Growing a StoryMaking Culture

Stress-free Storytelling Tips for Making Collaborative Stories


Mraz and Hertz describe the best tip to planning a story and support by research is to plan it like a story mountain (2015). They provide a few steps in planning key points for successful and stress-free storytelling.

  1. Set the scene
  2. Name the challenge or problem
  3. Raise the tension through multiple attempts or worsening events
  4. Reach a resolution

Mrs. Welch, PreK teacher, creates this anchor charts to help children imagine and plan the characters and setting prior to storytelling.



  1. Imagine details to set the scene for your story

We begin our story by setting the scene as our first step in launching a story with our children. The above chart helps us make that plan by selecting the characters and setting. The next step is to name the challenge or the problem. In the example that follows, Michelle asked the children to imagine a time in their day that they could share. The children agreed to make a story from their playground experience earlier in the day. The children in Mrs. Rivard’s class described the scene and how the playground was all wet. Michelle slowed her speech to build drama of this terrible thing that had happened to them.

Michelle began creating a story, “Once upon a time we went to the playground and it was all wet.” Slowing down her speech with each last word of the sentence to build excitement and mystery of what was to come next. She asked, “What happened next?” And hands flew into the air! A Story was in the making…

Children gather together to imagine what their story will be about and what book they would like to use to inspire how to start their story. They chose to begin like one of their mentor texts and say, “Once upon a time”.


  1. Identify the problem during collaborative storytelling

Lailah – And then everybody wanted to get on all the slides and swings but they couldn’t

Michelle – Oh wow! Now we have a problem. So once upon a time we went outside on the playground and it was wet. And everybody tried to get on the slides and swings but they couldn’t.

Sarai – And then the people asked if they can go and they said yes they may.

Michelle – Who did they ask?

Antonio – They asked Mrs. Rivard and Mrs. Sacchi

  1. Modeling tension through the pacing and tone with your voice

In order to raise the tension with our early learners, we suggest using the tone and pacing of your speech to build excitement, mystery and suspense. We, however, would like to add a few steps here that invite a more collaborative StoryMaking experience with our students before we reach a resolution to our story.

  • Ask, “What happened next?”
  • Display materials, props, and pictures for students to physically touch and aid in their storytelling experience

Michelle – And they said yes? So the kids went on the wet slide because the teachers said yes, so what happens now?

Jayden – so these two (pointing to two friends in the circle) were playing superheros.

Michelle – That’s good! Let’s save that detail for our story because that is amazing. But if we are going on the slide… Let’s think about this. The playground was all wet. The kids wanted to go on the slides and the swings, but they couldn’t. So they asked their teachers and the teachers said yes. What happened next?

Jade – They get a wet bootie!

Michelle – Ohhhh my goodness!

Class bursts into laughter!

Michelle – So Emil what do the kids say when they sat down and got wet?

Emil – EWWWWW!

Michelle – Everybody say, “EWWWW!”

Class yells “EWWWW!”

Michelle – So I want you to picture sitting down, getting wet and what did we say?

Class enthusiastically and loudly says, “EWWWWW!” among giggles

Antonio – I have another detail! I have another detail!

Other children chime in – Me too! Me too!

Michelle – Our backsides are all wet! What is going to happen next? We have another problem.

Mrs. Gangarosa, PreK teacher, creates this anchor chart to help her children imagine the story details and how they can use everyday events to tell their stories. The children set their scene on playing and making a fair story, which was happening in their town.


Even though the students and the teacher selected one main event (e.g. the playground was wet) in their story mountain plan, you will want to coach them into the next events in the story by saying, “What happened next?” Help the students stay with telling the next sequential event by retelling what has happened so far in the story. For example, at one point in Mrs. Rivard’s story Michelle had asked, “What happened next?” Jayden came up with a great detail of some boys in his class playing superheros on the playground. Michelle didn’t dismiss this idea, but restated the event that just happened. She said, “Let’s save that detail for our story because that is amazing. But if we are going on the slide… Let’s think about this. The playground was all wet. The kids wanted to go on the slides and the swings, but they couldn’t. So they asked their teachers and the teachers said yes. What happened next?” Then another child shouted out, “They get a wet bootie!”, which was the next sequential event.


StoryMaking Tip – Write down children’s ideas throughout storytelling to honor all ideas

It is important to note here that we want to honor the children’s ideas so they feel like a valued part of the storytelling culture. Therefore, one tip would be to write the idea down on the whiteboard so you do not forget and can work that detail into the story when it best fits. Also, include other prompts to help move the story forward such as, “What did he/she say?” to incorporate dialogue throughout the story or “What did he/she feel?” to weave in character’s feelings and emotions.


StoryMaking Tip – Make story as you go with loose parts and materials

The incorporation of materials is critical in StoryMaking to broaden students’ opportunities to engage, learn, and represent their multiple literacies. Therefore, have a small basket of materials beside you to visually represent the story. For example, if you want to incorporate collage materials during a storytelling session, layout a green felt or picture of the playground space to represent your storyboard setting. Then have a small box of loose parts that could represent the details of the setting and characters. If students are not sure how to describe the next event, have them come and touch the materials to act out what they remember happening. Then narrate the actions that they just performed. This is an effective tip for all learners to become a part of the StoryMaking process, especially for our non-verbal and ELL learners.

Making a story using loose parts helps children visualize the story.


  1. Resolve the story by choosing an end of the story strategy

Finally, you will want to reach a resolution and wrap up the story. We have taught a few ways to end a story, which is usually the second half of the year goal for our PreK learners. However, just with any new skill it takes lots of modeling and previewing before students add it to their StoryMaking repertoire. A few tips we can share to help your wrap up your story with students is to end with the last thing that happened, the last thing the character said or the last thing the character felt in the moment. If we were to return to the ‘playground is wet’ story it could end in several ways and all would be effective. Let’s retell the last part of that story and envision how it could end, “We sat down on the swings and got wet! “EWWWW!” we yelled. “Our backsides are all wet!”


End a Story Strategy


The last thing that happened We went inside and used all the paper towels to dry ourselves. What a mess!
The last thing the character said “Uh oh!”, shouted Mrs. Rivard. “We will have to go in and find a way to get dry.”
The last thing the character felt “I feel gross,” agreed the class.

Happy StoryMaking!