What Makes a Good Story?

Educational Objective:

Students will be able to identify strong things and weak things about storytelling after watching various examples and apply strong things to their own stories as well as decide upon which medium of story (traditional, puppets, overhead projector, or felt board) that they will use to tell their stories.


Materials Needed:

• Each student must have his or her storybook
• Computer connected to projector
• Access to YouTube
• Your own story to tell as an example
• An example of a sheet of colored felt



Show the example of a woman telling the story of Tortoise and the Hare to a class of elementary students. (The address to this video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_032nPgwdM). This clip is nearly 11 minutes long.



Ask the students to analyze the woman’s performance. How did this traditional telling differ from the traditional telling of The Gingerbread Man? What elements of storytelling did she use? What pieces of learnability and tellability could they tell that she used and/or thought about in her telling? How can we use these techniques in our own tellings?


Step 1 (Individual Practice):

Ask the students to read their books aloud to themselves. Everyone will read his book at the same time in a conversational tone. Ask them to evaluate their stories once more for tellability and learnability as they read aloud, as this will be a different experience than reading it in their heads and assessing it. Ask them to keep in mind the specifics of tellability and learnability as found in their packets as well as the discussion they just had.


Step 2 (Discussion):

Ask the class what they found when reading their stories aloud. Did they find that they may have to look for a different story? Did they “nail it” and know that this story will be great? Did anyone begin to think about how they will be able to tell this story the best using the three different types of telling they can choose from (traditional, puppets, overhead projector, or felt board).


Step 3 (Story time and discussion):

Tell a story from your own repertoire, asking the students to assess you for what was good and what was not. I tell the story of the Raven and the Sun in a traditional manner; it is a story from the Northwestern Native American tribes, and it is easy to use physicality with it. The basic story can be found in the supplements of this lesson, which I have embellished according to my own storytelling style and how it was told to me when I was a young girl. Discuss the things they found in your story that were good and bad and why they found them as such. You may want to teach them at this point how to give feedback in the form of “I wonder”, which is an easy way to make critiques less upsetting. The basic rule here is any form of critique in order to better the story must start with “I wonder” and finish with a specific thing that might happen in order to better the storytelling experience. (Example: I wonder if you used your arms more if it would allow us to see the raven better? ) This saves students from having to endure comments like “I was bored” or “I didn’t believe you were the bird” and, instead, makes the person who is giving a critique also have to give a way to fix what they found to be lacking. These wonders, of course, can be ultimately taken or left by the teller.



Ask the students to read their stories to themselves once more and to figure out what medium to tell their stories with by applying elements of good storytelling to how they picture themselves telling their stories. Students must turn in a slip of paper as they leave class with their name, their story title, and what medium of story they will be performing with. Students who wish to tell with felt must also turn in a list of what color felt they will need to create their pieces with as well as how many squares of each color. Make sure you show the students how large the sheet of colored felt is so that they can give you an exact number.



• Basic story of “Raven and the Sun:
In the beginning, the world was in total darkness. The Raven, who had existed from the beginning of time, was tired of groping about and bumping into things in the dark.
Eventually the Raven came upon the home of an old man who lived alone with his daughter. Through his slyness, the Raven learned that the old man had a great treasure. This was all the light in the universe, contained in a tiny box concealed within many boxes.
At once the Raven vowed to steal the light.
He thought and thought, and finally came up with a plan. He waited until the old man’s daughter came to the river to gather water. Then the Raven changed himself into a single hemlock needle and dropped himself into the river, just as the girl was dipping her water-basket into the river.
As she drank from the basket, she swallowed the needle. It slipped and slithered down into her warm belly, where the Raven transformed himself again, this time into a tiny human. After sleeping and growing there for a very long time, at last the Raven emerged into the world once more, this time as a human infant.
Even though he had a rather strange appearance, the Raven’s grandfather loved him. But the old man threatened dire punishment if he ever touched the precious treasure box. Nonetheless the Ravenchild begged and begged to be allowed to hold the light just for a moment.
In time the old man yielded, and lifted from the box a warm and glowing sphere, which he threw to his grandson.
As the light was moving toward him, the human child transformed into a gigantic black shadowy bird-form, wings spread ready for flight, and beak open in anticipation. As the beautiful ball of light reached him, the Raven captured it in his beak!
Moving his powerful wings, he burst through the smokehole in the roof of the house, and escaped into the darkness with his stolen treasure, placing it in the sky to shine upon the whole earth. That is how light came to be on the earth.