Storytelling Tree

Storytelling Tree lesson plan

For cultures around the world, trees symbolize a creative source of magical stories. Under their branches, stories unfold and are told to young and old.

  • 1.

    The stories associated with trees often are told not only for entertainment but also as part of an oral education, passing down to future generations what is valuable and important to a culture.

  • 2.

    The native people of the Pacific Northwest call their totem poles storytelling trees. These trees primarily tell the stories of the families who carved them. The Baobab tree, found on the savannas across the continent of Africa, offers shade and many byproducts. For generations, it has long served as a gathering place to tell stories. Grown in tropical Asia, the Banyan tree is considered to be sacred. Its canopy can span up to 1000 feet (304 m) in diameter. Here is one way to create a dramatic storytelling tree while working in small groups.

  • 3.

    Create the trunk. Decorate several Crayola Neon Color Explosion® Papers with stripes and shapes using Neon Color Explosion Markers to give texture to your tree’s trunk. Use different marker tips for various effects. Embed faces and other storytelling elements in the bark. Interweave traditional design elements through your work.

  • 4.

    Turn over the pages and slightly overlap them. Tape pages together. Roll taped together pages into cylinder and tape. Cut snips along bottom edge and fold up tabs to create a sturdy base for your tree.

  • 5.

    Represent a story. Festoon the tree with your tales as well as your cutouts representing characters and action in the story. Cut out vivid branches, flowers, and leaves from Neon Color Explosion Paper. Cut very thin strips and curl them around a cylinder

  • 6.

    With your group, figure out a process for memorizing and sharing stories from other cultures using your tree as a prop to communicate to other students.


  • Students design a 3-D tree inspired by traditional, multicultural elements. Students represent oral stories through graphic design.
  • Students memorize traditional stories from various cultures other than their own.
  • Students orally present tales to an audience.


  • Many proverbs and sayings from around the world use tree imagery. Start a collection of these. Here’s one from China: "Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come."
  • Research the meaning and roles that trees have played in development of world religions, cultures, and history.
  • Institute a regular public speaking component in the curriculum. Include joke telling, debates, and poetry slams as well as story time.
  • Assessment: Did students utilize the unique qualities of the paper and markers when creating their tree? Was care and attention given to the oral presentations? How well did the students work together to create a cohesive project?