GRADE STORIES (ages 11-14)
(If you want to retell any of the stories listed below, be sure
to obtain permission from the copyright holder if the material
is not in the public domain)
7th grade ages are 11-12; 8th grade ages are 12-13 years old. Noodlehead Stories was The Great Hit!
See also: Noodlehead Stories from Around the World
2) The two things that seem to work with that age are either funny
stories or GOOD scary stories. Urban legends or stories based on history can be fun, especially
if you have some way of tying them to the kids (local stories,
or stories that COULD be local, etc.).
3) Some stories are: Difference between
Heaven and Hell, First Tears, Black Prince, Debate in Sign Language,
The Wooden Sword, Jumping Mouse, The World of Nasrudin Stories. Kids at this age are not into cutsy storytelling. I approach them like adults and they respond respectively with open mouths and blank looks on their faces as they soak up the stories.
4) Start with something bawdy: The Parrot's
Prayer Answered (posted here a few years ago); The
Tailor and his Wife; A Reason to
Beat your Wife.
Richard M. Germany
5) Diane Wolkstein's wonderful Haitian stories from The Magic Orange Tree : and Other Haitian Folktales. There are some gems for this age - e.g., Owl,
Monkey Who Asked for Misery, the title story.
6) 7th graders like Ooka the Wise: Tales of Old Japan
stories, The Teacher's Underwear,
and any story where the ending is not predictable. When they chose
stories to tell themselves, inevitably someone in each class would
choose Godfather Death and The
Twelve Dancing Princesses.
7) The harder-edged The Jack Tales stories
or The Man With No Story; African
dilemma stories with an explanation that they are used as training
stories for debating really difficult issues in tribal societies.
The ability to open one's mouth at the right time might save the
tribe. Wonder Tales (World Storytelling) tales still work wonders with
older children. Something like The Three
Golden Hairs of Grandfather All Know. Also Wonder tales where the girl characters get the boys out of trouble.
See also: Ray Hicks and the Jack Tales : A Study of Appalachian History, Culture, and Philosophy; Mountain Jack Tales; Southern Jack Tales.
8) Spiders in the Hairdo, Modern Urban Legends. Also, the
story about Charlie Parkhurst (the
female who disguised herself as a man & worked as one of the
best stage coach drivers in CA for the Wells Fargo Company).
Peddler's Dream works well for 7th grade. The
Weeping Girl at the Dancing Place is also good for both
10) Giant Purple Gorilla.
11) Gory story suggestion: The Piper's Revenge,
which you might also know as The Cow in
the Stable or The Cannibal Cow.
12) URL no longer valid.
13) The The Once and Future King (King Arthur) legends effective
with this age.
See also: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (Classic Literature With Classical Music. Junior Classics);
The Sword in the Stone
14) Mssr Jennings' masterpiece of yukkitivity: Dead
Man's Liver. Do a Google search for the title and you'll
15) Anything weird, yukky, or scary for this age group. Also,
stories from the The Devil's Storybook (Sunburst Book)--there's
something "forbidden" about telling cheeky stories about
the devil, and that always appeals to young teens.
16) I would suggest Queen with a Cold Cold
Heart from Crazy Gibberish and Other Story Hour Stretches : From a Storyteller's Bag of Tricks for one of the stories. It's about 7-8 minutes easy to learn and
full of audience participation.
My favorite story for this age group is The
Teacher's Underwear, a story originally collected during
the 30s by Jon Lee and Wolfram Eberhard for the WPA in the Chinatowns
of San Francisco and Oakland. You can find a retelling of it in
Tongues of Jade by Laurence Yep.
The title alone is an attention-getter.
18) Query: OLDER CHILDREN: What stories do you tell older children (12-14 year olds). Those basically in Secondary school or in the higher primary.
Is it possible to tell stories like The Chronicles of Narnia? I can't see how that is possible since it is a full book in itself.
Would older children require a more complicated plot? I realise that if you are telling stories in public, you can't really decide beforehand what age group your audience is.
Do you start with the little children's stories, then gradually progress to the older ones? I rationalised that the younger ones will have shorter attention span and wil kinda move on, while the older ones might stay on. But then again, they(older children) might just be bored, right from the start, because the stories are too kiddy for them.
Jenny T. 2/5/06
Response: I think the older audiences present the opportunity to tell more complicated folktales andpersonal stories, ones that would have the little ones wiggling with impatience. As for those mixed age groups, someone (Marilyn perhaps?) suggested informing the audience that you are starting with a few for the younger crowd, so the older ones know that meatier stories will be coming. I also like to present stories that contain riddles or clever twists, like the Hoja and Jewish stories (though I've seen some of those identified as Chinese as well) -- stories like The Smell of the Bread and The Lost Purse.
