Storytelling Tips for Teachers & Parents

Question: Are there examples of written story summaries anywhere? I am struggling with creating concise, accurate summaries for long stories. Currently I am writing what my daughter and I create together, but it goes on and on sometimes. TIA! Right now I am working on all the September lessons – Rapunzel, The Boy Who Cried Wolf and A Robber In the Orchard. – Kim C.

Answer: There are a few places on the website where we give teachers ideas on how to tell stories. For lifetime members and teacher support members there is the video called “Basic Storytelling (parts 1-4)” on the Teacher Support Package Page. On the Essential Parent-Teacher Guide Page there is a file called “Adapting Stories”. In addition, we do have some samples in the curriculum itself, usually at the beginning of the year (August and sometimes September lesson plans) and often for the very long stories.

As per your request we will also provide some specific examples using the stories you mentioned below. When creating a summary of the story so I can remember it for my class I use the following ideas:

  1. I read the story a couple times through. Each time I read it I try to do more than “just read” it. I try to pretend I am there, and imagine what it looks like and how the characters feel. This helps my memory and helps me retain the meaning of the story so I can relay it more accurately.
  2. If the story is suitable for props I will set up props to remind me of the turning points in the story. Does the bird go from one tree to another? Does the princess go from the castle to the forest to the lake? I will put these props in order in front of me so I can remember the order of the story.
  3. If the story is not suitable for props or I do not have them I may draw pictures on the board to remind me of important story points. I may even write words or phrases under the pictures. These pictures will then be used for the student to copy in their main lesson book. They are often not complex. For example, if a bird is in a tree I may just draw a bird and the leaf of a tree. If a princess eats and apple I may just draw the apple.
  4. If the story has a lot of specifics I really want to remember I will print it out and highlight it (or use the highlighting feature on my tablet).
  5. If the story does not depend on the specifics for the story I will just write a quick summary and then use that to jog my memory. That, along with my previous reading and my imagination will help me recreate the story for my student(s).
  6. If I am in a hurry I may print the story and “read” it from the paper as one would read a speech – looking up with expression as often as possible and trying not to look at the paper very much.
  7. Sometimes I will rewrite the story. This only works if I do it myself. Re-writing it helps my memory because I have taken the time to think about it and re-write it. However, this does not help anyone if I share the re-write with them because the process of re-writing it is what helps me remember the story.

Using some of the techniques above I have re-created the story, Rapunzel.

Example One: I have highlighted the original story (this shows up as blue font below because this format does not allow me to highlight)

Example Two: I have summarized the story

Example Three: I have rewritten the story

Most importantly – remember the DETAILS are not important when you are trying to remember the story, make a summary or re-write the story. The details are only important when you are TELLING the story and they will come as you tell the story. These details are, and should be, unique to each storyteller. You will learn, as a storyteller, to imagine each character, place and object as you tell the story and bring these things to life from your imagination and not from the paper. We also recommend that you often use names, places and items familiar to your students and include those in the details of the story to make the story belong to THEM.

This will become easier over time. If you have difficulty in the beginning you can ask your students to help. For example, you can say “The father went over the fence to get some greens for his wife. What do you think the garden looked like? Was it hard for him to climb over the fence?” or you can say “There once was a little shepherd boy who sat on the hill guarding his sheep all day. What do you think he thought about all day? What do you think the hill looked like? How many sheep did he have? What did he wear?”

Rapunzel: Example One

There were once a man and a woman who had long in vain wished for a child. At length the woman hoped that God was about to grant her desire. These people had a little window at the back of their house from which a splendid garden could be seen, which was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an enchantress, who had great power and was dreaded by all the world.

One day the woman was standing by this window and looking down into the garden, when she saw a bed which was planted with the most beautiful rampion – Rapunzel, and it looked so fresh and green that she longed for it, and had the greatest desire to eat some. This desire increased every day, and as she knew that she could not get any of it, she quite pined away, and began to look pale and miserable.

Then her husband was alarmed, and asked, “What ails you, dear wife?

