Elinor Benjamin, Storyteller

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* Thanks to Cathy Miyata for permission to include the tips from her book (marked with an "*"):
Speaking Rules! Classroom games, exercises, and activities for creating masterful speakers, presenters, and storytellers.
Markham, Ont: Pembroke Publishers, c2001

Some tips for learning to tell a story aloud

  • Preparing

    Find a story you would like to tell. Pick a simple and/or familiar story for your first attempt. Read the story aloud several times to see how it sounds. If there are words you don't understand or cannot pronounce, look them up in a dictionary or ask someone to help you. Change them to words that make more sense to you, but don't change  "magic" words or sentences such as "I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house down" in the Three Little Pigs. The story won't sound quite right without them. It is useful to make yourself a photocopy of the story that you can mark with any changes you want to make. You may find it helpful to highlight the different voices of different characters with different colour highlighters.

  • Listening

    Read the story out loud a number of times. If you can, record the story. Listen to the recording a number of times. Try picturing the events in your mind as you listen. Do you know anyone that resembles the character in the story? Imagine that person, or an actor you've seen in the movies as the character in your imagination acting and speaking in the story in your mind. You may find it useful to go for a walk and listen to the recording while you are walking. Try telling the story aloud along with the tape a few times, then try it without the tape.

  • Drawing or Storyboarding

    Try making yourself a storyboard with carton or stick figures representing each "scene" in the correct order. If you have this in your mind you'll have an easier time getting the events in the right order when you tell the story.

  • Mapping

    Draw a map of the story, with the places and the events in order where they happen. Practise telling the story looking at the map. Then try it without, keeping a mental image of the map in your mind to help you if you get stuck.

  • Improvising *

    Act out your story as through you were in a play. Try the different characters with different voices and different walks. Then try telling the story as though you were the narrator, adding in the different characters as the story unfolds.

  • Sequencing *

    Condense the whole story down into sixteen essential lines. Then, shrink the sixteen down to eight. Put the eight lines on index cards, one line on each card. Shuffle the cards, then put them in order of the story from beginning, middle and end. Shuffle the cards again and try to put them in reverse order. Shuffle the cards and see how fast you can order them. Have a contest with a partner to see who can order them the fastest. Now try telling the condensed version out loud to yourself. Next, do the longer version. If you are missing some words that you really wanted to use. Go back to the text and practise that part out loud.

  • Practice

    Student telling storyPractice telling your story to your family and friends - or start with your dog or cat. Tell the story from start to finish, as completely as you can, using your mental images to help you along. Think of it as a movie that is running in your head, while you are telling others about it. If you are stumped, don't start over again from the beginning of the story. Keep the text near by and refer to it in order to complete the story to the end. If you repeat the part you know over and over again, you will know the beginning of the story too well and be shaky on the middle and ending. Practice the ending by itself, until you know it as well as the beginning. Practice different "scenes" separately. If you are using a book as your source, keep a copy of the book at hand (with the place marked with a bookmark) so that if you forget, you can quickly scan the rest of the story.