Bringing stories to life

The full text of Stories Alive, including the material for all 10 stories as well as detailed teachers’ notes is now available at the bottom of the Resources page. If you don’t have it already, please feel free to download it, experiment with it, and adapt it for your classes. Most of what I’m doing in my online sessions with kids uses material from here but this week I want to focus on something a bit different. One area of storytelling that I haven’t really looked at so far with these posts is working with picture books. With very young learners especially,  I’ve often felt that if all teachers ever did was tell their kids stories from these books, then something very useful would be going on. There are some wonderful books out there too – books with very satisfying rhyme and rhythm patterns, books with simple but engaging language, books with amazing visuals. So what are your favourite picture stories for young learners, and what do you do with them? Let’s use this space for sharing ideas.

To kick us off here’s one of my old favourites, We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury. As part of the British Council’s wonderful Kids Read programme, I’ve told this story to children of different ages and levels in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine and Qatar, and I’ve often used it with teachers in the same places to demonstrate motivating ways of working with a story book. It was a personal favourite of my own children as they were growing up and my eldest son, who’s now 21, remembers it with a lot of nostalgia from his childhood. There are lots of different versions of it on youtube including at least one by the author himself. But the version below performed by the girls at Beit Hanoun Elementary co-ed “A” UNRWA school, Gaza is my personal all time favourite. It blew me away when it was performed to me live through zoom a few weeks ago. This is the recording that was made afterwards. I love it for their enthusiasm and commitment, and for the fact that the story is no longer a piece of printed material, but something very much alive.


Bear Hunt - cover

7 thoughts on “Bringing stories to life

  1. Really wonderful girls trained very well by their wonderful teacher. Amazing acting and storytelling at the same time. .


  2. Wonderful girls trained very well by their wonderful teacher. Seems the girls are very active and happy. Amazing acting and a storytelling at the same time


    1. Yes – it really feels like they are in the story, doesn’t it Nuha – even the ones who are sitting down.


  3. Hi Mr Nick. When you told us the story in Ramallah we enjoyed it as a song rather than a story. I was mixed by some words and when to use them as “swishy” and “squelch”, so I didn’t think I can tell it to my class .One day , I downloaded it at home and my kids watched the video. After two days , I was surprised when my two years old daughter was watching the video saying the ends of words and moving her arms saying “swishy”.So , the next day I told it to my class , the girls started repeating and telling with me as a song. And in the video, you can feel the energy and the enthusiasm that the girls have.This shows that children like this kind of stories which has a rhyme, they deal with it as a song. Anther example,in my class l always use ” I spy ” game when I start I spy , the whole class are repeating with me as a song till I reach the puzzle or the question.Moreover , stories with with amazing pictures have a strong impact in children’s minds,for example, ” How big is a million” with it’s wonderful drawings presents new aspects and items about environment,but it doesn’t stay with children for a long time.
    In short, stories with rhythm stay longer and have powerful impact in mind.


    1. You did a great job of motivating them to perform this story Sahar. How did you do it? Did it take a lot of practice for them to learn it off by heart like this? Yes, I agree about the value of stories with rhythm. ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ is a classic example of this. What other stories in the Kids Read collection have a good rhythm?


  4. Frankly it doesn’t take much time. The first day it took about ten minutes because I divided the roles and confirmed that the girls playing the roles understand and pronounce their words correctly, as you know the new words are not familiar like “swishy,squelch, splosh and swirling”. Then it was very easy .I used it as a warming up activity for four more days .The whole training from the beginning took just 25 minutes during the week.
    Concerning the Stories Alive material I think I can use the chant while telling the story if the story has similar events, this makes the children follow you and share you telling the story, for example “Tunjur”, “The hare and the tortoise” and the most related chant to story” Juha and the donkey”. I used the chant of “Juha and the donkey” during telling the story, in each new situation the girls were sharing with me “Juha Juha you shouldn’t do that”.


    1. I think this is an excellent way of working with any kind of chant or rhythmic story Sahar. We could very quickly kill their enthusiasm by spending a long time going over and over it until we feel they’ve got it right. Far better in my opinion to do what you suggest here. Spending a little bit of time each day on it, encourages the kids to take it away in their heads between classes and process it on their own. They may even try it out it on their parents or relatives I guess.


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