Story Spine: my scaffold, our first experience

This week, I introduced storytelling to my K/1 class using a modified Story Spine.  Kenn Adams explains the Story Spine in his wonderful book, How to Improvise a Full Length Play.  While I LOVE this structure because of its inherent causal relationships...and while I use it ALL the time and find great value in its numerous applications...I have created a different structure for introducing storytelling to primary students. 

Carrie's Modified Introductory Story Spine
Once upon a time...
S/he liked...
But s/he was afraid of...
One day...
And then...
And then...
Later on...
By the end of______...

Every time I've included *** I assume the storytellers will elaborate with as much detail as is necessary for the story.  I like specifying that the main character has likes and fears with this structure.  As I guide little ones through telling stories (and as I often guide older players), I remind them to keep the main character central to the story.  I also guide the storytellers to incorporate the likes and fears throughout the story.  It's a delicate dance, my friends.

Our in-class storytelling involved much drama, fantasy and peril.  It also elicited emotional responses from my students.  It's hard for ANY storyteller to give up her or his OWN story for the story of the group.  Beginning improvisers have a tough time with this, as well.  Add in a healthy dash of early-childhood egocentric nature into the mix, and voila: you have a potential crisis on your hands.  Luckily, we have a super-hero strategy to the rescue: THE PAIR-SHARE.

Me: Show me, using your thumbs, how well you liked telling that story together.
Lots of thumbs up, a few to the side, a few emphatically shoved DOWN. 
Me: Oh,'s hard to let your ideas go, huh?
Head nods.
Me: Did some of you have OTHER ideas for the ending of that story?
Every hand shoots up.
Me: Great.  Every story has many, many possibilities.  Tell your partner what your idea was.
Lots of excited talking and listening.
Me: It turns out that there are an infinite number of possible stories to tell.  And so many ways to tell those stories.  There is no wrong way to tell it, huh?  Now that we're transitioning into Activity Time, I wonder if some of you will want to tell that story--or a different story--with a friend or two or three.  Hmm...maybe some of you will want to act it out.

And then the princesses took over the center of the classroom.  With a few Loch Ness monsters mixed in for good measure.


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