Book Review: The Storytelling School Handbook for Teachers and 147 Traditional Stories for Primary School Children to Retell

This review appeared in Volume 62 of the School Librarian journal, the quarterly newsletter of the School Librarian Association, Autumn 2014. Reviewed by Janet Dowling.

If you have been inspired to use stories in your Schools curriculum, but not sure how to start, these are the resources you need.

The first is volume 1 of a developing series of eight volumes to support the Storytelling Schools initiative to encourage and develop students to learn storytelling skills to build their confidence and fluency in spoken languages, and raise standards of reading and writing. Pie Corbett’s foreword emphasises that children need to first develop the story on an oral basis that can lead to a more structured and richer experience when the student eventually writes upon the page.

This exceptional manual enables the classroom teacher to work by themselves, or with the school as a whole, to develop skills using the retelling of stories, drama techniques and creative writing. It takes you step by step from learning a story, and telling it in class, to use of games, to teaching the class how to learn a story, and ways to develop and make up stories. It has clear instructions and is full of examples and helpful suggestions of how to maximise student thinking and input. The final chapter has methods for storytelling to be integrated throughout the curriculum and become the heart of the educational process, with advice on how to become a storytelling school. There are even taster school timetables!

Some sample stories are included but the main story resource is in volume 2: the 147 stories are grouped by year group from 1 to 6, with the language getting progressively more complicated. The introduction explains how to use the book, and all the stories come with tips on how to approach telling them using Pie Corbett’s Imitation, Innovation, Invention model.

The appendices include school topics such as growing up or transitions, ‘values’ (e.g. cleverness or honesty), basic plot types (comedy, monster, quest), country of origin, as well as a simple alphabetical listing. It is designed to be easily accessible by the teacher to identify and demonstrate the skills, and relate the class topic with an appropriate story. They also introduce story genre (anecdote, fable, myth etc.) and the ‘Ladder to the Moon’ as a way of progressively raising the level of language and imaginative immersion during a storytelling session. A second appendix on the sources and resources gives the background sources for the stories, plus links to websites with written texts and videos of stories being told. Together or separately these are a useful resource and development tool.

Buy The Storytelling School: Handbook for Teachers here…

Buy 147 Traditional Stories for Primary School Children to Retell here…

Visit the SLA website here…