Timeless Tricks for Attention-Getting Storytelling

Synopses of children's stories from around the world include snippets of ear-catching dialog.

Synopses of children’s stories from around the world include snippets of ear-catching dialog.

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

Timeless Tricks Please! – In countries dominated by digital communications it can be a challenge to hold children’s attention at storytelling time or any time.

Teachers in all nations who use timeless tricks during storytelling with children are most likely to “win” the attention-getting “battle.”

Use Ear-Catching Dialog – One time-honored trick in storytelling is to change-up your voice. Formal training in drama is not required to make this happen.

Simply reach within yourself for voices other than your own that seem appropriate for the characters in the story that you are telling. For example, a giant’s voice would likely be loud and bold. A kitten’s voice would be soft and sweet. But, not always…

Children love mix-ups! Use the timeless trick of offering a surprise by “assigning” unlikely voices to characters in stories you tell. Imagine, for example, a kitten with a booming voice – memorable for sure!

Visit a Magical Place – Storytelling in elementary schools is often the province of weekly visits to the media center/library – a magical place. If your class’ schedule there is like most elementary schools, the visit is considered a “special.”

Special is an apt adjective for many of the strategies that media center specialists/librarians use to help kids get on task quickly when they visit the wonderful world of books and computer-generated programs.

Class periods in the library or computer lab fly by; media specialists want to make the most of their time with students. No wonder they – and all K – 5 teachers – need timeless tricks for attention-getting storytelling!

Sarah Luvender, a K – 5 Media Center Specialist, welcomes K – 2 kids to a magical space with a colorful pond-design rug, complete with cattails at the pond’s edge where the children sit for story time.

Ms. Luvender and her “library friends” get ready for story time.

Ms. Luvender helps the children get ready to focus on the book of the day with a poem that she sings more than she recites. She teaches the poem to early readers at the beginning of each track-in session. (She works in a year-round US school.)

Ms. Luvender begins the poem and the children respond, first to her welcome, then to each question before Ms. Luvender says it’s time to get started.

As she and the children sing the poem aloud they gently act out the lyrics. This activity especially helps squirmy kids settle down for the story to come.

You can use Ms. Luvender’s poem too; just make up your own tune and substitute your name! You might also want to change your poem title to Welcome Story Friends. Read on…

Ms. Luvender’s poem title is Welcome Library Friends. (Note that the bold print is Ms. Luvender’s voice.)

Welcome. welcome, my library friends.

Hello, Ms. Luvender, we’re ready to begin.

How are your legs?

Nice and crossed.

What about your hands?

In our laps, so they don’t get lost.

What about your eyes?

Right on you.

What about your lips?

Closed tight like glue.

Now I see you’re ready to begin,

So let’s get started my library friends.

"How are you doing today? Are you okay? Is there something else I can do to help you learn?

Writing time comes after reading time in this classroom. Storytelling helps children hear the power of language before they put pen to paper.

Good Readers Make Better Writers – It’s a “no-brainer” that taking children to the library is a great way to help them learn to love reading.

I always tell my students, those in grades 2 – 5, that good readers make better writers.

I also encourage kids to run “spell-check when they write,” either manually with a dictionary or on a computer when they typewrite, before “saying that your work is COMPLETELY DONE!”

If insisting on correct spelling is something that has “taken a back seat” in your classroom because of time restraints, take heart in the following Internet piece – author unknown.

Subject: Amazing

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmaabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.  The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm.  Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Petrty amzanig, huh?

Well, some at Oxford University, home of the revered Oxford English Dictionary, might beg to differ, or at least regret the spelling mish-mash. Then again, maybe not.

Intentionally mixing up words (as well as voices) or creating whole new words is another timeless trick and proven attention-getter for the K – 5 (and older) set.

Teacher Bonus – Using timeless tricks for storytelling isn’t just more attention-getting; it’s a way to add some fun to teaching, as well. Please send your timeless tricks for attention-getting storytelling to share with other educators.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet


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Posted in Attentionology for K-5 Teachers
Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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