Storytelling Activities for All Ages


  Seed & Bean Necklace Sewing Bee:

1.      Gather a variety of beans and seeds, large enough to pull a sewing needle through.

2.      Soak the beans and seeds overnight.

3.      Students sit around a table in groups.

4.      Everyone gets a bunch of beans and seeds.  Thread a double strand of thread on everyone's needle.  Sew through beans and seeds to make a necklace. 

5.      As groups sew, each member tells a story to the group.

6.      Hang necklaces overnight to dry.


Mask Making Instructions:


Plaster strips Ė plaster strips can be found in craft stores (more expensive) and art supply stores (5, 10, 15 pound boxes).  The advantage of the packaged strips found in craft stores is that this plaster dries quickly.  The advantage of the bulk plaster is one of cost.  Whichever you choose, make sure it is safe to use on faces.  Before giving it to your students, try a few strips yourself to gauge the drying time.

                    Bowls for warm water

                    Plastic garbage bags

                    Vaseline or Paper Towels

                    Paint, other items for finishing


This is done with partners.  Allow 30-45 minutes per partner. 



Preparing the Work Area:

Get all materials ready before beginning.  This means cutting the plaster into strips.  Vary the width from one to two inches and the length from two to four inches.  Since these strips will be covering the face, having the different sizes helps to accommodate the various contours of the face.  You will need at least a good hand full for each face.

Have bowls of warm water ready.  The warm water is for dipping the strips and wetting the plaster.  The water needs to be warm so they dry more quickly and for the comfort of the ďplastee.Ē Change the water often to keep it warm.

Preparing the face:

There are two ways to prepare a face for plastering.  The first is to put a thin layer of Vaseline all over the facial surface to be plastered.  This means eyelashes and hairline as well as skin.  If the plaster sticks to hair, it will dry to it too making it very painful once the mask has set and is ready to remove from the face.  If you choose to use Vaseline, check that students have adequately protected their hair.  I have placed strips of tin foil around the hairline, and then spread Vaseline over the tin foil.  Others have use waxed paper and others have simply put Vaseline on the hairline. The advantage of Vaseline is that it makes a much smoother mask.

The second method is to place wet paper towels all over the surface of the face.  The strips are then just placed on top of the paper towels.  This saves the hairline and is less messy to clean up but can be tricky to keep in place with the plaster strips are laid down.  This method is perfectly fine if only a partial mask is being made, i.e. from the nose to the hairline.  In any case, the eyes of the plastee must be closed and protected.

Plastering the face:

Once the method of preparing the face is accomplished, the person whose face is being cast (the plastee) needs to lie down.  It really is best to do this in a prone position since waiting for the plaster to dry can be tiring and it prevents the plastee from moving around too much disturbing the setting process.  The plastee can lie on a large garbage bag to catch the spills and drips and should probably have his or her upper body protected in the same way.  Some people like to tie their hair back as well and/or wear a shower cap.

With the strips ready and the bowl of warm water handy, the plastering can begin.  The plasterer carefully dips a strip into the warm water and gently draws it through the fingers to remove any excess water.  Donít be over zealous in this; you just donít want the strip too drippy.  The strips needs to retain their rectangular shape so donít wad them up.  Carefully place the strips, one at a time on to the surface of the face.  It is best to start at the forehead and work down.  Apply on one layer, then go back and lay on a second layer.  If done carefully, only two layers are needed.  The temple area might do well to have three layers since this is a vulnerable part of the mask.  If plaster is to go over the eyes (many masks donít have the eyes covered), be very careful the eyes are properly protected.  In fact, for first time mask makers, going over the eyes should be discouraged.  For some, this is an uncomfortable experience and having the eyes covered may be claustrophobic.  The same goes for the nose; leave the nostrils uncovered.

After each strip is laid on, smooth it over with your fingertips.  This gives it a finer finish, not so rough looking when dry.

Removing the mask: 

The mask is ready to remove when it feels rigid to the touch.  It doesnít have to be rock hard or completely dry but should be rigid enough that when it is lifted it retains its shape.  Caution on the side of hard.  Many a mask is ruined when it is removed too soon. This may take ten minutes and it may take 20 to 30 depending on the conditions. Start by gently working the edges of the mask with your fingers.  Once the edges are released, the mask should easily lift off the face.  When lifting, pull the mask straight out.  The mask wonít be completely dry so any bending will cause it to permanently distort.

Place the mask face down to completely dry.  Donít place it with the edges down.  Allow it to dry at least overnight before painting.

Now start on your partnerís mask.

Finishing touches: 

Once the mask is dry, the edges can be trimmed smooth and any weak spots can take another layer of plaster strip. Once again, smooth any wet plaster with your fingertips for a finer finish.

