“Mary Jo’s visits are definitely the highlight of our after-school hours,” says Square One Center Director Linda Lastowski. “It’s amazing to see the kids so eagerly expressing themselves through stories, music and art.”
According to the Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, “in order for schools to improve the literacy learning of all students, different pedagogical strategies need to be employed. Using storytelling in the classroom is one way to address literacy development by improving oral language, reading comprehension, and writing. Because of the interrelated nature of the processes involved in reading and writing, storytelling is an effective pedagogical strategy that can be woven into instruction to increase students’ competencies in all areas.” (Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 2008.)

You can book a one-time workshop or series. Mary Jo fuses performance with teaching, so everyone is happy, engaged and ACTIVE.

Each session is a mix of activities to teach children about folktales, narrative structure, how to listen, tell tales, learn self-presentation skills in support of oral literacy. A typical class begins with physical warm-ups/dance movements such as stretches, character movements/gestures/voices to relaxed guided imagery. This makes a wonderful transition from the school day. Then children listen to Mary Jo tell a folktale. Children chant as a group chorus, echo words, provide sound effects, mimic gestures, and sing to help tell the tale. In the beginning of each session, I teach them how to introduce themselves and their story to an audience, and how to bow. The fun is huge, and so are the benefits in building oral language skills–vital precursors to reading comprehension and writing.
Students develop their own group rubric for effective oral presentation, creating a list of skills to use, including appropriate volume, pacing, eye contact, awareness of body movements, how to walk, posture, etc.. They grow before your very eyes, even in one session. If you have a series, they continue to use and apply these skills, and they learn stories as a group, practicing with story partners, then receive coaching as they retell the tale yet again in front of their peers. It’s truly astonishing and beautiful to see.

Explore different cultural versions of this classic tale

Along the way we take different performance approaches to playing with story: acting them out, interviewing characters, making origami and other crafts as part of the story told, looking for the folktale country of origin on the globe. The children adore acting out stories, especially when I bring costumes for improve and as part of a tale. Sometimes we incorporate dance and musical instruments.

Mary Jo Maichack created and implemented two storytelling clubs for Holyoke, Massachusetts’s “Connections” afterschool program. Children in grades 2-5 participate in fun oral language arts activities, all aligned with common core standards.

Students learn:

Students act out stories such as Demeter and Persephone, in mask or other tales from around the world using costumes and coordinating musical instruments, chant, dialogue and dance. Other dress-up tales are pourquoi stories, an anti-bullying tale of music making friends who work and play cooperatively, an Anansi story, French folktale, American Jack tale, and a Caribbean tale with beautiful headdresses, dance & music. There’s nothing like kids making it happen. They are simply crazy about it. And acting out a tale makes later writing make sense.

Fifth grader wows his peers at a storytelling concert


Kids retell stories, learning retelling and good listening skills.