The Magic Of Story Acting

Posted February 7, 2023

The Magic of Story Acting
By Amber Scheibel

Children’s minds are bottomless vessels of creativity, full of adventure, wonderment, fears, wishes, and magic. This is easy to see in their questions, their play, the way they dress, and even their day-to-day activities. Putting on a simple hooded jacket transforms a child into a character from a movie. A headband with ears has them acting like a cat while walking into school. And getting ready for bed is so much more fun when you are pretending to be a dinosaur! Children love pretending and making up stories in their minds. We as teachers love to capture and nurture this magic through story writing and story acting.

Story acting is incorporated into our curriculum in a couple of ways. Sometimes we act out original stories that were created by the children and written in their journals. Each child has their own story journal – a blank book that is just for story dictation. The child dictates a story to a teacher who writes what they say down word for word, without worrying about story structure, context, or character development. Our goal is to simply capture the children’s ideas.

When it is time to act the child’s story out, everyone gathers on the rug. The author decides what character they would like to be in their story, and then each child is offered a role. There are no small parts and the children take all the roles seriously, whether they are being a unicorn, a monster in the woods, a river, or a rock. This practice is not only great fun; it also builds comprehension, instills pride in the author, and builds community among the children.

We also like to act out stories from published books we have read aloud. Once a month the classrooms prepare a short skit based on a book to perform upstairs in the Community Room for the senior residents. So far this year we have performed The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, Caps For Sale, and The Gingerbread Man. The children come alive during these performances! They are enthusiastic and expressive in their facial and body movements, and if they have a speaking role, they speak into a microphone with articulation and emotion. Even if performing in front of a crowd is not something they are entirely confident doing, they are happy to play a smaller role- whether it is pretending to be an object such as a berry bush from which someone must pick fruit, or a sun that rises in the sky. A truly special thing to witness is when a child who has previously been uncomfortable acting in front of a crowd or speaking into a microphone gains the confidence to do so through watching their peers in previous performances. As you can imagine, because these are 3-to-5 year olds, these performances are not without hiccups. However, the goal is not a perfect performance. Instead, the plays are enjoyable experiences that help to build self-confidence while inspiring and celebrating the creativity of children.