Bring It To Life With Storytelling


Article 1

The boys trooped into the rec-room, bringing with them their flashlights, rubber bands for slingshots, the makings of spitballs, and mittens wet from the snowball fight outside. When they took off their boots, essence-of-sneakers was added to the pungent odor of wet mittens and other clothes and the place took on the atmosphere of a boys’ locker room.

They tumbled into their seats, planned their strategy, and prepared for their offensive. It might come during the singing, or the story – if the story weren’t interesting.

The singing over, the teacher snatched a book and held it high. She was not much bigger than the boys. They wondered if this one would be good.

“This is the most thrilling adventure story that has ever been written,” she began. “It is a story of love and intrigue, of battles and armies, of helmets gleaming in the sun and banners waving in the breeze. It’s a
story of romance and thunder! Listen.

Once upon a time there was a great king whose name was Shaddai and … (Her voice lowered ominously) a wicked giant named Diabolus. Now, one day …”

The flashlights went out. The spitballs were crumpled into grubby fists. The slingshots were forgotten. Thirty boys sat on the edges of their seats – and listened.

What did this teacher have that the uninitiated teacher does not have? She might have simply told them it was Bunyan’s Holy War as she blew the dust off the book. She could have explained what an allegory was. But she didn’t. She new how to tell a story.

Storytelling is the ability to take the written word, and image it – paint a picture with it, bring it to life.

Bring it to life with PACING. If the action is becoming exciting, don’t just tell them. Show it, by increasing your tempo until you have reached the peak of excitement. Or, if the action is getting slow, show it by
decreasing your tempo. If the army is marching, make it march by giving your description a rhythmic swing. With a little thought and practice, you care “pace” a story to life in a dozen different ways.

Bring it to life with PAUSING. Don’t rush from one mood to the other. Lure the listeners through the transition with a pause and a change of pace and a change of tone. A pause is sometimes as effective as a shout!

Bring it to life with DIFFERENT TYPES OF NARRATION. Are you talking about a wicked king? A little girl? A battle? A sleeping army? Two spies, creeping, creeping stealthily through the darkened city? Is the
mood exciting? Is it sad? Is it on the light side? Show it by your narration – how you say it. You can create any one of those moods just with your voice.

Bring it to life with DIALOGUE. Of course, you can! Has the battle been won? Has an emissary gone into the enemy camp to make peace terms? Don’t just tell about it. Make your characters talk. Has Paul’s nephew just overheard the plot to kill his uncle? Has he gone to the prison to warn Paul? Make these people talk.

Bring it to life with SOUND EFFECTS, for your younger listeners. Who wouldn’t sit and listen spellbound, while doors squeaked, the trumpets blew, arrows went whizzing thru the air, and chickens talked? You can’t do it? You won’t know until you’ve tried. With a little practice, you may find you have a veritable treasure of sound effects you never knew were there.

Bring it to life AT THE VERY BEGINNING. The beginning of a story is like the shot fired at the beginning of a race. It says “Go!” and promises exciting things to come. Set a scene and ask a provocative question.
Introduce an interesting character; or get right into some dialogue – right at the beginning. No matter how carefully you’ve prepared the rest of the story, if you lose your listeners in the first two minutes, you’re doomed to failure. First, because they don’t come back easily. And second, having lost them, you have also lost your nerve.

Bring your story to life with THOROUGH PREPARATION. Read it until you have practically absorbed it by osmosis. Read it in your Bible Read it in your teacher’s book. Read anything you can find to supplement it.
Think about it. Pray about it. Live with it until it lives for you: And by the time you face your audience, be it a group of noisy boys in a rec-room or a group of fresh-scrubbed children in your home, that story will be as real to you as if it happened yesterday and you saw it. If it lives for you, it will live for them.

Now comes the hardest (and most important) part. After you have practiced and mattered all these things, you must forget them, as such. Forget yourself too, as a person standing in front of others. You don’t count, and your tricks and methods don’t count. They must not show! You, and your methods must become a very – part of the story itself – as natural and easy as a spring breeze. For the highest form of real art, you must banish art. Think only about the story. The story is the thing.

Does that sound like a paradox? It is. But after a few months of practicing and doing, you will find that it is so. One bright hour when you face your class, you will discover that, without knowing quite when it happened, you have the ability to take the written word and image it – paint a picture of it – bring it to life.

And … don’t think for a minute that these hints will only benefit the children in your class. Your fellow teachers may be swept away in the enthusiasm of your teaching. You may find that you are more easily
heard, understood, and enjoyed by your adult peers as well as the children.


(The original source and/or publisher of the above material is unknown.)






By: Marie Chapman

Article 2


Ending a Sunday School lesson is no problem at all, in the opinion of far too many teachers. When the first closing bell rings, you start cramming in all the rest of the lesson facts so you can dismiss class at the last bell.


In fact, the crux of the whole lesson hinges on what has been termed the “so-what” time of the teaching period. “The Good Samaritan helped the hurt man and paid the innkeeper to look after him.” So what? The answer to that is, lead the pupils to say, “I will help people who are in need.”

Note, this is not the moment to moralize-preach: “Now, class, this story shows us that we should …” Applying the story to life does not mean that Teacher states to pupils what they ought to do.

It does mean that Teacher guides the pupils to sy to themselves (and to Teacher, perhaps), this story shows me the way.”

Let’s look at a few ways to accomplish this guidance, using the story of “Jacob, the Cheater” for illustration:

1. For the 9-to-11s: Let two sack puppet or finger puppet boys discuss a school test. One plans to get the answers by looking at the paper of the other boy. “If you are my friend, you won’t cover your paper–push it
where I can see it.” But the other insists, “I’m a Christian–I can’t do that.” The greater disappears in a huff. The “Christian” puppet asks the class, “What do you think I should do?” (Allow answers.)

2. Primaries. Bobby’s schoolteacher promised a candy bar to the pupil who submitted the best animal drawing in a contest. He asked his big sister to draw him a picture of a cat, without telling her why he wanted it. He took her picture and entered it in the contest under his name. The picture placed first and he proudly accepted the candy bar. But… the three best pictures were displayed in Bobby’ s classroom on Parents’ Night. Mother recognized the picture and asked, “Why is Sister’s picture up there, Bobby?” What do you think Bobby did then? What do you think he should do?

3. College and Career. Medical College exam would be tough. An engaged couple in school approached a young lady who always got good grades. “Sit with us so we can see your paper,” they pleaded. “We’ll make it
worth your while.” But the Christian girl–thinking of future danger to lives from doctors who cheated their way through school–refused. The couple did cheat during the test and were caught and expelled from
medical school. Had the Christian assisted them, her career would have gone down the drain, too. Today, she has a successful practice in Oncology.

4. Adults. A New York hotel was condemned on its opening day. Inspection revealed a weak foundation. Cheating contractors substituted inferior materials and pocketed the money saved. A building was lost because of cheating at the foundation. (Carry out the analogy to foundation of lives in the home, if the class
includes many young parents.)

But where do you get the right anecdotes to use? With next week’s lesson theme in mind on Sunday afternoon, with prayer, you will recognize newspaper stories and magazine stories that are just right.
Illustrations in a quarterly may not fit your class needs.

Start collecting good anecdotes from printed sources. Jot down stories you hear (or overhear) and incidents you witness. They will be in your memory computer when you call for them.

You will have just the right ending for the lesson. Apply it with pictures, puppets, drama, object lessons, even a song, to get the pupils to do the deciding.


(The original publisher of the above material is unknown.)

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