In 1981, Vivian Paley began publishing books about young children and the ways they use stories and play to begin to make sense of themselves and people and events at home, school and in the wider world. She used a tape recorder to capture the conversations in her classroom, and designed an activity she referred to as storytelling and story acting (STSA).

Getting started with storytelling and story acting.
STSA nuts and bolts.

The storytelling portion of the activity would begin with Who has a story to tell? After taking dictation from all children who had expressed an interest, Paley invited everyone to the classroom rug for the story acting or dramatization part of the activity.

I discovered Paley’s books in 1995, and a few months after reading them, gave Paley a call to see if we could produce a video program about the STSA process for early childhood professionals to use as a guide.

After a year of conversations and visits, we were ready to film. Curious parents and teachers stood and sat around the room, doing their best to stay out of the way of cameras, lights and boom mikes. The stories the children told ranged from playing video games to taking baths to thinking about dogs that did not want to go to school.

To begin to understand the nuts, bolts and nuances of STSA, six of the stories are included here. During the storytelling sessions, Paley collects stories by writing down the children’s words and asking a variety of questions. During the story acting sessions, she uses stage directions and additional questions to strengthen the connections between the children, their stories and their thinking. The foundation of her work with children was a strong belief in inclusion, part of her nurturing approach to interactions with children.

Video companion guide and Seeing Into Conversations chapbook.
Beyond nuts and bolts
(Click to purchase)

Collecting, connecting, nurturing: storytelling clips.
Collecting, connecting nurturing: story acting clips.

The companion booklet to Vivian Paley and the Boy Who Could Tell Stories, and Seeing into Conversations: Children Using Words in Stories, are available for teachers and parents who would like to know more about STSA and/or practice having conversations with children to help develop and strengthen the skills needed for literacy and play.


Online alphabet of stories: A is for Anecdote  ✒︎