“Ah,” she replied, “if I can’t eat some of the rampion, which is in the garden behind our house, I shall die.”

The man, who loved her, thought, sooner than let your wife die, bring her some of the rampion yourself, let it cost what it will. At twilight, he clambered down over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily clutched a handful of rampion, and took it to his wife. She at once made herself a salad of it, and ate it greedily. It tasted so good to her – so very good, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as before. If he was to have any rest, her husband must once more descend into the garden. In the gloom of evening, therefore, he let himself down again. But when he had clambered down the wall he was terribly afraid, for he saw the enchantress standing before him.

“How can you dare,” said she with angry look, “descend into my garden and steal my rampion like a thief? You shall suffer for it.”

“Ah,” answered he, “let mercy take the place of justice, I only made up my mind to do it out of necessity. My wife saw your rampion from the window, and felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat.”

Then the enchantress allowed her anger to be softened, and said to him, “If the case be as you say, I will allow you to take away with you as much rampion as you will, only I make one condition, you must give me the child which your wife will bring into the world. It shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother.”

The man in his terror consented to everything, and when the woman was brought to bed, the enchantress appeared at once, gave the child the name of Rapunzel, and took it away with her.

Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old, the enchantress shut her into a tower, which lay in a forest, and had neither stairs nor door, but quite at the top was a little window. When the enchantress wanted to go in, she placed herself beneath it and cried,

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,

Let down your hair!”

Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold, and when she heard the voice of the enchantress she unfastened her braided tresses, wound them round one of the hooks of the window above, and then the hair fell twenty ells down, and the enchantress climbed up by it. After a year or two, it came to pass that the king’s son rode through the forest and passed by the tower. Then he heard a song, which was so charming that he stood still and listened. This was Rapunzel, who in her solitude passed her time in letting her sweet voice resound. The king’s son wanted to climb up to her, and looked for the door of the tower, but none was to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest and listened to it. Once when he was thus standing behind a tree, he saw that an enchantress came there, and he heard how she cried,

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,

Let down your hair!”

Then Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and the enchantress climbed up to her. “If that is the ladder by which one mounts, I too will try my fortune,” said he, and the next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and cried,

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,

Let down your hair!”

Immediately the hair fell down and the king’s son climbed up. At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man, such as her eyes had never yet beheld, came to her. But the king’s son began to talk to her quite like a friend, and told her that his heart had been so stirred that it had let him have no rest, and he had been forced to see her. Then Rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she would take him for her husband, and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought, he will love me more than old dame gothel does. And she said yes, and laid her hand in his.

She said, “I will willingly go away with you, but I do not know how to get down. Bring with you a skein of silk every time that you come, and I will weave a ladder with it, and when that is ready I will descend, and you will take me on your horse.”

They agreed that until that time he should come to her every evening, for the old woman came by day.

The enchantress remarked nothing of this, until once Rapunzel said to her, “Tell me, Dame Gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young king’s son – he is with me in a moment.”

“Ah! You wicked child,” cried the enchantress. “What do I hear you say. I thought I had separated you from all the world, and yet you have deceived me.”

In her anger she clutched Rapunzel’s beautiful tresses, wrapped them twice round her left hand, seized a pair of scissors with the right, and snip, snap, they were cut off, and the lovely braids lay on the ground. And she was so pitiless that she took poor Rapunzel into a desert where she had to live in great grief and misery.

On the same day that she cast out Rapunzel, however, the enchantress fastened the braids of hair, which she had cut off, to the hook of the window, and when the king’s son came and cried,

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,

Let down your hair!”

she let the hair down. The king’s son ascended, but instead of finding his dearest Rapunzel, he found the enchantress, who gazed at him with wicked and venomous looks.

“Aha,” she cried mockingly, “you would fetch your dearest, but the beautiful bird sits no longer singing in the nest. The cat has got it, and will scratch out your eyes as well. Rapunzel is lost to you. You will never see her again.”

