Even if children cannot yet write, they can still learn to tell stories. This is why oral storytelling practice is such a valuable tool for our emergent writers! Learning to tell stories with detail will help your students write with detail later on.
Yet, with all the rich benefits, oral storytelling is often a skill that’s skipped or not done enough in kindergarten and first grade.
But we’re going to change that! Let me share some easy ways you can incorporate oral storytelling practice into your curriculum.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for a FREE story sequencing and retelling activity!
And if you’re looking for more strategies for supporting struggling writers, check out this post! And if you’re new to the Writers Workshop model, read A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Workshop in Kindergarten & First Grade.
When I tell you the skill of oral storytelling is chock full of benefits, I am not kidding. Oral storytelling…
- Teaches and reinforces story structure
- Supports vocabulary development
- Deepens comprehension and understanding of the story
- Prepares kids for writing their own stories
- Increases self-confidence
Here are 6 simple and fun strategies for incorporating oral storytelling practice in your classroom each week:
Retell a familiar story!
One of the simplest strategies you can use to introduce and practice oral storytelling with your emergent writers is to have your students retell the books you’ve read aloud in class. We all read stories together in Kindergarten and 1st grade. So, why not introduce your students to oral storytelling by having them practice retelling what they just heard in a story to a partner or to the whole class?
You can scaffold this by turning the pages of the book so that they can see the pictures as a reminder of what happens.
If you have picture cards that go with the story, these are great for support as well. I like to keep my read-alouds in a bag with the story picture cards. Students can use these to retell during centers as well.
Have fun with wordless books!
If you know me, you know I LOVE using wordless books! My absolute favorite is Chalk by Bill Thomson. Wordless books are a great way to support and inspire oral storytelling with your students.
To use wordless books for oral storytelling practice, have your students come up with the words to the story with you. Guide them to use vivid verbs! In the book Chalk, we used the word fluttered rather than flew, raced rather than ran, and melted rather than went away.
After retelling together a few times, reminding students of their new vivid words, have them practice telling their story orally to a partner.
I created simple wordless books that kids can write in. These include familiar fairy tales, simple stories kids can relate to, life cycles, and how-to books. You can check out my Wordless Book Bundle here!
Use a shared class experience!
Shared experiences are perfect for oral storytelling. Using events that happened in the classroom allows everyone to hone their storytelling skills because they’re all familiar with the story!
You don’t have to wait for a field trip or huge event to write about it as a class! “Writable” moments happen every day in your classroom: the tub of pattern blocks tipping over, the bug that flew into the classroom, the moment that outdoor recess was announced and everyone cheered. Writing about “small” things shows your students that they have tons of things they can write about!
Have students tell the story while you write it. You can also use a shared experience as an opportunity to teach about sentence structure as you write a class book together.
Choose Monday Storytellers!
Every Monday, choose a few students to tell about something they did that weekend! I’ve found that most kids love having the opportunity to share about their weekends. The catch here is that you guide them and encourage them to tell it like a story!
Model great oral storytelling!
Your students are always learning from you and listening to you. Be sure that when you tell stories, you are enthusiastic, modeling elements of oral storytelling for them.
Tell them stories about your life. One thing to keep in mind here is to model with a “storyteller’s voice”. Use lots of detail, vivid verbs, and elements like “show, not tell” and suspense to keep them engaged.
Act it out!
And now, one of the most fun ways to incorporate oral storytelling practice in your day… act it out! Have kids act out a familiar story in groups.
While some of the kids are acting out the story, have another student narrate or tell the story. And, don’t forget to remind the narrator to use that “storyteller’s voice!”
And, here are 5 tips you can use to improve oral storytelling skills with your emergent writers:
- Tip #1: Spend some time revising the story with stronger words and by adding more details!
- Tip #2: Act out your stories with gestures while telling them!
- Tip #3: Have kids echo your retelling, then practice with a partner!
- Tip #4: Use picture supports to help kids remember the events as they’re telling the story!
- Tip #5: Do this often, it will take lots of practice! Repeated retellings of the same story are so helpful!
Our Favorite Tool for Storytelling
Our favorite tool for practicing oral storytelling is Story Pop-ups! These have a story scene for students to use as the background while storytelling with the picture pieces.
Students cut out and use the pictures to retell the story on the background scene, glue the pictures to show the sequence, and write the ending of the story.
You can ask students to retell the story to someone at home, using the sequenced pictures to help them!
The bundle includes 40 books and each book has 3 versions for differentiation.
I also have smaller bundles with 10-13 books.
If you’d like to try a FREE set for Room on the Broom, let me know where to send it below!
I hope these tips help you to feel more confident as you help your students to become oral storytellers! Remember, even if your students can not yet write, they still have stories to tell. And they can tell them through oral storytelling!
If you have any questions about oral storytelling or unique ideas for teaching oral storytelling, please leave them below!