Tuesday, January 1, 2013

101 Games That Teach Storytelling Skills

Book Review

Written by Anthony Burcher and Mike Burcher

Available for $19.95 ($15.96 for ebook)+ shipping and handling from

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

Using their more than fifty combined years of storytelling and camp leadership as a model, Anthony and Mike Burcher have co-authored this comprehensive book that teaches the value of joy and play with regard to storytelling.

The Burchers acknowledge that in recent years, movies, television, audio recordings, and digital media have changed the way stories are told. Dependence on electronic media has led many to fore-go mastering the communication skills necessary to navigate today's social and business paradigms. Social networking has denied users the experience of seeing how others react to what is shared, resulting in the user's own shrinking knowledge regarding how to appropriately listen and respond to others.

So how can one gain these skills in today's modern world? The Burchers suggest duplicating the camp experience, which deliberately limits technology to create an environment that is ideal for learning social and linguistic skills.

This book is divided into three groups of games. Of particular interest is the section on games that teach the skills needed before you take the stage in front of a live audience. These games focus on such elements as imagination, word selection, powers of observation, dedication to practice, and an above average command of both the English language and story structure. Most storytelling handbooks and workshops assume such skills are already in play. Because this book makes no such assumptions, it is a valuable tool for the true beginning storyteller. The Astounding Adjective Name Game, for instance, requires participants to introduce themselves by preceding their names with adjectives that begin with the same letters as their names and also aptly reflect their personalities. This requires a thought process that sharpens word selection skills and mastery of language.

The second group of games focuses on skills needed to perform in front of an audience (facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, etc.). The third group of games focuses on practicing and telling stories in front of and with others. These games include round robin stories, jet speed autobiographies, and other games that keep the story moving when no one knows who is telling next.

With all three groups, the essentials (objective, goal, recommended ages, number of players, energy level, formation, and props) of each game are given prior to the instructions for playing the game. These essentials guide the leader into selecting the most appropriate games for the group of participants.

This book is a good investment for storytellers of all levels. Not only does it aid in the development of new storytellers, but it is a good tool for experienced tellers who want to sharpen skills learned long ago and re-energize their own performances.


  1. This is an excellent review of an important, addictive book! I couldn't put it down! I wanted to play all the games immediately - besides being educational they were all clearly explained and sounded such fun!

    This book is a jewel in the arsenal of anyone who leads groups of any kind as well of those who teach storytelling.

    Bravo Mr and Mrs Burcher!

  2. I never went to camp, but this book made me see the value of the camp experience.

    Linda Goodman