Interactive Storytelling

Interactive Storytelling

One of my favorite interactivities with the Family School first through third graders is my story-card game. First and foremost, this is fun. Accidentally, along the way, it teaches all kinds of things, including storytelling, public speaking, social skills, impulse control, and cause and effect.  Here’s how it works:

I provide four mysterious envelopes, each of which holds dozens of the following components:

  1. A main character, briefly described,
  2. That character’s main strength,
  3. That character’s main weakness,
  4. And a problem the character is up against.

Students blindly select cards from each envelope, which we then work together to weave into a story.  (They read their cards out loud. This in itself is a learning experience, providing tips like “face the audience” and “talk louder.” If they can’t read yet, they can choose a helper from amongst the other kids.

Like in many classic folk tales, the main characters gets three shots at solving their problems. The first two tries fail, building the tension while providing an outlet for all kinds of crazy solutions. The third attempt succeeds not only in solving the problem, but in doing so in a manner that is safe, responsible and respectful. This is a fun approach to teaching positive social skills without resorting to moralizing. Here’s my favorite story from this week:

  • Our main character: Sarah Grinskoff.  She has legs like tree trunks and short arms.  (“Like a tyrannosaur!” “Yeah!”)
  • Her main strength: she can swallow anything. No matter how big.
  • Her main  weakness: she can’t tell the difference between books and sandwiches.
  • Her problem: she has to figure out how to succeed at school.


Me: Okay, Sarah Grinskoff was excited to go to her first day of school, but she was also a little worried. Why?

Kids: She had little arms. Kids made fun of her. She couldn’t tell books from sandwiches.

Me: You are absolutely right.  But the worst part was snack time. Some kids were reading. Other kids were snacking on sandwiches.  Sarah wasn’t sure what to do. The teacher said, “hurry up, it’s almost time for the bell to ring.” Sarah looked at the books, sandwiches, books, sandwiches. “Hurry up and eat!” said the teacher. So what did Sarah do?

Kids: (waving hands wildly until I pick someone)  She ate the teacher.

Me: Aggh! She ate the teacher! How dreadful! Was that safe, responsible and respectful?

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Kids: No!

Me. It sure wasn’t. And so we had to burp her out. What happened on the second day?

Kids: They went to the library and she ate up all the books.

Me: Oh no! Sarah had never seen so many sandwiches in her life – at least that’s what she thought. Or maybe they were books. She wasn’t sure. But she was very hungry so she ate them all up. We had to make her burp them out. (Yewww! Gross!) Indeed. We spent the rest of the day cleaning them up. Sarah’s having a terrible time fitting in! So what happened on the third day? (Many hands waving.)

Kids: She got some glasses.

Me: Brilliant! You are a genius! What an amazing solution!

Tod Schneider
Written by Tod Schneider

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