How to Make Useful Study Guides

                                                                                                            Marilyn Kinsella


The following is an outline I sent for a workshop that I presented at Sharing the Fire in Boston, MA, in 2005. Here are some of the comments I received...What did you like: "Group activity & participation. Many website references. Good preparation. Sharing ideas - variety of ideas. Wisdom. "Do not overwhelm" - terrific practical ideas and sources." The ideas garnered in the workshop for a study guide using Rumpelstiltskin are on: Study Guide for Rumpelstiltskin. I used the same outline for the NSN conference in St. Louis for the Anansi Study Guide (see below).

I have embellished this paper with thoughts, comments, anecdotes, and exciting tidbits of information. I like to think of this paper as "Work in Progress." If you have other information to add to this, please send it to Marilyn Kinsella at

                                                                                                  I.  TYPES of STUDY GUIDES

I.  One full page – See Generic Ideas for Study Guides that could be used on a variety of stories. Be sure to include your contact info and your web address.     This can be a useful and easy way to provide information to teachers. The ideas on this page can be used for almost any story. It allows the teachers to use their creative spirit to find ways to extend the story to fit into the curriculum standards. It also allows the teller to give something to the teachers that helps to justify bringing stories to the students. It can be easily stored, copied, and reproduced. It is ready at a moment's notice. Useful links to websites.

                II. One paper folded with 4 printable sides

This will take more time. It is prepared for a specific story or for a story program. It takes some thought, research, and updating. It is personalized to the event. So, it needs to be changed every time the teller uses it. However, once the basic work is finished, it can be stored in one's files and easily changed. The generic list has its uses, but the study guides give a synopsis of the story (s), vocabulary words, and references for the story. That information will be at the teachers' fingertips. It also gives the teachers specific ideas on ways to extend the story experience in the classroom, and it lists places for further exploration. Finally, it gives information on how to contact organizations connected to storytelling. There are many ways that tellers choose to organize their study guides. See Part III for those links towards the bottom of this page. The folded paper with four printable sides is my favorite way. The finished product will look like a pamphlet - one piece of paper folded across with Page One on the top quadrant. If you'd like to see the finished product, email me at and I will send you one as a Word Attachment. After you copy it, you can use that format for your own information. The following is one way to set up a paper for a study guide...

                                                                                             II.  Information to include on study guide:

Computer Programs differ, but in Word 1. Change the paper to "Landscape" and under columns change it to a 2 column page. You will do this twice - one for page 4 on left and page 1 on the right.  Do the same with the second page - but Page 2 is on the left and Page 3 is on the right. Set the type at 3 or 4.

When you have the two 2-column pages finished, copy Page 4-1 paper as many times as you think you will need for your event. Then, take those same  papers and put them back into the paper tray so that Page 2-3 will copy on the back. Make sure that they do not copy upside down from the first page. You may have to experiment with this at first. So, just do one or two copies to make sure the paper is in the tray correctly.

When you are finished copying, fold carefully in half to make a pamphlet to give to the teachers. (more hints at the bottom of this page)

Page 4 (See sample of Page 4)

End of story extension ideas

References and Websites for related stories and lesson plans

(Optional) Have a reward for the class for any teacher who gives a report to the teller on any of the follow-up activities suggested on the handout. This could be a CD, a certificate, or a small toy that relates to the stories that were told.

Information on local storytelling guilds/ beginners’ workshops/ NSN

Prominently display your website for further information and more story extensions

Include the teller's e-mail address and phone number.

Page 1 (See sample of...Page One) Keep in mind that Page 4 and Page 1 are on the same page

Name of school, date, title of presentation Personalizing this storytelling event at a school will go a long way in the perception of the teller being happy to come to the school. The teller cared so much to develop a study guide...just for them.

Storyteller’s picture (optional) The teller may have a logo or clip art to dress up the front of the study guide. If the teller has a picture, I recommend it. It is one more connection to remembering the teller.

Short bio of storyteller – Keep this to four or five sentences with a link to your web site or e-mail. Make sure you put down the area or city and state.


Page 2 (See sample of....Page Two) Pages 2 and 3 will be on the inside of the study guide.

It will depend on how much information the teller decides to include on each page as to which of the following will actually fit.

Title of story and bones of the story...possible link to on-line version

References for variants (books and websites)

List of unfamiliar words used in the story

Simple comprehension questions and/or QAR - Question/Answer/Response

List a couple of the educational standards for your state      See -

Begin with a list of easy, grade appropriate story extension ideas


Page 3 (See sample of....Page 3) Again, some of this may spill over to Page 4 depending on how much information the teller chooses to put on the page.

