Other Voices

The Storytelling School

Handbook for Teachers - 2nd Edition

Chris Smith, Ph.D. & Adam Guillain

Foreword by Pie Corbett

A step-by-step guide to becoming a storytelling school and using storytelling to teach your students

Storytelling Schools Series
Volume 1

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This handbook describes a revolutionary way of delivering primary education. In a storytelling school all children learn to be storytellers, retelling and improving stories from memory as a way of learning both language and subject content across the curriculum. Children graduate with a repertoire of their own stories to tell. This approach has been shown to raise standards and fire imaginations in schools throughout the UK.

Chris Smith and Adam Guillain show you how to make this happen in practice. The handbook draws on more than ten years experience researching and developing this way of teaching. Piloted, researched and up-dated, this second edition includes new chapters on non-fiction teaching and cross-curricular integration across the school. It is packed with practical activities, examples, theory, charts, diagrams and photocopiable pages. It explains step-by-step how to become a storytelling school including how to:

  • Tell stories to your class
  • Develop and innovate on a learned story
  • Invent new stories
  • Link storytelling to improving writing standards
  • Apply the method to non-fiction teaching
  • Plan across the curriculum using the Storytelling School approach

The Storytelling Schools approach has had a transforming effect on our approach to literacy and the teaching of writing. In a relatively short time the impact on writing outcomes, pupil motivation and teacher expertise has been profound – it’s an approach that every school leader will want to know more about.

- David Lewin, Head Teacher, Wood Farm Primary School, Oxford


Storytelling, taken as seriously as this, delights pupils and teachers alike and provides a foundation for the most remarkable growth in pupil confidence and competence in writing. All the evidence I have seen is that it also extends the skills of teachers.

- Sir Tim Brighouse, former Schools Commissioner for London

147 Traditional Stories for Primary School Children to Retell

Storytelling Schools Series, Volume II

Chris Smith, Ph.D.

Inside spiral bound

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In England, a group of innovative educators created the idea of Storytelling Schools, primary schools where storytelling is the key way that children learn.  By which is not meant only learning to listen to stories, but to actually learn the stories by heart, learn to retell them, learn how to adapt and change them, and finally learn to reassemble different elements from different stories as an entirely new story.

In the course of all this, these children find sure footing in language skills, organizing their thoughts, clear communication, and develop not only the self confidence that comes from really truly learning something, but they also learn the foundations of learning and thinking themselves.

Over a period of ten years, Storytelling Schools throughout Great Britain have become a revolutionary way of delivering primary education.  In a storytelling school retelling and improving stories from memory is a way of learning both language and subject content across the curriculum. Children graduate with a repertoire of their own stories to tell. This approach has been shown to raise standards and fire imaginations in schools throughout the UK, and it can do the same for any children you teach.

147 Traditional Stories for Primary School Children to Retell was written and compiled as a comprehensive reference for teachers in search of stories to teach their class.  The stories range from very simple tales for first graders all the way to long, complex stories for students in Grade 6.  Altogether, the collection is rich and masterful.

Included here is an introduction that gives concise and meaningful guidance for using these stories to teach students the art of storytelling.  Additionally, the Introduction is simply inspiring: any teacher reading it will find him- or herself  energized and empowered to carry out this approach to education itself.

Personally, I think that this method is a 'next step' that would enhance and focus Waldorf education for the modern world.  I can't think of a better addition to Steiner's curriculum than incorporating this active element into it.  When children are taught to do what the see and admire adults doing, they are drawn away from media-centric, advertising-ridden elements in our culture and toward wholesome creativity and confidence-of-place in the world.  In short, children become too interested and too busy with the joy of what they learn to feel much like bothering with something less.  The invention of Storytelling Schools was an act of educational brilliance - I only hope that they and their impulse continue to thrive and that teachers everywhere in in every sort of school incorporate this method into their classes.

Recommended without reservation and with much hope!

The Hand

How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture

Frank R. Wilson



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The Hand is one of the most incredible books I've read in years. What a beautiful, thorough study of that feature of our bodies which, in absolute fact, makes us truly human. Wilson so completely and so beautifully demonstrates the relationship between the way we use our hands and the way we come to see our world and are enabled to see our world that the argument that there is little difference between a virtual experience and a real, hands-on experience ought to evaporate once and for all. The implications for education are both clear and vast - as are the implications for how we choose to live our lives and guide our children in other ways. Please read this wonderful book - when this information becomes commonplace, children's lives will be so much more as they truly need to be, and the world will sing for joy.

Punished by Rewards

The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes

Alfie Kohn



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Alfie Kohn draws from hundred's of studies to demonstrate that, while incentives seem to work in the short run, in the long run they lead students and others to produce work inferior to that produced without such enticements. The more artificial inducements are used, the more people, especially children, lose interest in what we're bribing them to do. Kohn presents rewards and punishment as two sides of the same coin and devotes the final chapters to a practical set of strategies for parents, teachers, and managers that move beyond the use of carrots or sticks.

Dumbing Us Down

The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

John Taylor Gatto



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This book first appeared as a landmark statement about the realities of much of the schooling most children in our society receive - and about the very nature of the society we have ourselves created. John Taylor Gatto taught in Manhattan's public schools for 26 years and tendered his resignation with his speech accepting New York State's "Teacher of the Year" award. His experience allowed him to discover how children learn, not only academic subjects, but about the world itself. All too often, it allowed him to observe how children do not learn, how the premises of standard education block precisely the stated goals of our schools. This is an extremely significant book, well worth reading, thinking about, and acting upon.

Cultural Literacy

What Every American Needs to Know

E. D. Hirsch, Jr.



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Rudolf Steiner faced two primary problems when he set about defining the curriculum of the Waldorf School. One problem was that the people who were well-educated had almost no practical knowledge of anything; the other was that the people who worked in the trades had no real cultural literacy. His curriculum answered both needs in the context of 1919 Germany. E. D. Hirsch's book addresses the latter need from the perspective of late-20th Century America. As such, it is a treasure house of the cultural underpinnings of civilization and a gold mine of ideas for keeping civilization civilized.

The Child and the Machine

How Computers Put Our Children's Education at Risk

Alison Armstrong and Charles Casement



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Alison Armstrong began simply as a parent wanting to know more about the decision to increase the use of technology in her children's schools. What she learned was not at all what she expected to find and led her to team up with Charles Casement to produce The Child and the Machine. Instead of discovering well-designed studies that supported what the educational technology enthusiasts were saying, namely, that computer use enhanced the outcomes of education, the sobering facts of hundreds of school visits, studies and expert interviews led inescapably to the conclusion that our uncritical rush to use computers in schools has been one of the most expensive and most counterproductive "revolutions" in education history. Very highly recommended!