Frog Goes to High School Handouts

Frog Goes to High School – “Stealth” Storytelling in Upper Grades

Mary Garrett

From Howard Schwartz —  Keep finding cracks to leave stories in. They tend to take root.

Develop methods to use storytelling to enrich the curriculum, illustrate difficult concepts, encourage students, and improve learning in middle and high school.  History comes to life, literature and mythology become clear with story, and it’s more fun!  Students like, want, and need stories, when they are offered in context and with respect to students’ age and maturity.   Stories can reward students for hard  work, encourage positive behaviors, and provide an opportunity for introspection and creativity.  Also, stories are fun!

1) Identify where stories can enrich the curriculum.

Stories can simplify complex material, especially for auditory learners.

“The Journey of Madame Knight,”  difficult and boring to read, is exciting to tell.

Pushkin’s “The Bridegroom”  can be understood once one has heard “Mr. Fox.” (Dan Keding”s CD In a Dead Man’s Company has a good version).

Stories can supplement the curriculum. Bre’r Rabbit stories illustrate survival strategies and coordinate with biographies and spirituals in the unit on the 1800’s.

Stories can introduce a writing unit.  Personal stories and Donald Davis’s Writing as a Second Language help students write narratives.  Elizabeth Ellis’s “Freckle Cream”;  Mike Anderson’s “Raising Chickens”;  Donald Davis’s “LSMFT” help inspire students to tell their own stories.

2)  Develop a list of stories and keep track of what you tell to whom.  It’s hard to remember which class has heard what.  A list of favorites helps keep track and provides inspiration when, with a few minutes left in class, someone asks, “Would you tell us a story?”  I make notes in my copy of the text, like “The Letter – Dan K” next to Whitman’s “Reconciliation.”

3)  Share ideas with other tellers and teachers.  Before MAP tests I asked friends on the Storytell e-mail list for  short, positive stories with which to encourage my students.  Thanks to their gifts of story, the students faced those tests in a happier, more confident mood.

4)  Encourage students to tell with story boarding and partner telling, round robin telling, telling from photos, and sequencing out-of-order photos.

American Literature students present a three-minute piece in the persona of a character or author.  Students stepped into these roles with enthusiasm, and one reflected in detail my Madame Knight from four months earlier — how deeply story enters the memory!  My “drama class from hell,” amazingly transformed during the storytelling unit, became engaged and cooperative as they selected and developed stories to share.  A student retold “that frog story” to another who had been absent.

5)  State standards — If justification is needed “Comprehension of material presented orally” is on most state standards, along with  “ability to present material orally.”  In addition, many stories fit specific aspects of the curriculum.


Telling Stories

Storytelling is the oldest of the communication arts.  Stories can add understanding, interest and enjoyment for students of all ages and in all areas of the curriculum.  This workshop will help you find and develop stories to share with students, to enhance their learning and enjoyment, and perhaps to encourage them to become “tellers” as well.

1.  Choose a story you really love!  It should have values you wish to live with, characters you find interesting, a story that resonates with you.  Of the hundreds of stories you find, there will be some you love — tell those.

2.  Don’t memorize; know the story and tell it.  Read it several times.  Re-write if you wish, or draw a story-board of the action.  Visualize setting and characters.  Consider the motivations for actions and choices.  Ask yourself what is important to you in this story.   You won’t use every detail, but it will make the story real to you, and therefore real to your listeners.

3.  Tell, tell, tell!!!  Tell to yourself, tell to friends, tell until the story is part of you.   It is in these tellings that you will find your individual approach, the details that make the story yours.

If you forget to mention an important detail, just tell it when you need it.  Say, “Now you should know . . . .”   Jackie Torrence would smile that mischievous smile when she had forgotten to tell something important and say, “Now I wonder if you remember . . .” Laughing together is fun!

4.  Bring them home safely.  Scary stories have to be age-appropriate, and the ending has to restore a safety zone.  Jackie ends jump tales with “and no one ever saw that . . . . again.”

5.  Keep track of your stories — notebooks, computer lists, files to help you remember the stories when you need them.

6.  Audience etiquette — sometimes it is necessary to teach the basics of audience behavior, attentiveness, courtesy.  It helps if the teachers are involved audience members, modeling for the students.  Actually, behavior problems are rare during storytelling, since students are caught up in the story.  It does help if younger listeners have more participation opportunities.

7.  Copyright issues — telling within your own library or classrooms is generally allowed, as is telling from the folk tradition.  Using copyrighted material in festivals or other public performances or on tapes can be a problem.