The king’s son was beside himself with pain, and in his despair he leapt down from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes. Then he wandered quite blind about the forest, ate nothing but roots and berries, and did naught but lament and weep over the loss of his dearest wife.

Thus he roamed about in misery for some years, and at length came to the desert where Rapunzel, with the twins to which she had given birth, a boy and a girl, lived in wretchedness. He heard a voice, and it seemed so familiar to him that he went towards it, and when he approached, Rapunzel knew him and fell on his neck and wept. Two of her tears wetted his eyes and they grew clear again, and he could see with them as before. He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented.

Rapunzel: Example Two

  1. Man & Woman want a child
  2. Woman becomes pregnant and wants greens
  3. Husband steals greens from forbidden garden of enchantress next door
  4. Enchatress makes them promise to give their child to her instead of killing them
  5. She takes Rapunzel and puts her in a tower
  6. She uses her long golden hair to climb up and see her. There is no door.
  7. She says, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your hair!”
  8. Prince sees this and does the same. Rapunzel falls in love and agrees to marry him.
  9. Enchantress finds out and cuts Rapunzel’s hair and prince becomes blind
  10. Prince finds Rapunzel later in the forest and they are re-united.

Rapunzel: Example Three

There once was a woman and a man who wanted a child very badly. But when the woman became pregnant she had this horrible desire for greens – anything green – spinach, rampion, peas, green beans – anything. So her husband, desperate to please her stole some greens from the neighbor’s garden next door. The only problem was that the neighbor was a witch and she wanted their child in return.

So to avoid death the husband and wife gave her their child. The witch named the girl Rapunzel and kept her in a tower without a door. And because she never left or did anything except eat and sing and read, her gair grew very long so soon the witch would climb up to see her using her hair.

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,

Let down your hair!”

One day a prince was wandering in the forest and saw this. He thought Rapunzel was beautiful and fell in love with her so he did the same thing. Once he climbed up Rapunzel also fell in love with him and agreed to marry him.

However, the witch found out so she cut Rapunzel’s hair and chased the prince away and he lost his eyesight. Rapunzel was so sad she ran away the first chance she got. Years later the prince was wandering in the forest, still sad about his lost love when he heard her voice. She was singing to her twin children. He was overjoyed and ran towards her voice. She was overjoyed to see him as well and they were reuinited.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf: Example One

There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!”

The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces.

“Don’t cry ‘wolf’, shepherd boy,” said the villagers, “when there’s no wolf!” They went grumbling back down the hill.

Later, the boy sang out again, “Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!” To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.

When the villagers saw no wolf they sternly said, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don’t cry ‘wolf’ when there is NO wolf!”

But the boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling down the hill once more.

Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Wolf! Wolf!”

But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come.

At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn’t returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping.

“There really was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, “Wolf!” Why didn’t you come?”

An old man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village.

“We’ll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning,” he said, putting his arm around the youth, “Nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth!”

The Boy Who Cried Wolf: Example Two

  1. There was a shepherd boy who was bored so he thought he would play a trick on the villagers
  2. He acted like there was a wolf attacking the sheep and called for help but when the villagers came he just laughed at them for “falling for” his trick. He did this three times
  3. When he did need help the villagers just thought it was a trick again.
  4. So when the wolf really did come he ate some of the sheep and scattered the rest.
  5. The boy learned not to “cry wolf” unless he really needed help.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf: Example Three

There once was a shepherd boy who got very bored sitting on the hill watching the sheep so one day he decided to have some fun. He called, “Wolf! Wolf! When there really was no wolf at all”. This made the villagers rush to help him. He liked the company and he liked the attention and he laughed when they came running. It was not boring anymore! But after doing this three times the villagers didn’t believe him anymore. So just before sunset he actually did see a wolf and he yelled, “Wolf! Wolf!” but nobody came because they thought he was just messing around again. So many of his little sheep were eaten and some were scattered. It took him many hours to gather the sheep again and he was very sad. But he was mostly sad because it was his fault. He should not have lied to the villagers and asked for help when he didn’t really need it.

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