Several years ago, we filmed Vivian Paley demonstrating storytelling and story acting (STSA) with a group of 4- and 5-year-olds. Thanks to the three cameras we kept running simultaneously for two days, we collected enough footage for three programs. They are:
The Boy Who Could Tell Stories
Storytelling and Story Acting with Vivian Paley and
Storytelling Themes with Vivian Paley.
The programs weave together children’s stories and Paley’s answers to questions we had about the process. To further help teachers who were interested in doing STSA, we asked Randy Testa (currently Walden Media's VIce President of Education) to help us write a companion guide.
Here is an excerpt:
1. Begin with a Demonstration Story – and a “Stage.”
In Paley’s first meeting with the children in the video, everyone is seated around a masking-tape square that Paley has made on the carpet. The space inside the square constitutes what Paley will call “the stage.” If you don’t have a corner rug or other such space on which to do storytelling and story acting, you might want to delineate one in part of your classroom with masking tape, as Paley has done in the video. Make a square or circle large enough for the entire group of children to sit around. Note that Paley begins directly, asking, “Who wants to tell a story for us to do?” And when a little girl named Mikayla volunteers, Paley tells Mikayla and the rest of the class, “I’m going to write it down while you tell the story.”
2. Write Down the Demonstration Story in Front of the Entire Class.
As the child is dictating the story, Paley repeats the words aloud for the entire group of children to hear. Paley records stories using a tablet and a pencil. She puts the child’s name on the page, and the date and time of the story dictation. The demonstration story dictated in the video by four year-old Mikayla is three lines long:
"A little girl. A little boy. And a little house."
Paley gently encourages Mikayla by asking, “Is there anything else in your story?” Once a child is satisfied with her story, it’s time to act it out.
3. Act Out the Demonstration Story.
Paley asks the girl who dictated the story if she would like to step onto the “stage” and be in the story she has just told. Paley then moves into the role of director, asking Mikayla which part, if any, she would like to play. Notice that Paley has the children seated along the edge of the “stage.” In assigning parts, Paley moves around the room, child by child, asking whether they would like to be in a given story. She does this rather than allowing the child whose story is being acted out to decide who will be in his or her play. This avoids a chorus of “Pick me! Pick me!,” makes for a democratic and more inclusive class activity, and gives children the option of being in a story or simply watching.