Please note: this guide was written before the 2014 National Curriculum and some of the advice may no longer be relevant.

Here we are talking about history stories created by the teacher and told - not read - to children. In telling stories to children we speak directly from the past, we use the power of eye contact, of gesture and movement, and of the voices of different characters.

Through stories we can carry children in a metaphorical TARDIS to different worlds in space and time. When telling stories we find a key to unlock the children's imagination and make the past intelligible to them. For example, in our story of Victorian children working down the mines, our modern children can identify with the heroine being scared of the dark, and so they enter her world.

Video link

Storytelling: here is a video of John Fines telling the story of Lotte to a group of children: The story of Lotte (YouTube)

The purpose of stories, then, is to:

  • Convey information, ideas, and technical language through engaging children's imagination
  • Create a context, providing a mental map and a visualisation of a past situation
  • Serve the need for wonder
  • Help children to understand human situations and the human condition, and thus connect the past to the present.

How do you create stories?

1. Choose a topic, and find out as much detail as you can - you will be conveying information through painting word pictures.
2. Identify a problem and its solution - this gives the story its shape.
3. Build your descriptions, flesh out your characters and the context they lived in. How did they think, look, feel and act? What motivated them?
4. Rehearse the story to yourself - run a mental video of the story unfolding.
5. Tell the story to the children, living and acting it by using appropriate voices and gestures and moving round the room.

Short lessons


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