Mary G. 2/5/06
Response: Older children love scary stories. You can tell stories with more of a plot (Urban Legends are good too). I did a day of mystery stories, which all ages liked.
Chris K. 2/5/06
Response: Most of my telling is to teenagers and adults - take a look at some of the tales on my website for ideas.
Certainly start with "strong" material. Mr Fox is great. Tales like The Wounded Selkie that address deep emotions of hate, revenge and forgiveness go down well. Comic tales like The Clever Farmer or Woman's Work, too. If you feel comfortable telling, they will feel comfortable listening.
Richard M. Germany 2/6/06
Visit the Tales and Music website for stories to hear and read - and much more:
Response: When I first started telling as Mother Goose (complete with costume), I assumed that my stories were "for" the smaller children. However, my stories are new twists on the old rhymes, and I find that ALL ages enjoy listening to them--even the teenagers!
I have recently been expanding my repertoire, and am telling without any costume. I still find that if I tell a story well, all ages will listen and enjoy the story. For a mixed age group, I have a variety--some shorter, simpler tales for the small fry, and some longer, more complex ones for the older ones. If I'm telling only to adults, I can pick more adult themes--longer stories, personal stories, stories that stimulate adults to ask serious questions. My medieval program (told in costume as "Dame Judith") appealed to the 9-14 year olds the most. It included a King Arthur tale, a complex "fairy tale" (really more of an adventure tale), and a Robin Hood ballad, sung and accompanied by bowed psaltry. When I performed this program for mixed ages, I included a "dragon hunt" (like the "bear hunt") for the younger children, but the other stories were a bit too long for them, I think.
Judith W. 2/6/06
Response: Thank you everyone for your contribution. I liked the idea of a "story sock". I have been thinking of making a story bag and that idea of a sock kinda helped me make up my mind that this concept of pulling something out of a bag really does work. An element of surprise like the rabbit out of the magician's hat, even though everyone knows a magician will pull something out, it is still exciting.
A local storyteller also gave me the idea about using a felt board, velcro-ed pictures to tell stories, instead of books.
Something visual is needed here because most of our children do not speak English or English is not their first language (maybe 2nd, 3rd etc).
Which then leads to this question, visual aids.
But then...that's another story......
Jenny T. 2/6/06
19) Query: I have a question to those of you who have told stories for middle school students, grade 6 (11-12 years old) specifically. Will students of that age participate with a story, i.e. one that has either a song or call and response? I know when I have told to mixed aged groups children that age will follow along since the younger children jump right in. However, I wonder if they would when it is an audience of their peers. Thoughts?
Karen C. 11/25/07
Response: Depends on the rapport that the teller can build with the kids. Once they get started, they will continue...it's just getting them to participate in the first place. If it can happen spontaneously, then all the better. If there's a story with a repeated line or refrain that they will naturally chime in on without you asking, then getting planned participation in the next story will be easy. I just let them join in with me the first time or two they do it, smile to let them know it's ok and then after that I only say the trigger word and then let them take over that line. Soon they are participating and don't even realize it. After than, they are fine. 6th graders are still more like 5th than 7th graders, so getting that response is easier. I was fortunate in my middle school telling in that the kids knew me and grew used to storytelling. Once they know you, it's easier get participation even with 7th and 8th.
Susan McC 11/26/07
Response: I agree with Susan McCullough - middle school students WILL participate (even the 8th graders) but the stories and teller make it okay to do so. Peer pressure at this age (the desire not to look foolish) is actually stronger than in high school. It is the teller who holds the key.
You work it the way you would with any group, saving the "participatory" stories for later in the program when they've had a chance to know you (and find that you're not telling baby stories). I've had success with the Queen with the Cold, Cold Heart, my own version of The Princess and the Pea, That's Good, That's Bad (you can easily create one especially for middle schoolers...), or a riddle song such as "Sweet Violets."
I've also introduced to them the idea of "Freeze Frame," compliments of Mary Hamilton - and found that teachers used the idea later in their classrooms.
Pat in PC 11/26/07
Response: Probably not, especially if you tell them to. They are very conscious of the dignity of being grown. We just discussed this in the coaching sessions MO-TELL organized with Bobby and Sherry Norfolk. Sherry suggested that with repetitions, just let it happen if it happens (probably cooler if it's your own idea). She will also introduce a repetition of a line by saying something like, "and we all know what she said next." Then if they join in,
that's fine, but they don't have to. The coaching session was interesting, too. Our group of six (was going to be eight, but two had schedule problems) met twice and critiqued each other. Then we had the third meeting with Sherry and Bobby. Their comments were most valuable, both quite experienced, but two different perspectives. We included a discussion of words not to use in middle school, cock fight, booty . . .I'm sure there are more, but I've not had coffee yet. I used it as the impetus to work on Clever Aneit.
