Workshop notes from Godfrey Coppinger – that’s Me!

I wasn’t sure if you could print from the blog, but I checked it out and it works. So… Terrance and I will post our handouts instead of giving out paper copies. I always make too many copies to be sure everyone gets one. This way you can copy your own and we can all save paper. I

I’m also making this two posts because, well, just because. This one is almost a thousand words and that’s too many for one post.

I don’t know why the numbered parts are ‘muted’ but it prints OK.


Storytellers Godfrey Coppinger and Terrance V. Mc Arthur

June, 17, 2017, A Book Barn, Clovis CA


  1. Can be told anywhere with few or no materials
  2. More personal than reading
  3. More use of child’s imagination
  4. Freedom! If memory fails, imagination takes over
  5. Teaches listening skills
  6. Introduction to reading skills
  7. Introduction to literature
  8. Builds self esteem


  1. Literary stories
  2. Folk and fairy tales
  3. Personal and family stories
  4. Tall tales and legends
  5. Stories from other cultures
  6. Improvisational stories
  7. Other: myth, fable, non-fiction, biography, etc.


  1. Must be a story that YOU like
  2. Something you already know?
  3. A simple plot
  4. Strong visual images
  5. Pleasing sounds and rhythms
  6. Dramatic appeal


  1. Read the story several times
  2. Put the book down and visualize the characters, the setting, the plot
  3. Read the story again, visualizing as you read
  4. Start telling the story to yourself, to your friends, your family your cat, anyone or anything that will listen!
  5. Practice, practice, and practice
  6.  Write down the “Bare Bones” of the story for future reference. (*See below)


  1. Start strong – memorize beginning
  2. Be animated
  3. What if you forget something?
  4. End strong – memorize ending


There are three things  you need to make up a good story:

A character, a problem, and a solution to that problem.

This sometimes happens in threes: Character tries solution, doesn’t work, tries another solution, doesn’t work. Third solution works.

PLEASE REMEMBER: While conflict is important, I try to keep violence to a minimum. There are other ways to solve problems – use your brain!

When making up a story with very young children, just let it flow, don’t worry about it making too much sense – have fun!

TALL TALES: My personal favorite! A tall tale starts with a little bit of truth, then you s-t-r-e-t-c-h that truth just as far as you can. I had a dog when I was young who used to chase airplanes. I asked myself one day, “What would happen if she ever caught one?” I thought of all the possibilities, and my book PETUNIA’S AIRPLANE was born. Start with something from your life, or from family history, and ask “What if?”

MAKING UP STORIES WITH CHILDREN AND OTHER PEOPLE: Ask children to suggest a character, a girl or boy, an animal, a witch, king, farmer etc. What problem does that character have? How will the character solve that problem? Ask children for several suggestions, then help them choose. There can be other characters in the story who help or hinder the main character – good guys and bad guys. This one works really well in the car. Use things you pass in the story.

THE STORY BAG: My personal favorite! Fill your story bag with interesting things. Small things that will fit into the bag. Things that might make you think. If you’re working with friends, ask them to bring something to put in the story bag.

The first person reaches into the bag and takes something out. (No peeking!) What is it – what COULD it be? Use your imagination – a shoe isn’t always a shoe. What could it symbolize? Keep taking things from the bag until everyone has had at least one turn. Sometimes these stories are amazing. Other times they’re just lots of FUN!


*One Fine Day: An Armenian Folktale

The Bare Bones

One fine day a fox went bounding over the hillside.

long pointy nose, ears

tail, of which he was very proud.

bounding, little old woman, put down pail/milk

fox drank, woman mad, grabbed tail, tail came off

Fox: sew my tail back on

woman: bring me more milk…fox went bounding

field of grass (Wave arms in air)

Please give milk, to woman, so she will sew my tale back on

Grass: if you bring water… bounding

babbling brook, (babble, babble, babble) give water, to grass,

old woman, so she will sew my tale back on

Brook: can’t hold water in paws, bring jug, bounding

Beautiful young maiden (giggle) give jug

Maiden: Bring blue glass beads, necklace, bounding

traveling peddlers, (twirl mustache, “eh eh eh”) give beads

Peddlers: eggs for our breakfast, bounding

Flock of chickens (cluck) eggs

Chickens: wheat, bounding

Mill, miller grinding wheat (grinding motion)

Please, Mr. Miller, wheat for chickens, etc.

Saw how tired, of course

The fox took that wheat back to the flock of chickens

eggs to peddlers, beads to maiden

jug to brook, water to grass, grass to cows

The cows gave that fox some milk and he took it to the little old woman who sewed his tale back on.

And that fox went bounding over the hillside and he never went back that way again.

I learned this story from the late Ted Esquivel, and will think of him always, whenever I tell it.

It can also be found in a picture book of the same name by Nonny Hagrogian