More story extension ideas (include at least 3 of the following) I get my ideas from teachers, from fellow storytellers, from the Internet, and from my years as a classroom teacher. You are bound only by your imagination. It's a challenge, but one I love, to find ways to connect the story to the curriculum. There is a Reference section at the bottom of this page for books and websites.

  1. Language arts                  4. Science
  2. Social Studies                  5. Math
  3. Visual Art                        6. Movement



                                           I'll be happy to send you a sample study guide by email. If you have MS Word, you can erase my info and put in your own.

                                                                                           III.   Helpful Hints

Set-up: I have used Microsoft Word and Microsoft Publisher. For some reason I seem to have trouble with Publisher. So, I'm now using Word exclusively. To set-up the page go to "File" and select "Page Set-up"  and click on the "Paper Size" tab, then click on "Landscape". And click on "OK." That will allow your paper to be printed horizontally. You may also want to change the margins at some point. Just hit the "Margins" tab (also in Page Set-up) and adjust accordingly.

Remember each side of the paper will have two pages on it - one side with Pages 1 and 4 and  the other side with Pages 2 and 3. To get the paper divided into the two sections, go to "Format" and click on "Columns" and click on "Two," and then "OK." On the side that has Page 1 and 4, make sure that Page 1 is on the right hand side and Page 4 is on the left. That allows the paper to be folded on the left and your bio page on front and your reference page on the back. One the other side Page 2 is the on the left and Page 3 is on the right. Once you set-up on Word, you can use it over again by saving the newly changed study guide as a "Save As." Just be sure to change the title. That way you will save the old copy and your new one. As I stated above, you can email me and I'll send you one of mine. Then you can pop in your info and save it as your own!!

Printing -When you copy, to get the two sides back to back, you will need to work with your printer to see how it is done. On most printers, the printed page will go in with the printed side UP. On my computer, I take the paper out and put it in the tray exactly the way it came out and printed side up. You will need to play with your printer to see if it goes in to the left or to the right. Otherwise, it will print upside-down from the other side.

Pit falls: How much of it is really ever used? I have no way of tracking this. I have recently added the note on Page 4 about sending me what they have used from the study guide. I intend to send a little something to the class for doing this. So far, no takers. How many do I print up? Just enough! I sometimes just give it to the principal and let him/her reproduce. Or, if the school to smaller, to one teacher in each grade level. If very small- to each teacher. Problems - Sometimes I get frustrated getting the papers in the correct way for printing. It does tend to use up the colored ink - but I can always put it on black and white print. Giving too much information - if you look at the first study guide I did on Stories 'n Stones below, you will see that I went a tad overboard. It reads like a book. I'm sure a real turn-off for busy teachers. It's real heavy on academic and very light on practicality. Live and Learn.

                                                                                                  Examples of on-line Study Guides:


                                                                                                                  IV. On-Line Handout

(0r "Save a Tree") I have attended hundreds of workshops. Most of the material that I thought I could possibly use, I dutifully took home and put it in my file cabinet...never to see light of day again. I think that the way to go is to put hand-outs on-line. If a person wants to keep the information, they have options. They can put the website on their "Favorites;" they can cut and paste it and put it in their Word e-files; they can run it off to make a paper copy to put in their files. I always make a few "hard-copies" for the individuals in the workshop who do not own a computer. The following are some of the good and the bad about putting papers on-line

a. You must make sure the teachers have your website – perhaps, on promo handouts or on the generic list.    They must also find it easily on your website. On your website have a page that lists your Study Guides. I call mine "Teacher/Teller". From there they can easily access the study guides.

b. There is no need to do a Page One, so follow the outline above for Pages 2-4  for the website. Now, you can give as many ideas as you want on the website. You are not limited by space. You can dress it up with lots of pictures and clip art. You can add new ideas and delete out-dated ones at the tap of a finger.

c. The great thing about on-line handouts is the information to references on other web pages is just a click away. You can highlight any word and have it linked to information. However, you do need to go over your website periodically and make sure the links are still viable.

d.  Some tellers prefer to not list their home phone since it is on-line and open to the world-wide-web. However, your information is out there on the web anyway. If, however, you choose to not list your phone or address, at least post the area you are from somewhere on the study guide.

e.  Yes, your paper is on-line. Maybe someone will copy it. Maybe they will claim it as their own. I try not to worry about such things. Copy it, claim it...I don't care. It would be nice to give my name and website as a reference, but I'm not out to police this work. In fact, it's my gift to you!