Helping Children Tell Stories From Their Lives

Hi.  Well it only took a year since my last post.  I apologize.   I  simply haven’t developed  the ‘ blog discipline”   I need.  Everyone says ” you have to have a blog”.  Okay I accept that.  I like sharing my thoughts and ideas.  But I have to get in the habit of it.  Please bear with me. I’m off to Europe on tour in a few days and will blog from ” the road”.    I also promised to write about my recent trip to China to perform and I will do that too.  But first I want to carry on from the last blog and talk about helping children tell stories.

I give workshops for teachers and parents on this.  Here are some simple ways to help children tell stories.


The main objective of storytelling is to enlighten the human experience. Storytelling is important to the psychological, creative, social and emotional growth of children. It helps them makes sense of the world around them and inside of them. The brain organizes information in story form. It is all about story. Teachers can use this knowledge to teach in story form as much as possible. Storytelling should be a part of every school curriculum from pre-school on.  It should be something every family does together. 

 The desire to tell, to communicate things to others, is natural and important to encourage and embrace. Children need to tell about themselves. Their main objective, and of all human beings is to know they/we are heard and valued. This does not require understanding as much as it requires listening. We must help children learn to listen and we must remember to do so ourselves.

 Stories from Our Lives-How to Help Children Tell Stories

A good way to help children (or yourself) begin to tell stories is to tell stories from their lives. These will not be stories in the literal sense, with a beginning, middle, end and a plot line. These are a form of storytelling that  I call personal narrative. Telling stories from our lives brings out the natural storyteller in us all. We know and feel the subject and are comfortable telling it. Everyone is generally much more descriptive when telling a personal story. This is great for language development. It is important for children to tell stories from their lives. They share their experiences, which helps them accept their feelings and understand those of others. Understanding is the foundation for tolerance.

 You can pick a topic. You can, for instance, suggest a time they got hurt or were scared, when they were sad or angry. You can ask them to tell stories about their parents or pets or favorite birthday. The possibilities are endless. Please share your own stories with the children. They love it, as you probably already know.


Making Up Stories

At first you can make it simple. Make up a story for the children in which they can fill in one word here and there (if you don’t want to make one up pick a story they already know). They will begin to get used to participating in the creating of a story. For instance: Once upon a time there was a girl who lost her teddy bear. The last time she saw him he was on her________________________. She went outside into the back______________ and looked under a _______________ and a ___________ but he wasn’t there. So……..etc. You get the idea. When they get really comfortable with this you can move on to making up a story one sentence at a time. This can be done in a story circle.

 Story Circle

You begin the story with one sentence. Each child adds another sentence. Sometimes the stories are marvelous. It is a good idea to record or video the sessions and show them to the children. You can also keep a record of their development in this way. When you get a “keeper” story they can draw pictures of the story and make a book. They can also practice telling the story and you can make up voices and movements for them to do.

This storytelling will take time to develop. As your children get used to it you can introduce concepts of storytelling; a story has a a beginning and an end. It has a who, what , why, when and where. I’ll call these the “ Five W’s”. Help them think of that when they are creating a story. After you tell them a story invite them to tell you the who, what, why, when and where that they heard in it. Be patient and keep at it throughout the year. You will be amazed and delighted with their development  and how they really do ” get ” story.  Being a part of children’s storytelling is a blessed and wonderful thing. 





A Cut Finger-Storytelling-Being Heard

I had just finished performing at a school when a seven-year old girl came up and held her finger in my face. “I cut myself.” “ Wow you cut yourself”I said. “ Yup.” With rapid-fire dramatic delivery she started. “ I tripped on a shoe and fell on the floor and there were yellow scissors under the table and I cut my finger and there was red blood all over the place-I mean all over the place and I put it under the faucet in the kitchen and the blood was going around and around in the water and then my mom came and she put this blue stuff on it and it hurt but now it’s okay.” “ Wow. That’s amazing,” I said. “ Yup.” She hugged me and ran out to play.

I couldn’t figure out why she had stopped to tell me this. She didn’t really know me. Then I got it. This girl simply wanted to tell her story and be heard. Once she had accomplished that she was satisfied. Storytelling-all forms of it- should be a part of school curriculum just like math and science are. However along with learning and telling folktales, making up stories to tell, children must be given time to tell stories from their lives and they must learn how to listen to each other.

When children learn about each other they become socially literate. When they know that what they have to say will be heard they become socially comfortable. They are more confident, understanding and compassionate. How else are they going to find out about each other? How else are they going to“ sound their own souls” and share their stories. This is how. Telling and listening. Telling and being heard. It is simple, profound and transformative. Go ahead. Try it. Share your stories with children. Cut your finger? Tell them about it. You will inspire them to share their stories. And when they do just listen. Really listen.

In my next blog I’ll  talk more about how to help children tell stories from their lives.

On education, wealth and cake

Okay I know we are all wired individually and are at once the same and profoundly different.  I have an opinion about things that others may or may not share.  But for the life of me, even though I know many see things differently than I do, I cannot understand why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to cut funding for education and many important social services. The money is there to pay for all of this.  It is simply not being allocated for it. Seems to me that all American children (all children everywhere) deserve a quality of life, good health care and a good education.      If we steadfastly committed to this in our country with the national will and our monies,  we would be a strong, healthy and wealthy nation. One in which the rich could have their cake and we could eat it too.