Story Telling and Talking with Kids

Following are instructions for telling a story–whether about a historical figure or a personal story of your own.

Start by identifying the main theme or skill you want to emphasize. Some theme suggestions are: pleasing others, obeying,  listening, laboring, manners, morals, motivation, happiness. After choosing a theme, list what you want students to learn and/or do in order to understand the theme.
List your objectives, such  as:

Students will be able to name the steps in making ice cream

Students will be able to sing the song about the weather in Spanish


The following procedures are recommended (not required). Use the procedures to meet the objectives listed above.
1. Begin with an icebreaker or discussion questions. Help the students begin thinking about the topics your story will address.

2. Tell or read the story.  If you read, practice pacing and volume.  Move your voice up and down in pitch, practicing by looking up and down to encourage pitch variety.

3. Choose a story that is short enough to keep students’ interest.  Less is usually better!

4. Humor is a plus.  A fit of giggles in a classroom is good for everyone.  Then pull them back to your point by saying, “I’m  looking for who is sitting still and dignified.  Now I see we’re ready to go on.”

5. Ask follow-up questions. Develop questions that move from lower to higher level thinking skills. First ask questions that help children recall the facts in the story, and then ask them questions that will help them better understand and apply the story, or make distinctions from other concepts.

4. Tell students about a time in your life that relates to the story’s theme.  Write down your 3 main points ahead of time and know when you have finished the anecdote.


Develop questions to discuss with the children. The point of the discussion is to prepare students to relate to the characters and themes of the story.  Consider the sample discussion questions below:

A. “Have you ever . . . ”

B. “Tell about a time in your life when ”

C. “What would you do if . . . ”

With younger children, discussion needs more planning and management.  Youngsters like to raise their hands to share what is uppermost on their minds–a new puppy, or a hurt finger.  One Grandee has taught her young charges to raise their hands and say, “I have a connection!”  That will help students keep their discussion focused on your story.

Biography/Story Introduction

Find an interesting way to introduce students to the story. Give any background information that might help them better understand. Also identify the initial conflict, struggle or problem that the character is experiencing (e.g., as a boy, Benjamin Franklin was a gifted writer, but his older brother was jealous and didn’t let young Ben write). Write (or outline) your introduction and practice delivering it.

In order to keep students interested, organize your story so that it focuses on action (what happens next). In this part of the story, discuss how the character’s problems and/or struggles changed or increased (e.g., as Ben grew older, he discovered that he needed to use his writing to help others.  But he still had problems getting readers to accept his advice.) Try to tell the story chronologically, focusing on character growth and change. Write (or outline) the middle of your story.

Bring the action of the story to a conclusion. Do this by telling how the story ended, and by identifying what the character did (or chose) to bring about the positive conclusion. Tell how the character grew or changed in the process. Write (or outline) the conclusion of your story.

Follow-up Questions
After the story is over, lead the students to an understanding of its importance by showing how the story applies to them and the decisions they make. An effective way of doing this is asking questions about the story (e.g., “What do you think Ben learned about hard work? How can what Ben learned help you when you have a big job to do?”). List your follow-up questions while preparing.

A Time in Your Life

If the story you told was about a character other than yourself, tell the children about a time in your life when you experienced or learned lessons similar to the character being discussed. Use the same method to organize your personal story as you used to discuss the historical figure (introduction, middle and conclusion). Outline the main points of your personal story so that you don’t wander into unplanned material.

NOTE: It can be tricky to know just where to end a story about yourself.  Decide on the best sentence for an effective ending, and tie off neatly with that.

Session Conclusion
Remind children of the main theme of each of the stories. Have the students suggest ways they can behave in accord with the theme. If time permits, have the teacher help you do a craft, skit, or additional activity to reinforce the lesson. List your activity ideas and run them by the faculty member ahead of time if possible.

Concepts To Remember

1. Be friendly – learn the children’s names and show interest in their lives.

2. When asking questions, give ample time for response. Be sure to ask questions that encourage thought and opinion (e.g., “What do you think ?”).

3. Be honest. If you don’t know an answer to a question, tell them you will find out.

4. Praise and compliment the children.

5. Maintain a sense of humor.  Maybe what you planned isn’t exactly what’s unfolding in the class, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

6. Be consistent with the teacher’s rules for classroom behavior.

7. Keep your commitment — the children will look forward to your time together.

8. Watch the clock and have an “exit strategy”–know when you are through!