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Storytelling: A New Way of Teaching the Young

Joanna is a hands-on teacher, who has spent many years using the following activities. Her methods have kept children from falling behind.

Interactive Story Telling

To spark curiosity and interest of all children, tell stories from other cultures. To use these diverse stories effectively, you must use props. Use items from the classroom that the children can see, touch, or smell.

Dress up to draw the children into story time. This method teaches children to express themselves through dramatic play.

To find some culturally diverse stories, look in the public domain for books with short stories in them. Take the time to write a couple down on index cards. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Indian Legends Retold by Elaine Goodale Eastman
  • Legends of the Kay by DeVoe
  • Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland by T. Crafton Croker

I have used the following:

  • Children of the Cloud
  • Bluebird and Coyote
  • Ice Man Puts Out the Fire
  • The First Strawberry

The children have fun learning these stories. They are short and witty.

Puppet Play

The first couple of times with this activity, you will have to help the children put the puppets on their hands. Show them how to use them to talk.

After a few times of doing this, place a group of miscellaneous toys in the middle of the storytelling area. Show the children how to take one of the toys and talk to it with a puppet.


1. To use their imagination.

2. To manipulate objects.

3. To use positive negotiation skills.

4. To express what they know, think, believe, and feel.

Dialogical Reading

Simple, this is an interactive reading and works most effectively when used one on one. It helps the child focus.

Here is how to use this method

  • Sit with the child next to you, so that both of you can see the pages of the book.
  • Read the first page, then turn and face the child. Discuss what is on the page while pointing to the pictures.
  • Then ask what might happen next.
  • Now turn the page and see if they were right.
  • Read that page and repeat the steps.

This method will help the child participate in story time. This type of reading is more about the interaction than the book. Keep this in mind when using this with a child who doesn't talk much.

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Book Sharing Method

  • This does not mean sharing the book.
  • It means sharing what is in the book.
  • Pick a book that the children have taken an interest in. [example: Green Eggs and Ham]
  • Sit on the floor with the children.
  • Hold up the book and point to any page.
  • Ask silly questions about what is on the page. Like: Why is the butterfly sitting on the flower? Or what are those white things in the sky?
  • Now let the children answer, there are no wrong answers.

A little boy sitting on the floor with a book in his lap using sign language.

A little boy sitting on the floor with a book in his lap using sign language.

About Using Hand Signs

Use simple, one-handed signs of animals and other relevant words. Some ideas are: eat, drink, bear, frog and my favorite, cow.

If you don't know these signs, there are many sites online to help you learn them.

  • Pick a few words in a book and learn the signs for them.
  • As you read the book, every time you come across these words, use the hand sign for it and keep reading. Do not stop, make it seem normal to use the sign.
  • While getting ready for lunch, use hand signs to tell the children it's time to eat or to please sit down. This time to use the words, just the signs, and you do it.
  • The children will become curious and start copying with you. Before you know it they are using the same signs you did.
  • Take pictures of the children using sign language, and make a book out of them. Leave the book in the Library Center.
  • Put pictures of how to use the signs on the wall.

Whatever you do, don't just sit down and explain each sign to them. They won't understand. Young children learn by modeling what to do. They will start using the signs and surprise you how many they can remember by using this method.

My class can now use over 50 signs correctly, without any prompting from me or photos.

What Sign Language Teaches:

1. To learn through experience

2. To use imagination during play

3. To notice details

4. To approach new experiences with confidence

5. To use symbols to represent objects

This quote is from Alaska's Early Learning Guidelines Handbook

"Children are active learners, drawing on direct physical and social experiences as well as culturally transmitted knowledge to construct their own understandings of the world around them."

One little girl on the floor playing, and another girl standing with dress up close.

One little girl on the floor playing, and another girl standing with dress up close.

Techniques for Pretend Play

These are my favorite techniques. I use it with several other methods.

  • Dress up crazy before you go to work.
  • Use pretend to play to act out the stories.

How do you use pretend play for storytelling?

  • Have Storytelling Wed.
  • Supply various costumes and clothing for the children to put on.
  • Go about your day, with all the class dressed up in pretend clothes.
  • Make sure they have hats, shoes, purses, and other accessories
  • Now instead of just telling stories with props, set up each center with different activities that you have used for storytelling time.
  • Sit back and watch. You will be surprised.

Book Sharing and Dialogical Reading Goals


To answer simple questions

To notice details in pictures

To interact with adults

To demonstrate awareness that written materials can be used for various purposes

Learning Standards Accomplished


To be able to use imagination and experience to express themselves through pretend play

To encourage the children to use their imagination

To be able to demonstrate awareness that written material can be used for a variety of purposes

To be able to use creative arts to express what they know, think, and feel


I use all these methods every week, and a few more that are not mentioned in this article. My classroom consists of older ones and younger twos. This age learns best by the teacher modeling how to do things. So instead of telling the children how to have fun, show them how to have fun with storytelling.

Through my research of Early Learning Guidelines across the United States, I found one state that thinks as I do. Alaska's guidelines line up with the way I teach. Keep in mind I have been teaching this way for many years and only recently looked at the other state's early learning standards.

Here are a few goals that can be achieved by combining these techniques.

  • Children improve small motor muscles.
  • Children participate in daily activities.
  • Children begin to regulate their feelings and impulses.
  • Children collect information through observation and manipulation.
  • Children learn about other cultures.
  • Children begin to communicate effectively.

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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Joanna Blackburn


Joanna Blackburn (author) from Texas on November 04, 2019:

Your very welcome. I am working on some new ones right now and improving the ones that are already out.

Joanie Ruppel from Keller, Texas on September 02, 2019:

Thank you for sharing your teaching methods!

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