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The 7C's of Storytelling

Teaching With Story Book Cover

In their popular resource book Teaching with Story, Margaret Read MacDonald Jennifer MacDonald Whitman, and Nathaniel Whitman, provide practical guidelines for incorporating stories effectively into any classroom, using “The Seven C’s” — Community Character, Communication, Curriculum, Cultural Connections, Creativity and Confidence. Each “C” offers a different way that stories can enrich a child’s perspective while meeting a school’s standard academic requirements. If you would like to read an interview with Margaret, click here.  

1. Community

Stories provide students with a common way to share an experience whether it is cheering on a character like Mabela the Clever as she tricks her way out of danger or shouting at the King when he ignores his problems as they spiral out of control. Each story offers new opportunities to bring you and your students closer together. Your goal as a storyteller is to actively engage your students while adapting a story into a meaningful group experience.

Giving students a role to play in the telling of the story can be as simple as asking them questions during a story, adding sounds and hand gestures at critical moments, or encouraging them to act out some of the characters. When students share the common experience of actively engaging with the elements of a story, they are also building a sense of community in the classroom.

2. Character

Stories provide students with examples of how to act appropriately in a variety of different situations. Whether it’s the magical adventures of a princess, a trickster outsmarting his more powerful adversaries, a group of thieves getting their comeuppance, or an adult sharing a meaningful personal story, storytelling has always been an important part of teaching children valuable life lessons in a fun and engaging way.

When students listen to stories, they are able to explore different scenarios in a safe environment where they can reflect upon their own decisions. They might listen as Anansi the Spider hoards food from his friends and learn that it is better not to be so greedy. Or maybe they hear about the old man who could not stop complaining about his life and learn to be grateful for what they already have. By following the characters on their journeys and seeing them learn from the consequences of their decisions, children can learn to identify their own emotions as well as the emotions of others. This ability to identify emotions is a key step to developing greater empathy and compassion for others.


3. Communication

Learning how to listen for information is another benefit of storytelling. Telling stories can help students develop the necessary language and literacy skills that will help them:


  • Practice and build their vocabulary.

  • Learn about sentence structure and grammar.

  • Develop listening and comprehension skills.


When children listen to stories, they are not only being exposed to rich and diverse worlds and characters, but also the nuances of our rich and diverse language. Listening to stories helps develop their ability to comprehend and process information, which lays the foundation for more advanced reading skills.


When children tell their own stories or act them out, they can practice several forms of communication. They are learning how to move their body, how to use hand gestures to emphasize their ideas, how to change their voice to fit different characters, and how to convey their thoughts more effectively.


4. Curriculum

Sometimes a story can energize or expand a difficult subject to make it more relevant and less abstract. A child’s learning experience can be enriched by including stories taken from real locations, historical figures, and actual events. Stories can be used to introduce challenging concepts in ways that are easier for kids to understand in subjects like:


  • Geography

  • Math

  • History

  • Science


Take the Buried Treasure series as an example, a collection of books set in different parts of the United States. These collections of stories highlight the unique history and hidden treasures of rugged, remote areas of the country. These highly engaging stories can be used to introduce students to different parts of the United States in entertaining and memorable ways.


Similarly, Asian Tellers and Tales shares parts of Asian history, knowledge, and culture with stories from Japan, India, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, and other parts of Eastern Asia. Teachers can include stories like these to help students absorb new information in ways that they will retain beyond a test or quiz.


5. Cultural Connections

Storytelling is a powerful tool that brings together cultures and communities in an increasingly interconnected world. Sharing stories from diverse cultures can help preserve traditions by passing down the history, customs, and values from one generation to the next. Storytelling can become a window to the world that helps build new insights and perspectives by:


  • Exploring unique aspects of diverse cultures

  • Examining one’s own culture

  • Connecting with a family’s roots

  • Broadening a child’s horizons

  • Building empathy


When students hear stories about their culture of origin, they can feel proud and valued, as their classmates learn about the rich traditions and history of another culture. Sharing cultural tales also provides another opportunity to gain insight into other diverse ways of life while also helping students appreciate the rich diversity of the world.


6. Creativity

One of the more valuable aspects of storytelling is using stories to enhance a child’s creativity. A story can lead students into a world filled with endless possibilities, where kids can imagine going anywhere or becoming someone else. Stimulating a child’s imagination also subtly encourages kids to think outside the box.


Telling stories provides a safe place for kids to take risks and try out new ideas. Engaging with stories provides exposure to new and diverse perspectives, which can stimulate a child’s imagination, and even inspire new ways of thinking.


Storytelling itself is a form of self-expression, enabling students to communicate their own unique perspectives and experiences. Encouraging students to create their own stories also helps them learn new options for thinking outside the box to solve difficult problems. These types of creative activities also help students learn about the many ways a story can be conveyed.


7. Confidence

While the act of telling a story can develop a child’s ability to communicate, it can also boost a child’s confidence. When a children tell a story, they share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences with others. This experience can help build their self-esteem and even help them overcome their fears of performing or speaking in front of an audience.


Similarly, when children are exposed to characters overcoming challenges and facing difficult situations, they see a model for solving problems. Seeing characters work through challenging circumstances helps reinforce a child’s sense of resilience. This exposure to a character evolving in a story can lead to a child’s growing sense of confidence to solve problems.



Telling stories can be a productive learning activity that helps children connect with other people while building a sense of community and working toward achieving academic goals. The 7 C’s provide a range of invaluable opportunities for teachers to creatively incorporate stories into their classroom activities that help them meet their educational objectives.

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