Pass the Story

Build imagination and improvisation in this interactive group story-telling game

Big Ideas:


Stories are worlds we can create together. Stories are only limited by our imagination - they can be funny, far-fetched, short and sweet or long, wild and winding. You only need one sentence to start a story…

You will need:

  • a group of children (or other people!)

  • room to sit in a circle

  • a large soft ball, such as a beach ball

  • imagination!

Once Upon a Jar at Alberton Primary School, 2022, photo credit: Roy Van Der Vegt

Pass the Story: Basic Game

Everyone sits in a circle. One person holds the ball.
The person with the ball starts by saying “Once upon a time…” and making up the first sentence of the story.
After their turn they pass the ball to the person next to them, who continues the story.
Everyone adds a sentence as they pass the ball around the circle. Try to end every sentence with “…and then…”
The last person in the circle ends the story… unless the group wants to go around again!

Pass the Story: Variations

  • Pass the Character
    Try using a toy animal or doll instead of a ball. Make the toy your main character, inspiring the story as you pass it around. What is their name? Where do they live? What adventures do they get up to?

  • Pressure On
    For confident storytellers, add a timer for fast and frantic improvisation

  • Pressure Off
    Instead of one sentence each, allow each person to add as much or as little to the story as they like.
    When someone feels inspired, they might create a whole chapter. When someone feels shy, they may add just one word.

  • Catch!
    Add the element of surprise. Instead of passing around the circle, a player can toss the ball across the group to somebody on the other side. To help the other new player catch the ball, get their first attention by using their name and a linking phrase, such as “What happened next, Sarah?”

  • Flying plot twists
    Throw in story elements as you go. One person holds a bag of different objects (toy animals and vehicles work well) and occasionally tosses one to a player who is about about to speak. The player has to quickly incorporate this new element into the story (eg “and then… they heard a fire truck in the distance…”)

  • Story in a Jar
    Fill a jar with words written on small pieces of paper. Start the story and pass the jar around the circle. On their turn, each player takes out a word and uses it in their story sentence (“… and that was the moment when the volcano erupted!”) For pre-readers, use pictures instead of words.

Stephen Sheehan with children at the Hopgood Theatre, Noarlunga 2022

Australian Curriculum Connections

Early Years Learning Framework

Learning Outcome 1: Children have a strong sense of identity

·     1.4 Children learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect

Learning Outcome 2: Children are connected with and contribute to their world

·      2.1 Children develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities

Learning Outcome 4: Children are confident and involved learners

  • 4.1 Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity.

Learning Outcome 5: Children are effective communicators

  • 5.1 Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes

General Capabilities

  • Literacy

  • Critical & Creative Thinking

  • Personal & Social Capability

Primary Learning Areas

The Arts: Drama (F-4)

  • Strand: Making

    Exploring ideas and improvising with ways to represent ideas
    Years F-2

    • Experience and explore purposeful and imaginative role play, take turns in offering and accepting ideas (ACADRM027)

    Years 3-4

    • Explore ideas and narrative structure through improvisation (ACADRM031)

    • Shape and perform dramatic action using narrative structures and tension (ACADRM033)

English (F-3)

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