Mary G. 11/26/07
Response: I have to agree with those who say your first task is to establish rapport. Then anything is possible! Of all the storytellers I have seen work with middle schoolers, I have to say that Linda Gorham amazed me most. She told a gory story first, which got them hooked and made them realize that this was one cool lady. Then she invited nearly one third of the audience up on the stage with her - as many as 75 to 100 kids - and got them - and the rest of the audience participating to a degree I would not have thought possible. Best of all, she got them back into their seats with a minimum of disruption. She laid down a simple challenge - something to the effect of: "Now, you can return to your seats, stepping on people's toes and acting like a fool, or you can go back in a respectful calm manner like the young ladies and gentlemen you are. The choice is up to you." They all chose to be respectful!
Judy S. 11/26/07
Response: You're smart to be suspicious! It has not been my experience that sixth grade students appreciate call and response or song/chant stories when they are among peers. If they respond at all, it simply feels like pressure from those in power (their teachers who want them to make a good impression on the school's guest, for example). I found myself telling too "young" a story to fifth graders the other day and had that sinking feeling that they wished I wasn't there. The story turns out to be not-too-young-for-them in the end, I think, but it starts with some silly animals; I told it first in the program, and hadn't yet gained their confidence enough to bring them along with me.
The best results I have had to build interaction among 5th-8th grade students is with ghost legends followed by open discussion. Of course, there is always the question "Did that really happen?" or "Is that true?" then comes a barrage of local legends they know about. Often one child will assert that the story so-and-so told is really true and give another personal perspective, or that it's not true because... I often end such a discussion with the suggestion that, the next time they have a writing assignment, well, there's the story for them to write! They are the authority on that story! Folklorists and historians would love to hear about their experience! (Well, SOME historians!) Or I make that suggestion to the teacher, who usually nods, though I haven't heard if anyone has actually done that. (Maybe I'll ask them to send them to me next time!)
I think the best chance of a call and response working with sixth graders would be if they are former students or clubmembers of yours and ASKED you to tell one of their old favorites. Then, of course, you wouldn't want to disappoint! You could say "Okay, but--will you help me?" If you get a resounding "yes," then go ahead; otherwise, choose an old favorite that doesn't need their help.
Mary Grace K. 11/27/07
Response: Middle school is my favorite age to tell to. For me, the most important thing is to let them know I respect them. That being said....they are goofy. I hit 'em between the eyes first with something gross & funny so they realize that our storytelling will not be Mother Goose. Then
a jump tale because that's the other kind of story they expect. Then a myth because their minds crave the deep significance of mythic themes. After creating this community with shared enjoyment, I next do participation tales. For a story with repeating phrase, on the 2nd time I open my hands inviting them in, and "give 'em the eye", and let them finish my sentence. Or I'll do a acting out tale with volunteers from the audience. Usually I invite a few volunteers before the performance, reading the faces as they enter, and asking them individually, and asking if they can suggest other kids. Usually I invite more up once I start calling up the pre-set volunteers. I like to get a lot of kids on stage because it's easier for them to be up there if they have lots of company. Teachers usually say "I couldn't believe you picked that one - he's such trouble. But he turned out to be the best one."Because behavior that works on stage often does not work in the classroom, and this gives the kid a time to shine. I always make it easy for them to sit down again, or hide in the Chorus if they have 2nd thoughts once they look out at the sea of faces in the audience.
Yvonne H. 11/28/08
Response: Middle school students will participate in stories if you don't try to bring them down to the "Little kid" level. I get a lot of participation
in Lazy Jack which has to be spontaneous. I would really question that you could get them into singing, but then I can't sing either. The important thing in this age group is to get them participating in their minds really early in the program. The grosser the better.
Steve O. 11/28/07
Response: Need advice: I have an opportunity to present a two-hour training for a large group of experienced adults who lead local history tours for middle school students. They are not looking for stories and entertainment as much as TIPS - on working with that age group, keeping their interest, making their history content appeal to that group. ( These folks are all experienced tour guides - good storytellers - they want to help them with the age group) There will be 100 participants - any ideas for participation exercises they can do? I am thinking I should adapt a story, tell it, and have them participating? Thought this would be a good thread for gathering advice that all of us can use. I have some starting points, eye contact, audience participation, etc. and from what I have heard from Steve - use a ghost story where possible. What would you tell them about working with middle school students? What would you do to involve this audience in the training? Is there a book you would add to the bibliography? Appreciate your help and suggestions.
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