Children are tale tellers

Children are tale tellers featured
June 15th, 2017

Lesley McFarlane, Reading Leader, The District CE Primary School, St Helens

The biggest part of my day, every day, is books. I read them, teach from them, refer to them, source them, order them, stamp and catalogue them. Most of all, I tidy them. However, I make time in the week to tell stories without a book in front of me. I mostly tell traditional tales: old, old favourites – Cinderella, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, and a particularly delicious one to tell, The Three Little Pigs.


The children are completely engrossed. This is nothing to do with me; these tales are tried and tested over many generations. I love to see the look of horror on the children’s faces as I tell them how the cruel sisters mock Cinderella and tell her how ridiculous she is to think she’d be allowed to attend the Prince’s Grand Ball. Then, their sense of satisfaction as Cinderella is whisked away to the palace to live happily ever after. There are squeals of fear from the children as I put on my best ‘Big Bad Wolf’ voice and terrify the Three Little Pigs. I could wax lyrical about these story times all day; of the joy I get from telling them and the enjoyment they get from hearing them. I am well aware that some of the stories jar with more modern concepts but I am also confident that all these things are balanced up in the rest of the curriculum.

I was in a year one class doing a lesson that had to have an English lesson flavour, but did not carry on directly from their previous lesson (that was to be done that afternoon). I decided that speaking and listening should be at the heart of things but that the art of storytelling was a fabulous way to do this.

The session started with me asking if they remembered me telling stories ‘out of my head.’ I told them that to be a storyteller you needed a good memory.

Next, I went on to tell them a very short, simple story about how the tortoise got the scars on his shell. I used this as I knew their topic was Africa and that they were using Tinga Tinga tales as their book base in English.


When the tale was told, I brought out a tray with six or seven items covered with a cloth. The children worked with partners to decide what all the items were and remember them. After a thirty second look, it was covered again and they had to draw or write as many as they could remember. We played a few variations of the game then came back together on the carpet.

I asked the children if they would help me make a story map of the tale I had told them earlier, which we did together but didn’t labour over it too long.

I then asked if anyone thought they had a good memory and could swap places with me and tell us all the tale of How the Tortoise Got His Scars. Some children almost rocketed off the carpet in their enthusiasm to be Tale Teller! Those who I knew to be more quiet or shy were certainly not put on the spot. The children in the story telling chair were helped and encouraged by their class mates and did indeed become tellers of tales.

Next week, we will carry on in a similar vein, developing memory, holding a story in their mind and practising the skill of listening and helping others remember when they are struggling.

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