let me go and check.  I will be right back.”  Leave the room, but when you come back you are not yourself but a character in the story wondering where the teacher is.  Check out my Adam and Eve Lesson Plan here.

I can remember when I was in secondary school and our Biology teacher did this and came back as a historically known scientist who studied genetics.  I don’t remember all of the lessons that my teachers taught in secondary school, but I will never forget this one due to the way the teacher used this creative storytelling method.  (By the way, we all knew it was really our teacher.  But we learned a lot that day.)

3. Use the students to act out the story

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner

You may want to tell your students that you have a story to tell but you need their help.  Chose students to become the characters in the story and show them how to act out the parts as you get to them in the story.  You may want to provide props, costumes or signs for each character to wear so that we don’t forget who they are in the story.  And don’t forget to make it funny.

4.  Use props to represent parts of the story

Kids in nursery school and class one are learning how to sequence events in school.  They need to know what comes first, next, last and so on.  Try using a prop to tell the first part of the story and then put it down.  Use another prop to tell the next part of the story.  Line these props up as you tell the story.  Then, mix them up and ask the kids to come put them back in order as they tell the story back to you.  Props can be anything!  It can be an interesting rock, stick or another item found in nature.  It can also be something from your home. Be creative.

5. Use a puppet.

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner

OK, HOLD ON!  We are an African church.  We don’t have puppets!  Think a minute and yes, you do.  You can make puppets form the things you have.  Do you have an old sock with no match and can draw eyes on it.  You may also have an empty bottle that you can draw a face on.  In a previous blog post, I wrote about how to make Bible characters from empty tissue paper tubes.  And if all else fades, use an old carton, draw a character and cut it out.  Something magical happens when we are not just reading a story from the Bible, but the puppet(s) come to tell the story. Get the Noah’s Ark Lesson Plan and use these puppets.

The more “real” you can make the puppet, the more the children will be fascinated by it.  Give your puppet a name and a personality.  Hide the puppet until he or she comes out.  If you have a sock puppet, drape a sheet around your arm so that it looks like you are holding the creature as it talks and its not just your arm.  Remember, as soon as the puppet comes out, the kids will be interested in what is going on. 

6. Audience participation and repetition

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner

Some stories that we read have a common theme or a question that is asked.  In one of my recent lessons, “The Good Samaritan,” the law expert asks Jesus a question.  “Who is my neighbor?”  In the beginning of the story I have taught the kids three different “chants” to help the story become more interesting.  One of these chants the students clap three times all together and say, “And who is my neighbor?”  Whenever the question in the story is raised, I have the students say it.  This can work with any age and is a sure way to get the students involved in a memorable way.

7. Use a silly character

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner

In our last camp, I had introduced the character of Biffy.  Biffy is a grown up who thinks and acts like a child.  He wears a silly costume and is very animated.  Biffy does not talk much, but uses body and facial expressions to communicate.  Another thing about Biffy is that while he always tries his best and has a heart to do well, he also always makes mistakes and a big mess of things. 

Biffy came several times during camp.  He was a part of our drama team.  He can also be a student volunteer and help you to act out the story.  Give Biffy the character in the story who needs to learn the lesson. For example, in the parable of the talents, Biffy can be the one who hides the talent and does nothing with it.  In one of our dramas, Biffy was a student volunteer during a magic trick.  But instead of doing as the teacher told him he messed everything up and the teacher ended up with banana all over his face!  The students will remember Biffy well and remember the story that he helped to tell.  Give your character their own funny name.  Check out some of our dramas here.

I hope you have enjoyed these seven creative storytelling methods. These are just a start.  Remember to READ, READ, READ your story.  Choose an interesting method and practice.  Tell us how it went in the comments below.  If you enjoyed this please download my lesson plans and subscribe to the blog to get the latest updates.          

2 thoughts on “Creative Storytelling with Almost Any Audience

Comments are closed.