12 Resources for Teaching Storytelling


image credit: Jerry Kirkhart

I love teaching storytelling!  The kids are motivated and love the opportunity to talk about themselves.  Writing comes naturally.  There are so many great connections to literature from The Odyssey to The Things They Carried.

Honestly, the biggest problem I’ve ever had with storytelling is teachers from different years fighting over who gets what in their curriculum because everyone wants a storytelling unit.  But given the right resources, there are a lot of different approaches you can take to storytelling, so that everyone can have their own unit.

So here are a dozen storytelling resources:

How Stories Are Told around The World from TED Ideas.  One way to differentiate would be to focus on a particular culture and their storytelling tradition.

This poem by Lisel Mueller.  The title “Why We Tell Stories” is very clear.  The rest of the poem is challenging, but manageable and I’ve always found that kids are intrigued by it.

“How Dark?  How Stormy? I Can’t Recall.”  Anna Quindlen’s essay raises some interesting questions about truth in memoir and details in story.

Mensa for Kids’ lesson plans on the Art of Storytelling.  Okay, I have a bit of a teacher bone to pick here.  These aren’t really lesson plans, they’re more like ideas for activities.  But there are some good ideas for activities that you could incorporate into your own lesson plans.

National Gallery Paintings for Storytelling.  I love including art in the ELA classroom and a storytelling unit is a great place to do it.  Luckily, the National Gallery has already put together a collection.

Listening Is an Act of Love from StoryCorps.  Storycorps does a great job of promoting the idea of stories from everyday people.  This animated video on the importance of listening to others tell stories would make a great intro to an oral history project.

The Moth Education Resources.  A lot of adults I know love The Moth radio broadcast and open mic nights.  But they’re in bars.  And who knows what you’ll hear.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find they have school safe versions and educational resources online.

“The Psychology of Life Stories” by Dan McAdams.  If you do much research into the academic study of storytelling or narrative pyschology, the name Dan McAdams is bound to pop up.   This essay is a nice introduction to his work for students who are ready to tackle scholarly writing or for yourself.

“Life’s Stories.”  If the McAdams’ piece is a bit more scholaraly than what you’re looking for, this Atlantic article does a nice job of making the academic theories about why humans tell stories to make sense of their lives accessible.

Storytelling Quotes.  Just what it sounds like.

This TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie on the danger of a single story is an English teacher favorite.  Funny, insightful and yet accessible, what’s not to love?

“The Most Human Art” by Scott Russell Sanders.  This essay provides ten reasons why storytelling is important to humans.  It would make a great framework for a portfolio or synthesis project where kids found or created examples. 

I’d love to hear about how you approach storytelling in your classroom and what works for you!

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