Painting and decorating:

A well-dried mask can take lots abuse but a plan should be in place prior to painting.  Not even the best mask can take too much wet paint. I have seen tissue paper used as a finish rather than paint.  This gives a rich opaque look to the mask.  If paint is use, apply a final coat of modge podge or some other sealant to give it a slight sheen. Anything can be added, feathers, pipe cleaners, glitter, beads, etc.  I like to use a hot glue gun when applying extras.  Take your time when painting and decorating; it is amazing how you can transform a bunch of plaster into a mask of magic.

Story mapping:

1.  Students choose a short story.

2.      Decide on the bare bones of the story, such as the beginning, the

     middle, and the end.

3.      Using simple symbols and stick figures, draw out the progression

     of the story.  No need for too much detail.  This is your story map.

4.      When completed, using the pictures you've drawn (story map),

     retell the story to a partner, then partner tell their story to you, then

     tell story to a larger audience.  You can embellish to keep your

     audience captivated.



Story Quilt Block:

Using your short story from story mapping, choose a favorite scene to illustrate a picture with simple lines.

1.      Draw this picture out on paper.  Do not color yet.

2.      Tape this drawing to a window, tape a similar size muslin fabric on top of drawing and trace the outline of your drawing with a fine point black pen.

3.      Remove muslin fabric, now color it with crayon.

4.      Then with a dry iron, place a piece of white paper towel on ironing board, place muslin drawing upside down on paper towel, iron over design with dry iron a few minutes to set the colors.

5.      Now you may use this to make a quilted pillow or a small wall hanging, or even frame it.


Plastic eyeball puppets:

Find and buy plastic eyeball finger puppets, place them on your finger like a ring.  Using your thumb and fingers to talk as your creature's mouth.


Making a snake from an old tie:

Supplies:       An old tie with wild designs of your choice.

                    Plastic grocery bags

                    Beads, feathers, pieces of leather

                   A long skinny stick

                   A film canister filled with some rice grains

                   Hot glue gun



1.      Remove stitches between tie lining and top fabric on the fat end of the tie about 6 inches.  You will discover that itís a tube ready to be stuffed.

2.      Using the skinny stick, push  grocery bags  into this tube to stuff the snake's body and head.  When you get to the head, you can choose to spread the head out to make it look like a cobra or shape it anyway you like.

3.      Remove some stitches at the skinny end of the tie and stuff the canister with the rice into that area, close it up either by gluing or sewing.  This acts as the rattle for rattlesnakes.

4.      Using beads, feathers, pieces of leather, cut and glue to embellish the eyes and tongue.

5.      Use the snake as a puppet to tell a story.



Feather for Circle Time :  To build community

Using a craft turkey feather that's been dyed to look like an eagle feather, decorate it by using beads and leather straps to wrap around the end of the feather.

Sit students in a circle, pass the feather from one student to another.  As the feather is passed to you, you have the floor and everyone has to listen to what you want to share.

You can share about your current state of being or whatever you'd like.


Character Sketch:

Scatter many postcards of interesting faces of people on the floor.

Students choose one postcard.

Students write the following four sentences about their postcard person secretly.

          Describe your person's physical appearance.

          Reveals something pertinent of your person's past.

          Something your person would say that reveals something of

          his/her nature.

          Something someone else would say about your person that

          would show how others react to him/her.


Felt Boards as Visual for Storytelling:

Cover a cardboard with a piece of felt or fabric for the background of your story setting.

Cut out figures of people, animals, etc. that's in your story.

As you tell your story, place these cutouts on the background.

When you are finished telling your story.  You can pass out the cutouts to students and have them place these on the board as you retell the story.


Paper Community:

Cut 300 sheets (6"x 4 1/2") of three different color construction paper.

Divide students into three groups.  Give each group 300 sheets of one color.

Students fold these papers in half horizontally.

Without talking, each group build a community with the papers. Cannot encroach in on the other groups' community.

When everyone is done.  Students will do a writing about their community individually before sharing their story.

Their story must include the following:

          Name of their community.

          Describe three people who lives there.

          Name and describe:     

                   The Antagonist

                   The problem between the antagonist and other citizens.

                   An incident that happened in the community today.

                   Did the problem get resolved?


Living Statues: Animatronics

Students choose a U.S. President.

Learn four new or fun facts about that president.  Memorized them.

Wear a button that visitors can push to pretend to activate you and you begin to recite those facts as if you were that president.

While you are reciting those facts, move your head and arms or hands in a robotic way.


The Interrupter:

Partner up students. One is Partner A, the other is B.

Partner A begins to tell a story to B, B interjects with a word, A continues the story incorporating B's word.

After a couple of minutes, partners exchange roles.  

  These activities were adapted from James Bowen.
























































Making an effort to increase student learning by integrating  storytelling will help children gain meaningful context to their lives.