Guest Post: Lee Castledine on Storytelling for Young Children, Part 1

Today on Books and Adventures, we’re joined by Lee Castledine, an Australian storyteller, youth librarian and secretary of the Australian Storytelling Guild.

I was lucky enough to see Lee’s workshop on storytelling with young children at the Annual Paint the Town REaD Convention this month. Lee demonstrated her accomplishments as a performer, educator and storytelling maven, and today, Saturday 17th September, I’ll be venturing over to the New South Wales Writers’ Centre to see a Storytelling Workshop Day organised by Lee. Therefore I’m very pleased to present a timely guest post from her on Storytelling for Young Children using Props and Audience Participation.

A candle, a book, an apron, a string, a puppet, a piece of paper….Props used in storytelling for young children can be anything the storyteller can think of, that enhances the story.  Some props are useful for encouraging audience participation, and manipulation props enchant the audience.  Not all stories need a prop – sometimes actions are the prop.

The main prop I use that identifies me as a storyteller is an apron with multiple pockets.  In each pocket I put an object that represents one of the stories that I tell.  I select a child from the audience to come up and choose a pocket and pull out the object within, dictating which story I will tell next.   This prop empowers the audience to feel involved in the telling and it ensures their attention, as they want to be selected to choose a pocket and story.

It is important to involve young children in the story as this maintains their attention, enhances their enjoyment and comprehension of the story, and increases their active listening.  In a participation story, the storyteller has the main role of delivering the story, with the audience joining in with sounds, actions and repetitive phrases throughout the story.

Some audience participation stories I tell are action stories, where the audience will do the actions and sound effects with me as I tell the story.  Action stories are particularly good for toddlers and preschoolers, especially when told over and over again, as they remember the story sequence through learning the actions.

I often tell “The Crocodile Hunt”, of which there are many variations, such as The Lion Hunt and Michael Rosen’s We’re going on a bear hunt.  By using action stories, I ensure that the whole audience is involved and attentive throughout the whole story.

Some stories can be told using props such as felt boards, puppets, or other objects, with audience participation at particular parts of the story, where they make sounds, do actions or join in with repetitive phrases.  These stories involve the whole audience participating, with children selected to come up to the front to hold objects, make noises or do actions.  This encourages children to pay attention, as they want to be selected to be part of the story.  Props with participation stories are suitable for infants school children, as it encourages active listening as they anticipate their cues to join in.

Stories for young children told without audience participation can enchant the audience through the use of manipulative props, such as paper folding or cutting, magic bags, string stories and drawing stories.  The main focus is the story, with the manipulations of the prop intriguing the audience as they wonder what it will become as the story progresses.   Manipulative prop stories are particularly good for infants and primary school children, as the story can be re-told as you teach the children to make the prop themselves.  By learning the story and making the prop to take home with them, children will remember it and share the story with their families and friends.  A favourite paper-folding story I share “The Brothers Short and Tall”, I adapted from Ruth Atkinson’s The Pirates Long and Short.  On the re-telling, I hand out paper and tell the story over and over as I teach the children to fold the treasure box.

There’ll be more from Lee Castledine next time on Books and Adventures, when she returns for the second part of her guest post on storytelling for young children!

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