Wide-Mouth Frog — One of my favorite stories (just the “bones”)

Little Wide-Mouth Frog asks his momma, “What do mother animals feed their babies?”  She sends him out to find out,take a survey, with a little clipboard and pencil.  He asks rabbit, squirrel, bear  . .  expected answers.  (I always add that squirrels like to bite the green tomatoes, and bears, if there aren’t enough berries, take the campers’ food) — then he goes into the swamp.  Momma Gator says, “I feed my babies WMF.”  Little frog purses lips tight and says, “If I see any, I’ll let you know.”

Google search —    very valuable technique — stay open to possibilities.

“important”+”second language”+cat    led to

 A Second Language

A Momma cat and her little kittens came face to face with an ole bull dog~~ Butch

The poor little ole kittens cowered when Butch starting growling at them.

The momma cat let out several series of loud barks. When you heard those barks,  I bet you thought it was Butch.  These barks scared Butch away.

Then Momma cat turned to her babies and replied,”You see how important knowing a second language is!”

Better version —  More Ready to Tell Tales by Holt and Mooney  “Barking Mouse”


The Smell of the Bread

One day a baker noticed an older man enjoying the smell of his freshly baked bread and demanded he pay for the smell of the bread.

Unsure of what to do, the local judge decided to bring the case to King Solomon.

After listening to both sides the king decided that the baker was correct and that the man owed the baker for the smell of the bread because the baker owned the bread and all of its attributes.

Knowing better than to object to the king, the older man resigned himself.

King Solomon continued, telling the old man to jingle his coin purse. “There you have been paid,” declared Solomon. “The sound of the coins paid for the smell of the bread.”

The Lost Purse

(bones) Poor man finds a purse filled with coins and returns it to the owner.  The owner, not wanting to pay reward, claims there are only half as many coins as there had been before he lost it, and has the poor man arrested.  Judge questions them and decides, “This must be a different lost purse.  We’ll keep looking for the one you lost.  This honest man may keep the one he found, until we find the rightful owner.”

The Sun and the Wind

The Sun and the Wind once had a quarrel as to which was the stronger. Each believed himself to be the more powerful. While they were arguing they saw a traveler walking along the country highway, wearing a great cloak.

“Here is a chance to test our strength,” said the Wind; “let us see which of us is strong enough to make that traveler take off his cloak; the one who can do that shall be judged the more powerful.”

“Agreed,” said the Sun.

Instantly the Wind began to blow; he puffed and tugged at the man’s cloak, and raised a storm of hail and rain, to beat at it. But the colder it grew and the more it stormed, the tighter the traveler held his cloak around him. The Wind could not get it off.

Now it was the Sun’s turn. He shone with all his beams on the man’s shoulders. As it grew hotter and hotter, the man unfastened his cloak; then he threw it back; at last he took it off! The Sun had won.    —  from Stories to Tell to Children by Sara Cone Bryant

HODJA STORIES  Preaching in the mosque  –translated by Priscilla Howe.

Nastradin Khodzha said to the people who were gathered at the mosque, “Do you know what I’m going to say?” “No, we don’t.”  “Well, if you don’t know, I have nothing to say to you.”

The next time, he asked them again, “Do you know what I’m going to say?”  “Yes, we know!”

“Well, if you already know, I have nothing to say to you.”

The next time he asked again, “Do you know what I’m going to say?” Half of the congregation said “We know” and the other half said, “We don’t know.” And so Nastradin said, “Let those of you who know tell those of you who don’t!”

Sources for Stories and Information

The Storytelling Classroom by Norfolk, Stenson & Williams  1-800-225-5800

The library, of course!!!!     398.2

Testing Miss Malarky by Judy Finchler

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!  by Dr. Seuss with some help from Jack Prelutsky & Lane Smith

August House    1-800-284-8784

Donald Davis — Telling Your Own Stories, Writing as a Second Language

Heather Forest — Wisdom Tales from Around the World , Wonder Tales from Around the World

David Holt and Bill Mooney. The Storytellers Guide: Storytellers Share Advice  and

Ready-To-Tell Tales: Sure-Fire Stories from Americas Favorite Storytellers

Doug Lipman and Jay OCallahan. The Storytelling Coach: How to Listen, Praise, and Bring Out People’s Best. .

Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss. How and Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read and Tell. 

Margaret Read MacDonald The Storytellers Start-Up Book.

