Posted in Role playing stories

Storytelling with Early Years

A book with a castle at the forest

Storytelling with Early Years

The following are some pointers you should use when story telling to young children the first thing that a teacher/educator should do is identify the children’s interest. Identify the children’s interest. Examples of topics that children maybe interest are animals, stories where children their age are heroes’ stories about things children like to do, getting dirty, playing with an adult around, trying something new for the first time, etc.

Another question that often comes to light especially with new teachers is “where do I find good and appropriate stories for young children?” The stories can be from your head that you have remembered from childhood or have  made up. The stories can be from picture books particularly useful if trying to encouraging reading.  Libraries have many collections of folktales often compiled in easy format books, or adaptable to your needs. Stories that deal with families are also often very effective.

There are some key elements that you must engage with to make story time successful. You must know and like your story, know and like your audience and make sure the story and audience match each other. Another important point is that you must be flexible.

The next important step is you must learn to tell  a story. First you must learn the bare bones plot (3 pigs left home and each built a house: one of sticks, one of straw, one of bricks. A wolf came and blew down the straw and stick houses. He tried to get into the brick house but got boiled when he went down the chimney into a pot of water. The End; a fox made a crow drop some cheese by flattering her into opening her mouth to sing. The End. Etc.)  Practice it and tell it to yourself while driving. You should tape it and listen to it and if you want look at yourself in the mirror while practising so you can see your facial expression and body language.

You must make the stories  exciting and fun. The following are the tools of the teller:

A good voice exercise is to write some sentences on a blackboard, and have each person say them in different situations. For instance, say “I want a cup of coffee” as though you were tired, happy, angry, disgusted, humiliated, etc. Then change this to an entire situation: you are in your boss’s office and he has just fired you. Let them choose the emotion and the voice.

Body language
Have two people hold up a sheet, and two more stand behind it, the sheet covering their torsos and upper legs. Whisper an emotion into their ears, and then say “go.” Have the students point out what made them know which emotions they were imitating. This is called cultural knowledge. We know when people are angry, sad, excited, etc. We don’t always know why we know, but we do know. So do children in fact, they are sometimes quicker to pick this up because they need it for living by adult rules. So be careful with your face and body language; the children are reading it.

There are many old theatre games that work well here. One I like is the Magic Box – an imaginary box that goes around the circle, each person pulling out and using an object until everyone has guessed what it is. This involves the next tool: cooperation. Someone will choose something complex , and no one will be able to guess. Then we have to cooperate with the audience, help them, give them clues. It is our responsibility, not theirs, to provide the communication needed to make the link to our thoughts.

Remember: you’re not just telling stories; you’re teaching them to be an audience

  • Intersperse with rhymes, fingerplays, prop stories
  • Sing
  • Keep stories short

Some examples of good storytelling activities are as follows:

Game: Pop-up Story Book

  • Age: 3 years +
  • Minimum number of participants: 2
  • Resources needed: Clear space, a story book.
  • Other Benefits: This is an excellent listening game that can be played with any number of children. It helps them to engage in the storytelling process.
  • Instructions: The teacher chooses a story to read that the children are familiar with. Each child is given a word. For example if the teacher was reading ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, child A is given the word Goldilocks, child B, baby, child C, porridge, child D, bed and so on. When each child has been given a word the game can begin. All the children lie on the floor. When the child hears his/her word s/he must jump up. If they miss their turn they are out and can’t pop-up anymore.

Participation/movement stories

Game: The Hungry Tree

  • Age: 5+
  • Minimum number of participants: 3
  • Resources needed: Clear space.
  • Other Benefits: This is an excellent introduction to improvisation as the children are free to explore their imaginations. It also helps with their co-ordination skills.
  • Instructions: The teacher tells the children the following story and they have to improvise the movements in the story. The teacher gets the children to imagine they are an adventurer who wants to go on an adventure. They have to pack up their bags. The teacher asks what they need in the bags. Children’s answers are usually for example water, sandwiches, sun cream, and sunglasses and so on. The children mime putting all these essentials into their bag and then mime all the actions in the adventure below. The teacher says imagine you are walking quickly because you are so happy to be on your adventure. You see a mountain and decide you should climb it. The sun is getting hotter and hotter and you are getting tired. You get very, very tired. You wipe your brow to show how tired you are. You begin to climb slower and slower. You are very thirsty. You take out your water and take a drink. You put it back in your bag and climb the rest of the way up  the mountain. Eventually you get to the top. You are exhausted, very hot and very hungry. You decide it is time for your picnic. You see a lovely tree and you go and sit under its shade. You eat your picnic and go for a nap. Then suddenly you wake up and see the tree moving towards you. The tree grabs you and you realise it is a very hungry tree and wants to eat you. You scream. You struggle. You fight the branches but you are getting weaker and weaker. Then suddenly the tree stops fighting for a moment. You get your chance to escape. You quickly grab your bag, and run back down the mountain. You get to the end and you don’t stop in case the hungry tree is running after you. You run all the way home, lock all the doors and hide under the table.


Some advice on how to keep the children focused while storytelling.

Magic Glue  This is a basic scenario: “Okay, now everybody is standing up, right? Here we go. Pick your right leg up with your hands. Now stick it to the floor with the magic (or imaginary) glue. Push it down hard. Wiggle it around. Is it stuck? Oops, that one’s not stuck; better try again. Everybody stuck? Good, now the left leg. Okay, can you move your feet off the floor? Try.” All sorts of contortions as you show them your feet are stuck. “Okay, now let’s run with our feet stuck to the floor!” If you do it, they will do it.

