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Storytelling for Young Children

Updated on August 11, 2017
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Joanna Blackburn has studied Instructional strategies, Accommodations, and Modifications for the classroom at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Included In This Article

Included will be activities on how to use these methods:

  • puppet play
  • book sharing
  • dialogical reading
  • sign language
  • pretend play


Diverse Stories

To spark the 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 the children to express themselves through dramatic play.

Ideas for Diverse Stories

To find some cultural 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 really have fun learning this stories. They are short and witty.

Puppet Play [Activity]

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 to each other.

After a few times of doing this, put 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.

What Puppet Play Teaches

To be able to use their imagination
To be able to manipulate objects
To be able to use positive negotiation skills
To be able to express what they know, think, believe and feel
Try to include props from other cultures for the children to choice from.

The Book Sharing Method

  • This does not mean to share the book.
  • It means to share 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.

Dialogical Reading

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

What Book Sharing and Dialogical Reading Teaches

To be able to answer simple questions
To be able to notice details in pictures
To be able to interact with adults
To demonstrate awareness that written materials can be used for a variety of purposes

The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension offer a big variety of Free Child Development courses.

Sign Language

This is the sign for eat
This is the sign for eat | Source

About 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 do use the sign.
  • While getting ready for lunch, use hand signs to tell the children its time to eat, or to please sit down. This time to use the words just the signs and you doing it.
  • The children will become curious and start coping 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 of how to use the signs on the wall.

What ever you do, don't just sit down and explain each sign to them. They won't understand. Young children learn by you 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

To be able to learn through experience
To be able to use imagination during play
To be able to notice details
To be able to approach new experiences with confidence
To be able to use symbols to represent objects

Having Fun


Using Pretend Play

This is my favorite techniques. I use it with several of the other methods.

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

How do you use pretend play for storytelling?

  • Have Storytelling Wed.
  • Supply a variety of different costumes and clothing for the children to put on.
  • Go about your day, with all of the class dressed up in the 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.

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 of 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 by having fun with storytelling.


Through my research of Early Learning Guidelines across the United States, I found one state that thinks like 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 states early learning standards.

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

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

One Last Word

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."

What did your children enjoy the most?

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