Storytelling and My Favourite Thing

I was just reading a post by Naryn Searcy and was about to write a long response, then realized what a great opportunity to get back to writing here, on my own much neglected blog!

So, storytelling.  On the Through A Different Lens blog, Naryn posted 5 Photo Stories describing a storytelling activity she assigned the students in her English 12 First Peoples class.  She combines three different ideas to come up with a really engaging activity that fosters creativity.  Rather than me describing it in detail here, you should go and read her post.  I’ll wait.

One of the aspects of Naryn’s activity involved assigning the students random props.  This reminded me of the improv activity ‘My Favourite Thing’.  I discovered this activity here a few years ago when I was looking for drama activities.  Here’s how I do it with my students.  Students are put into groups of 4 and given a prop.  Without any prep time they each take turns telling a story to the class about why the prop is their favourite thing.  If appropriate I give a time limit for each story.  If it is a student’s turn and they are stumped they pass and give it a go at the end.  They are encouraged to think outside the box and to consider the elements of a good story.  After a group tells their stories, the class is asked to comment on what the people in the group did well.  Everyone starts to get the hang of what makes a great story.    

A couple of years ago I had a group of grade 8′s who were amazing at this.  One boy in particular could spin the most amazing stories; we would literally hold our breath waiting for what he would say next.  Through his stories he inspired his peers to take risks and try to improve their own storytelling.  

Last week I introduced ‘My Favourite Thing’ to my grade 5 group.   Some of the props I used were a pink foam crown with ‘jewels’ on it and a roll of paper towels.  It was the first time my students had done this activity and the stories showed promise, though it is amazing how so many innocuous props turn into weapons!  One student really got it and came up with a fantastic story for the roll of paper towels (at one point it became a red carpet for a celebrity in the story).  After everyone had had a turn students begged to get a chance to tell a story about one of the props they weren’t assigned.  I look forward to seeing how their story telling skills improve as we return to this activity over the course of the year.

Are there storytelling / drama activities that you’ve tried that have been successful with students?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments :-)

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