If you wish to read more ideas about the different dram games that can be used with young children in early years settings and primary school, please go to Drama Start  and enter the coupon REW50 and you will receive a copy of the book for  a special price of  €2-00. Alternatively you can buy the kindle version of the book form or

Posted in Drama Activities for children, Drama for children, drama for kids, Movement stories for children

Drama movement games – Part 2


Name: Cat and mouse.

Age: 4 years +.

Required number: 10+.

Requirements: Clear space.

Procedure: All children are in pairs. One child is cat, one other child is mouse, and all others stay in pairs, arms hooked together. Cat chases mouse; when mouse is caught then mouse becomes cat and vice versa. However, mouse can escape chase by hooking into any pair of other players. At that point the player at the other end of the pair becomes cat and the cat becomes mouse.

Name: Magic Box.

Age: 3 years +.

Required number:  2+.

Requirements: Clear space.

Procedure: This is a fun mime game. Everyone sits in a circle. Ask the students can they see the box in the centre of the circle. Ask them what colour is it?. What shape is it? It can be a different shape and colour depending on where you are sitting in the circle. This is because it is a magic box. The teacher goes in first and opens the box and takes out an object. She then mimes the object and the class must get what object it is. When the students guess what object it is the teacher puts the object in the box and closes it. Whoever guessed correctly takes a turn at taking something out of the box.

Name: Captain’s coming.

Age: 4 years +.

Minimum number of participants:  3+.

Resources: Clear space

Procedure: The teacher can be the captain or one child is chosen to be the captain. The captain calls out orders to the rest of the children who are the crew. If a child does not follow an order correctly s/he is out. !

Orders                                     Action

Bow                                          run to the left side of the space

Stern                                        run to the right side of the space

Port                                          run to the left.

Starboard                              run to the right

Man overboard                   lie on back and swim

Submarines                           lie on back and stick one leg straight up.

Man the Lifeboats               find a partner, sit together, and row!

scrub the Decks                   children crouch down and pretend to clean the floor with their hands.

Climb the Rigging                 children pretend to climb a rope ladder.

Captain’s coming                  children salute and shout out “Aye Aye Captain”

Man Overboard                     children on their backs waving legs and arms in air as they drown.

Walk the Plank                       children have to walk in a perfect straight line one foot exactly in front of the other with arms outstretched to the sides.

Captain’s daughter is coming.     everyone curtseys

Hit the Deck                             children lie down on their stomachs.

 For more Mime and Movement ideas buy Drama Start Two Drama Activities and Plays for Children (ages 9 to 12) at or or if you can buy the kindle version from or

Posted in co-operation, Drama Activities for children, Drama for children, Role playing stories

Setting up a role play in an Early Education Setting

Children dressing up as professionals

Role Play

Role Play can be one of the most important activities for young children; it not only stimulates their imagination but can help with their social development. Literacy, numeracy and other curriculum activities can all be planned as part of a role play situation

A Garden Shop

This can be particularly appropriate in the Spring and Summer Terms when it can coincide with growing activities.

Suggested items to collect:

Plant pots, Containers of artificial flowers, Seed packets (made by the children), Posters, and Child sized: Spade, Fork, Trowel, Canes, Watering can, Seed trays and Sieve


Take a trip to a local garden centre.

Grow cress, sunflowers, pumpkins, beans, bean sprouts etc.

Design and make seed packets.

Make paper and card flowers for the shop.

Discuss safety issues in a garden, including poisonous plants and berries.

Maths activities – Counting, using plant pots and seeds, flowers in a bucket.

Money, using a play till and money.

There are endless variations of shops: Bakers, Newsagents, Shoe and Clothes shops, even a mini supermarket which can all incorporate activities from other curriculum areas.

A cafe

This is appropriate any time of the year and can encourage a lot of interaction between the children. Make a change by having a French or Italian cafe – the possibilities are endless.

Suggested items to collect: Plastic Tea set, Beakers, Napkins and serviettes, Plastic cutlery, Trays,  Play food, Cakes and Biscuits,  Menu cards, Blackboard for menu,  Notepads and pencils,  Hats and aprons,  Chairs and tables,


Cooking, making small cakes and biscuits to sell in the shop.

Use the cafe as a way of introducing food from other cultures.

Make menu cards or have a blackboard for the children to write the menu for the day.

Maths activities – Weighing out ingredients when cooking.

Money, using a play till and money.

Counting and sorting cups, saucers, plates and cutlery, cakes etc.

A Theatre or Cinema Box Office

Again this is appropriate any time of the year and could coincide with an end of term performance of songs or play for the parents.

Suggested items to collect: Computer,  Keyboard,  Play till,   Posters, (real or child made),  Tickets,  Simple seating plan, Popcorn,  Programmes (made by the children),  Uniform,


Making posters and programmes.

The box office could be used to sell tickets to parents for an end of term event.

If possible this activity could coincide with a visit to a local theatre.

Making popcorn, looking at the change in the corn

Maths activities – Money, using a play till and money.

Counting by making a seating plan out of squared paper and using coloured stickers to stick on the squares to represent when the seat has been sold.

Introducing time, what time the performances will start.