Some of my favorite story times are ones that allow kids to take center stage. I'm a body smart person, and it turns out most of my kids are too. We love to jump in and become part of the story. When we imagine we're the disciples in the boat as Jesus comes walking across the water, we pull Peter and Jesus into our boat made of chairs shouting, "Wow — you really are the Son of God!" and then we go back to fishing for a little while. Someone throws Peter a pretend towel or shows Jesus the latest catch, and then we cast out our lines again. Those are my favorite times as a teacher. When a story engages our imaginations, it sticks with us long after the lesson.
There are three things I keep in mind each time I tell a story with partners:
Instead of asking "who wants to be ...?" I pass out the parts myself. This moves things along more quickly, and allows me to prepare at home by jotting down names of kids who might be well suited for various parts. I also include non-speaking parts to involve everyone in my group (and add a little comic relief). Kids might be sheep, trees, rocks, members of a crowd, or anything else that helps tell the story.
As we look over scripts, or brainstorm a dramatic retelling, I help kids imagine their way into the roles: You are an undefeated warrior — a giant compared to the puny guy that's challenging you. There's a cheering crowd watching your every move. How would you stand? What would your face look like; your voice sound like? What are you carrying?
I've found that two times is the charm. Whether we're creating an unscripted drama or carefully reading lines, we all need a practice round. The first time we get used to our role, practice hard words, know where to stand, and get our giggles out. By the second time we're ready to focus on what's really happening in the story ... and when we know the story, we're free to improvise what might have happened after!