Web Links

Story Arts

Karen Chace  Teacher’s Porch, Storytelling Links

Richard Martin

Aaron Shepard

Tim Sheppard

NCTE  on Storytelling

Judith Black (historical tellings)

Storytell — international discussion list on storytelling

Healing Story Alliance

Archive of Story-Lovers compilation of stories


Stories can fit various subject areas (and your favorite stories can fit many areas)


“The King’s Chessboard”

Hoja and the Donkeys


“Little Red House”  make prints with cut apples

“Ma Lein and the Magic Paint Brush”

World Cultures



“Hell for a Picnic” (Judith Black)

Family And Consumer Science

“Butterfly Brothers” for child development

“Innkeeper’s Wise Daughter”  (“A Reason to Beat Your Wife” – wicked but fun)

Character Education (likely area for school assemblies right now)

“The Lost Purse”

“Hercules”  Odds Bodkins’ version is part of program to deal with violence

State Testing  Mary Garrett

In an attempt to soften the experience of the MAP (Missouri Assessment Plan) testing in my high school classroom, I asked my friends on an international storytelling e-mail list for suggestions of positive stories.  I selected stories of hope and acceptance, work for its own reward, finding good in difficulties, and working carefully.  I told a story a day to my juniors, beginning the week before and saving very short ones for the testing days, since I didn’t want to cause anyone to run out of time.  I think it did help to provide a positive focus and a chance to give gentle advice.  If nothing else, it gave us a chance to relax just a bit, as we all think better when relaxed, and not one student had a melt-down, screamed, or argued as had happened the previous year (and scores did rise).

Week before —

Debate in Sign Language  — I used Syd Lieberman’s version on video.  Trying to interpret the language of the test, and making the best guess you can.

A story/joke I learned long ago about a hunter who missed a short-range shot at a lion, which fortunately leapt too far and missed him.  The next day he went out to practice short-range shooting, heard a noise in the brush, peeked through and saw the Lion — practicing short-range leaping.

Worry Bundles — my own version, incorporating bits of “St. Louis Blues” into it.

First day of testing — try to savor some of the good things as you read

Brahman/Tiger/Strawberry   (a student interpreted it as “we’re going to die” but they didn’t  😉

Before the Terra-Nova Section — work carefully

A parallel is the Jukha story where he is taking 10 mules to sell, rides on one and forgets to count it.  He runs back to find the missing one, and recounts when he returns to find them all.  repeated several times until a bystander says there are 11 mules, counting Jukha.

Dvora Shurman

following stories around the world

Before the writing portion — you are creating for yourself –

A great and wise man once called one of his workmen to him saying, “Go into the far country and build for me a house. The decisions of planning and of actual construction will be yours, but remember, I shall come to accept your work for a very special friend of mine.” . . . (man cuts corners) . . .  My friend, you are the one I had you build it for. It is all yours.”

The travelers told to fill their pockets with stones, which in the morning were jewels.

If you are feeling pulled in too many directions, remember the boy, the man, and the donkey — you can’t please everyone, so listen to yourself.

One way to keep track of stories told (or played) for various classes

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Beyond the Bayou (Kate Chopin)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Blue Rose

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Brer Rabbit & Tar Baby

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Coyote Dances w/Stars

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Dervish in the Road (Doug Lipman)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Ears and Tails and Common Sense (J. Lester)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Filling the House

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Grandma’s Doughnuts (personal story)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Grandmother Spider  (Elizabeth Ellis)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Heaven and Hell

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Hoja Stories – Elephant, Wife, Lost Key

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Innkeeper’s Wise Daughter

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Jaimie/He Is Risen

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  King Solomon (coffee story)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Little Red House  (Annette Harrison)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Ma Lien and the Magic Paintbrush

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Magic Doubling Pot

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  One Wish

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Pandora’s Troubles

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  ‘Possum and Snake

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Real/make-believe (personal)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Rocks/Animals/People  (Johnny Moses)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Sherazade

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Sir Gawain & Dame Ragnell

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Smell of the Bread

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Stonecutter on Mountain

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  First Strawberries (Gayle Ross)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Tante Tina  (Ruthilde Kronberg)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  They’re Busy

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Turtle Flies South/shell

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Two Polite Babies

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Wide-Mouthed Frog/& hands

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Wise Tailor (feeding Coat)

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Worry Bundles

Scary Stories

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Black Bubble Gum

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Golden Arm

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Henry and Elvira

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Hitchhiker

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  (Capt.) Mary Becker Green

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Mr. Fox

___]___]___] ___]___]___]  Taily-po

Contact me for more bibliography — or questions.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Naomi Baltuck
    Oct 29, 2012 @ 10:53:39

    Great post, Mary. Full of good information, and a nice selection of easy-to-tell stories.


  2. Trackback: Writing Process Blog Hop | storytellermary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: