The age-old art of storytelling has been capturing the imagination of audiences of all ages for centuries. In the preschool classroom, a well-told story keeps kids entertained while teaching valuable lessons, such as numbers, colors, or appropriate behavior. Incorporating props into story time encourages audience participation and keeps kids engaged in the story.
Types of Storytelling Props
Preschool storytelling props not only come in all shapes and sizes, they also have multiple purposes. Educational stores sell a wide range of storytelling props, including those designed to accompany a specific story, as well as multipurpose props, such as a nonspecific princess or frog, which may be used with a variety of stories. Inventive storytellers incorporate unexpected objects to involve little listeners in their tales, such as straw and gold thread for kids to touch while listening to “Rumpelstiltskin.” Other props may be handled by the preschoolers to introduce them to unfamiliar objects presented in the story. For example, various types of baskets may be passed around during a story about a basket weaver.
Some props, such as puppets or felt boards, are used by the storyteller to visually represent the characters and events in the story as it unfolds. Preschool storytellers may also use props to encourage little listeners’ participation with objects designed for active engagement. For example, preschoolers may be given various plastic vegetables to add to a soup pot at the appropriate time during the telling of the story “Stone Soup.” Props may also be used as inspiration to construct invented stories. In this instance, the storyteller would begin telling an original story, then the preschoolers take turns selecting items from an assortment of provided props. The storyteller must then incorporate each new prop into the story they are inventing.
Props offer the advantage of allowing preschoolers to engage in the story with more than just their ears as they see, touch and maybe even taste or smell the story-related objects. This process, known as multisensory learning, aids children in better absorbing any knowledge introduced in the story as they are engaging with the information on multiple levels. These visual aids also inspire little learners to use their imaginations as they envision the story unfolding, which in turn can foster an interest in learning to read. Wandering attentions may also be newly engaged in a story as each new prop is revealed.
Getting complex props to perform properly at the appropriate moment can be a tricky proposition. The distraction of a functional prop falling apart can be enough to lose the attention of young preschoolers. Storytellers can also be distracted by their own props, becoming so focused on fumbling with the objects, that they fail to engage with their listeners. Props passed from child to child can cause disruptions in preschoolers as they become more focused on who has the object or when their turn with the prop is coming. Preschoolers given props to hold and use during a story might stop listening in order to play with the object they’ve been given to hold. Story-specific props designed to accompany a particular book have the drawback of limited use.
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- Texas A&M University: Storytelling -- The Heart and Soul of Education
- Yale University: Storytelling as a Strategy to Increase Oral Language Proficiency of Second Language Learners
- Academia: An Investigation of Conversation and Storytelling Activities Used by Preschool Education Teachers
- Texas Speech-Language Hearing Association: Storytelling with Props and Puppets
- National Storytelling Network: Storytelling in Schools
- University of North Texas: Storytelling Websites and Resources
- Elementary Library Routines: 75 Preschool Storytime themes, from ABC to Zoo