Flannel board stories have a magical way of engaging children. They bring a rhyme, fairy tale, or story alive and immerse children in the emotions of the characters.

The tactile nature of the flannel board pieces invites children to "feel" each story component. And because the story is being "told" instead of read, there is more time to reflect on the behaviors and interactions of the characters.

Let's dust off our old flannel boards-or build a new one-and get the fun and "feeling" going!

Getting Started

Choose short stories children may know. This will not only invite their participation but also their willingness to delve into the deeper meanings of the stories. Fairy tales such as "The Little Red Hen", "Three Little Pigs", "Three Bears", and "Jack and the Beanstalk" all provide opportunities for children to empathize with the characters and their situations. Ask questions to get the conversation going: How do you think the character feels in the beginning of the story? What problems arise? How would you feel if you were ... ? Invite children to use the felt board pieces to retell the story with their own words and feelings.

Moving Ahead

Longer stories can he used once children are familiar with the process. Traditional fairy tales such as "Hanzel and Gretel" and "The Gingerbread Man" are good choices. A particularly good story for re-telling is "Cinderella", because children can easily empathize with the main character.

Flannel Boards for Toddlers Too!

What a great combination-toddlers and tactile story pieces! The trick with toddlers is to keep the pieces large and simple. It also doesn't hurt to make the pieces out of washable flannel that can be washed after the material has been lovingly "smooched!" Choose short and familiar nursery rhymes and songs that can be repeated over and over again. Good choices are: "Hey Diddle Diddle", "Little Miss Muffet", and "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider". Don't worry if you don't get through the entire story or song. Initially, toddlers may just want to play with the pieces; later, they will be more interested in the story that goes with it.

Resources:

Felt Board Stories by Liz and Dick Wilmes (Building Blocks Press, 2001; $16.95)

The Flannel Board Story Book by Frances S. Taylor (Humanics, 1987; $17.95)

Ready-to-Use Flannel Board Stories, Figures, and Activities for ESL Children by Elizabeth Kreplin and Bonnie Mae Smith (Center for Applied Research in Education, 1995; $29.95)

On the Internet:

The Temperament Learning Center www.kidtemp.com/felt.html

Try the National Network for Child Care for tips on storytelling with felt boards: www.nncc.org/Literacy/better.storytell.html

Purchase felt board stories at:

www.thefeltboard.com

www.dotstots.com/funwithfelt.htm

www.funfelt.com

Tips for Storytelling

As in any storytelling, the key to success is practice. If you are telling a familiar story, write a simple script for yourself and practice it with the story pieces. Remember that it's important to know the story well enough to be able to look directly at children and speak expressively. You may need assistance in using the story characters on the board. Children love to help! Designate one child each time to be the "props and personnel director" for the story. She can hand you felt pieces or move them around the board. But most important, involve all children. Invite them to make sound effects and movements to add to the fun and meaning of the story. Then leave the flannel board out during activity time and watch the magic as they tell and retell the story in their own words!