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Story-telling: Finding Meaning in our Experiences

Impact Storytelling


In this activity participants will explore the importance of storytelling and practice writing and sharing a story. They will develop communication skills in the process. It can be used in a variety of contexts, including to build team bonds, explore personal identities, or to develop confidence in public speaking.

To have participants reflect on the value and importance of storytelling and practice telling their own stories. 

This activity can quite easily be adapted to fit a specific theme of a program, or to extend a learning / theme from a previous module by tweaking the framing, story prompts and debrief questions. See variations for ideas. 

  • Paper (1 per participant)
  • Pencil Crayons and pens
  • Chart Paper and Markers (or white board)
  • Music while they work

Write the following questions on a piece of chart paper:

  • Who was there? 
  • Where were you?
  • Why were you there?
  • How did you feel?
  • What did you say? What did you do?


  • Show this video: The Danger of a Single Story – Chimamanda Adichie (4min)
    • If you’re unable to show the video, you’ll have to either tell your own story, play this through speakers, or just discuss stories off the bat.


  • Debrief / Discuss Storytelling
      • What did you think? What was her message?
      • Where do we hear / see stories? (books, tv, movies, everywhere)
      • Why do we tell stories?
      • Explain Value: People have told stories since we could speak. Stories help us make sense of ourselves and our world, they help us understand one another and connect us. 
      • You may want to share a quote about stories such as:
        • “We’re all stories, in the end.” (Steven Moffat)
        • “Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.” (Ben Okri)
        • “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” (Maya Angelou)
    • We all have stories to tell. Explain that we all have stories to tell, we just may not realize it yet. And there is power in the stories we tell, and how we tell them. 


  • Pick a Story: Explain that now each participant will choose a story to share about something they’ve experienced.
      • Encourage it to be light, and fun. Don’t think too hard – you can make a story out of anything. 
      • Explain they will not be forced to share in a large group, but will be asked to share to a few people individually.
      • If you want everyone to write about a specific experience that goes with your theme or program, just frame this appropriately here.


  • Optional: Give them a story prompt. If you’d rather, you can give them a prompt that will be the first line of their story. This may help spark an idea in them, and could follow a theme you want. 
      • I knew I was out of place when _______
      • I knew things had gone wrong when _________


  • Hand out paper to each participant and pencil crayons.
      • Explain that the paper is a portal into their story. They can use the paper however they want: draw their story, write down ideas, brainstorm, etc.
      • Allow them time to begin drawing their story however they want.
      • Play some calm music while they work.


  • Once they’ve had time to begin brainstorming their story and write some things down on the page, bring the group back together. Post the prepared chart paper with questions. Read through the questions as a group. Ask, “are there any more questions we typically want answered through a story?” Add any additional questions the group can think of. 
      • Tell participants they don’t need to answer all of these questions in their stories, these are just a guide to help them expand their story. 
      • Give the group a time limit to work on their story (anywhere from 5 – 20 minutes depending on how detailed you want their stories).
      • Tell them that they will have the opportunity to share what they’ve written afterward.


  • Frame Warm Up: Explain now you’re going to warm up before actually telling your story. Remind them that the way a story is told is just as important as what the story is about. Let’s play with that! 
  • Ask them to count 1 to 10 (out loud!) in these different ways (encourage them to be loud and theatrical):
    • As if you were an angry parent who said, “I am going to count to 10 and if you’re not in the bedroom by the time I get to 10, you’re in big trouble.”
    • As a very little child just learning to count.
    • As if you were very sad because you thought everyone had forgotten your birthday but when you walk into your living room there are 10 presents sitting on the floor.
    • As if you were a referee for a boxing match and you were counting someone out. 
    • As if you were telling someone a phone number when the phone was not working right
    • As if you were counting pennies as you dropped them into a piggy bank
  • Of course, storytelling isn’t just words; it’s motion, too. Have them all stand on one side of the room and each time will have to walk across the room pretending to be something different:
    • Coming home from school and you know you have a lot of chores to do when you get there.
    • You are walking through a foot of snow
    • You are walking barefoot in a very sticky, squishy swamp
    • You are walking across a blistering hot desert
    • You are in a graveyard at night walking through the tombstones
    • Your right leg is in a cast
    • You are walking through honey
  • Review why you did that warm up. Ask the group how the warm up can help them when sharing their story? 


  • Have participants pair up and take turns sharing their story.
  • Use their drawing: If they get stuck, encourage them to use their drawing as a reference of support.
  • Have participants rotate so they get to practice telling their story at least 3 times.

NOTE: This debrief can be omitted if similar questions have been weaved throughout to aid processing.

Objective of Debrief: To have participants think about how they can utilize stories more in their lives 

  • How was it sharing your story?
  • Did it get easier after a bit?
  • Did anyone hear a story they really want to shout-out?
  • Something exciting? Something with a great ending?
  • Why do you think we did this?
  • Where can you utilize stories more?
  • How can stories help in your action plan?
  • BUILDING CONNECTIONS. Run the activity similarly with the following changes:
  • Give them prompts that encourage them to open up a bit about themselves:
    • If you really knew me you’d know ________.
    • The one thing I love more than anything else is _________.
    • I knew I didn’t belong there when _________.
    • One of the best things that ever happened to me was _______.
    • One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is __________.
    • A time I felt strong was _____.
    • A time I surprised myself was _______.
    • Instead of sharing in pairs, have participant share in small groups, with less of a focus on repeating to practice, and more of a focus on hearing different people’s stories.
    • Build in time to honour and affirm one another, as it is scarier sharing in groups.

  • FINDING VOICE THROUGH IDENTITY. Focus on exploring and finding pride in individual’s identities. Run the activity similarly with the following changes:

  • PART 1: Work in the following questions to discuss:
    • Whose stories are most often heard? (privileged identities)
    • Why?
    • What’s the impact of this?
    • What’s the power of creating and sharing stories of different identities?
  • PART 2: Give them the following story prompt options:
    • I was proud of where I came from when _____.
    • A time I felt like I was on the outside was ______.
    • An important part of my identity is ________.
    • People always assume I am _______.
    • Skip the drawing step / colouring. 
  • PART 3:
    • Skip the warm-up activities and spend more time on the crafting of the story.

  • PART 4:
    • Remind them about their group agreements and being respectful. 
    • Let them share their stories in small groups, rather than pairs. 
    • Invite some volunteers to share in front of the larger group.
  • Debrief:
      • How was it sharing your story?
      • Was it difficult?
      • Was it empowering?
      • Who heard something that they liked and wanted to shout out?
      • Why is there value in sharing our stories?
      • How can we speak up and find our voice?