The Hardest Part of Storytelling...Conquered!

Story Starters

Story starters get creativity going

I'm a great believer in the healing power of stories.

Hearing the right story can be healing. Telling a story can be healing. Inventing a story can be the most healing of all.

But let's forget healing for a moment. Inventing a story can be just plain fun. It can also help children hold on to their natural creativity... creativity that society and school sometimes seem to drain right out of them.

Pass-Around Storytelling

Psychologist Cheryl Chitayat - with artist Educator Dafna Soltes Stein - presents an oversized deck of cards with a single purpose: getting stories started.

Each of 44 cards contains a story starter: A few sentences that kick off a story that could still go anywhere. For instance, consider The Wall:

"A high stone wall covered with wild roses grew between the yards of two neighbors. Their ancestors had become enemies a long, long time ago. Now, no one remembers why. To this day, each generation of children is forbidden to speak to one another. One day, Adam looked at the wall and noticed..."

Where the card's opening sentences end is where your child's version of the story begins.

As a story writer, and as a person who spends a fair amount of time in classrooms teaching creative writing workshops, I really like what I see here. The Pass Around Storytelling cards are suggestive, yet open-ended. Kids can take them in any direction, but the story starters themselves suggest certain themes.

In fact, each card has a "Think About" section, in case a reluctant storyteller needs further nudging. "Think Abouts" for The Wall:

  • Enemies vs. Friends
  • Peace vs. Conflict
  • Past vs. Present
  • Making Changes vs. Keeping Things the Same

Chitayat uses the cards in therapy, and in fact Pass-Around Storytelling has been used "as a communication-storytelling tool" by such organizations as the Circle of Support Network.

The deck comes with very specific instructions for use of the story starters in a group storytelling setting, making them a perfect classroom tool. It's important to note however that there is no reason to limit use of the cards to group settings, or to insist that the included rules can't be improved upon or adapted for different circumstances.

The story starters would be a great gift for a child to use alone, and the rules could easily be modified and still work in any kind of group setting. Younger children, however, will need adult guidance to achieve the kind of cooperative storytelling envisioned by Chitayat and Soltes Stein.

And, in fact, helpful instructions are provided for the adult supervisor to enable, happy, conflict-free, cooperative play.

If that sounds like more involvement than you want, not to worry: the Pass-Around Storytelling cards can simply be dealt out to any group of children, enabling each to tell their own, one of a kind story.

In other words, I can't think of a context in which these story starters wouldn't encourage creativity, provide fun, and - indeed - have therapeutic value for kids to exorcise some demons...fictionally.

More from one of the creators of Pass-Around Storytelling, Cheryl Chitayat.

More thoughts on storytelling.

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Great info!