Telling a story rather than reading from a book is a wonderful way to connect with children and provides fantastic opportunities for children to shape the narrative themselves.
Andy Cannon has been telling stories professionally for over 20 years on stage and in nurseries and schools. He also delivers Starcatchers’ Creative Skills training sessions, helping early years professionals be confident and engaging storytellers.
Here are his top storytelling tips:
Believe in yourself – everyone is a storyteller!
Telling stories is a vital part of human connection. We all tell and listen to stories every day. Look and listen out for them and you’ll realise they are everywhere. Even someone recounting what they’ve done at the weekend will often have a cleverly constructed beginning, middle and end, and be full of theatrics, improvisation and embellishment.
We’re all natural storytellers and we all have stories to tell but for lots of different reasons may find that hard to believe. There are authors who, quite rightly, have achieved fame from having stories published. However, I worry that an unintended consequence of this is that parents, grandparents and those who work with children may give too much weight to the concept of ‘professional storyteller’ and lack the confidence and creativity to tell and create their own stories.
Tell stories that you know and love
Storytelling is authorship in action whether you’re telling your own or retelling someone else’s. The confidence that comes from knowing a story well and the enthusiasm you’ll convey from telling something you love will be part of the theatre, drama and magic that bring a story to life!
Keep your audience close – they are your chorus!
Storytelling provides lots of opportunities to connect deeply with children, through eye contact and by being responsive to what they’re telling you verbally or through body language. Continuously seek to sense where they are.
For example, if you’re roaring like a dinosaur and the children mirror you, then do more of it. If they recoil and seem afraid go with them. You are afraid too and it’s the children who must give you the courage to carry on! Ask questions. For example if someone’s knocking on the door. ‘Should I let them in?’ My first two top tips – having confidence in yourself and knowing your story well – will help you to be as flexible, playful and creative as possible.
Know the right time
Time is important. You need time for a beginning, middle, end and for reflection and conversation afterwards. Too often story time is used to fill waiting time – waiting for parents to come and pick up children for example, when actually it’s intellectually stimulating at every age and an incredibly important vehicle for developing relationships.
Andy Cannon is a writer, performer and professional storyteller.