Story Beads

In a past life, when I was a Primary School Teacher, a colleague and I embarked upon a storytelling project with the children. The result was a school hall transformed into a bedouin village with market stalls, bazaar and tents and pretend camp fires. We had different activities going on around the hall and different groups of children visited throughout the day. The project was based around a book called Tales Told in Tents by Storyteller, Sally Pomme Clayton

This is a beautiful book which contains retellings of exotic stories she experienced during her travels in Central Asia. They are interwoven with riddles, songs, poems, sayings, notes and snippets of information.There is also a colourful map which shows where the stories originate and a glossary explaining some of the unusual vocabulary. The first story (Sally's introduction to the collection of stories)  is called, 'The Storyteller's Tale' and begins:

"When I was little, my sister and I used to throw a blanket over the washing line to make a tent. In the warm half-light we would set up camp, arranging beds and making a pretend fire."

It continues with:

"Stories are light. You can carry them anywhere, pick more up along the way, and your load never gets heavier. So stories were a way of carrying the threads of our lives from place to place... In nomadic societies the storyteller is very important and stories are treasured. They are the gold you pass on to your children."

Other stories include:  

'A Whole Brain' (from Kazakhstan) which tells what happened on the seventh day when God finished making the world and realized he had forgotten to give human beings brains. 'The Carpet of Dreams' (from Afghanistan) is the story of Arif, who dreams of traveling the silk road and explains the tradition of always weaving a mistake into a carpet on purpose, to show that only God can make something that is truly perfect.

'The Bag of Trickness' (from Kazakhstan) is my favourite story. It tells how the trickster Aldar-Kose with his coat of seventy holes and ninety patches, tricks a rich man.  'The Heart of Your Friend' (from Kazahkstan) is a beautiful poem based on a Kazakh folksong. We actually used this as one of the readings at our wedding! 

As  part of our school storytelling project, we worked with a drama specialist who shared with us her wonderful Story Beads. My colleague and I were so inspired that we collected our own beads to make a story string.

Basically the idea is to collect some unusual shaped and coloured beads and string them together. To each bead assign a story that you can retell. This is not easy as you have to have a good imagination and memory! Books like 'Tales Told in Tents' really help though- learning some of the stories from this book would be an ideal place to start. Fairy Stories, myths, legends, fables, stories with a real message about good and bad seem to appeal most to children. You sit with your group of children and show them the story beads. I love the way the children want to touch each bead, examine it and ask questions about it. Tell them that these are special beads that have been collected from all over the world from special people and places. The children will start to ask- "What about this one?" and that is when you begin your storytelling!

This one is from the magical coat of a Chinese Emperor!

The children could make their own story string from collected items or home made salt dough beads and tell their own stories. When I asked Mo Mo if she could tell me a story, she said, "But I can't read the words yet mummy!"
"Brilliant," I said, "you don't need a book for these stories!" and off she went with her tale of Princesses and magic shoes!

This is a moon stone from the bottom of the deepest ocean!
"Encouraging storytelling in your family builds imagination. It helps children to think outside the square. It helps them to stretch their imagination, especially when they’re told that anything is possible in a story...Storytelling has even more advantages- it helps to improve a child’s literacy skills and helps them to predict what is going to happen next- they learn to tell stories, they learn to use their imagination...This is a skill that they’ll be able to use in other areas of life...While reading stories to kids is great and does help them to an extent, actual story telling where it’s a complete creation on its own will help to develop far more skills. Telling stories is a way to tell history- get out family photos and tell of the time you were running in the street and hurt yourself. Tell of times you were travelling and what you had to do." Eileen Geiger 

A haunted stone!
Regular storytelling experience of diverse genres can result in children quickly learning to expect certain features of that genre.  Children develop a schema of what story is: what it consists of and what it is about, thus giving them a framework for understanding story texts. Storytelling enhances comprehension skills and inspires writing.

Fairy Wings?
"Young children are developmentally wired to love language, and using storytelling ... cashes in on that “expansive” love of words and the desire to “try out” such language (Wood, 35)...Hearing stories regularly allows pre-readers become familiar with narrative patterns (NCTE as cited in Geisler, 33), speech rhythms, and the flow of language (de Wit, 5). Telling stories to young children also increases their vocabulary. For example, Monadnock Waldorf teacher Betsi McGuigan fondly recalls when an upset five-year-old, recalling a line from a previously heard fairy tale, cried to her, “Get away from me, you odious frog!” (McGuigan, 3)." Jessica McColly.
You get the idea!

Build yourself a story tent, grab your story beads and start telling stories!


  1. I absolutely love this idea, thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks Jenifer- I hope your little ones enjoy it as much as we do! x

  2. I love this idea, I've just found you through pinterest. Where did you manage to find all those amazing different beads?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...