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Storytelling is a major component of early literacy development, which can be challenging when children are still developing their basic printing skills. Recently I discovered story stones to help my students practice their oral language skills, and discover the joy of storytelling.

Creating the story stones was a fun experience and the ideas were never-ending. The real beauty is how open-ended story stones are. You can paint characters (both from existing literature or of your own creation), objects, settings, sound effects, phrases, and even emotions to help students create a rich, layered story.

Story stones are a great exercise in students’ imagination, as they process ways to connect seemingly unrelated elements to tell a story. Collaboratively, the class goes through the different stages of a story (beginning, middle, end), conflicts that arise, and ways to resolve them. The stones are also a way to further develop verbal skills, and making the connections between concrete ideas (the images on the stones) and more abstract ones (the story they’re telling).

Collecting the stones is a great excuse to get out into nature. Heading to a beach, creek or forest by organizing a walking field trip and having students collect small, flat stones that are smooth/without rigid edges. Not only will this provide students with a refreshing afternoon outside, but also when students are more involved with the creation of something for a class, they form a stronger attachment to it.

As for the painting of the stones, this could also potentially be done as a class as an art lesson (especially with older students). I opted to paint my set with a few of my girlfriends during a cabin getaway, but either way you’ll end up with a beautiful collection of story stones.

While the stones have been a success in my kindergarten classroom, I’ve also had teachers in older grades create their own sets. Students love the natural look and feel of the stones juxtaposed with their bright colours of the paint, and it provides a fun, interactive way to incorporate natural items in my classroom.