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Tips for effective Storytelling

The telling of a good story remains the most effective way of imparting spiritual truths to children. Children will forget basic facts, but will remember a good story, especially if it is told in an interesting and exciting way.

Jesus is THE Great Storyteller of course, and remains our best example to follow. Read the Parables, and learn from the Master.

I have found that the best way to improve my storytelling is by listening to other storytellers. Over the years I have heard many excellent storytellers, and have learned something from all of them. I have sometimes been able to simply repeat the story in the same way that I heard it told. Other times, I have been able to adapt the story to suit my own class and personal storytelling preferences.

There are however certain tips that we can learn that will improve our storytelling, and I have listed some of them below.

1. Decide what is the point of your story? What truth do you want your class to learn? It is best to have only one point (or at most two) and plan your story around this.

2. Make your story exciting. Be dramatic. Move around the room as you are telling it. Change the tone and speed of your voice at appropriate times. If you are not excited about the story, then the children won’t be either. Practice beforehand until you can tell it without having to pause to think what comes next?

3. Tell your stories in lots of different ways. Use plenty of props such as clothing, pictures and maps to make your stories more interesting. If appropriate, you could even incorporate a good object lesson or illusion into your story. If you are teaching a Biblical story, tell it in context. I often take along a Time Line, that lists all the major Biblical events in chronological order, to show the class where a particular story (especially if it is one from the Old Testament) fits into God’s redemptive plan. Never lose sight of the Big Picture.

4. If you are telling a story about a Bible character, consider ‘becoming’ that character. Dress up as the character, and tell it from his/her viewpoint.

5. Consider telling familiar stories from different angles – to keep the children guessing! e.g. Daniel and the Lion’s den from the viewpoint of one of the lions, David and Goliath from the viewpoint of the Giant (don’t mention Goliath’s name till the conclusion), the Good Samaritan from the viewpoint of the Donkey etc. etc.

6. Involve the children as much as possible. There is much truth to the old Chinese proverb : –
I hear, I forget.
I see, I remember.
I do, I understand.
Your class could be asked to copy specific actions that you do throughout your story, or to respond to phrases they hear by giving a certain response. You could ask for feedback from the children as your story is progressing. How do you think Character A was feeling at this point? What do you think Character B was thinking here? What would you have done in this situation? etc.

7. Consider telling your story by getting children to act out a play. Write out a simple script for them to read as they act it out. You don’t have to stick strictly to the Biblical narrative, as long as you are getting your point across.

Think about telling Biblical stories in a modern setting. The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan (e.g. the Priest, Levite, Samaritan, Donkey and Innkeeper become respectively a Politician, Sunday school teacher, Gang member, Motor Bike and Hospital Receptionist) have worked well for me.

Think about telling your story as a Puppet play. I usually record the story on cassette beforehand using different character voices, and then play it back as selected children operate the puppets.

8. Children love to hear personal stories about Teacher, so tell a few, especially from when you were about their age. This is a good way of teaching children how they can learn from their mistakes, and about the Goodness of God.

by Maurice Sweetsur, http://objectlessons.blogspot.com/

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