How to Upload Your Video
How to Approach Literature for Performance

Start with questions:

  • Who is the main voice? Is this told in the third person? The first? What kind of a narrator is it?  All narration has a kind of character to it that you can make decisions about and bring out in your presentation.
  • To Whom is that voice speaking? Or, to whom are you presenting a story or text?
  • What is going on in the overall story? 
  • What sorts of people live in this piece?
  • Where is your piece taking place?
  • How are the conditions that surround the characters affecting the action and choices?
  • Are there any major characters that are never seen or heard from?  If not, why?
  • What emotions are characters feeling?
  • What emotion do you think the audience/reader is intended to feel?

Selecting an excerpt:

  • Why choose this piece? What about it captures the sense of the book?
  • Does your choice stand alone in some way? Even with an excerpt we expect a beginning, middle, and ending point – although that may be a cliffhanger.
  • Does your excerpt fit in the time allowed?
  • Do you feel comfortable presenting this piece? In terms of language? Character? Action?
  • Do you need to make any cuts to the piece? For example, removing a paragraph, combining two scenes?  You want to make sure the piece feels whole and like you are telling a story.  You shouldn’t add text, but you can always remove some.  (For example, do you need all the ‘she said’s, or are you doing it vocally?)

Introducing your excerpt:

  • Make sure to state the title and author of your piece and when it was written.  If there is an illustrator, make sure to include them too.
  • Tell us what the author is trying to do with the piece: Is there a theme that underlies the story? What is the author saying about that theme? (For example, the theme ‘Revenge’, but the author is really saying that “the need for revenge can make a person lose themselves”) 
  • Give us some plot summary, but think about it in terms of setting up the excerpt you are reading, what do we need to know to understand the moment?
  • How does your book work with the presentation topic? This will usually be part of the assignment instructions. (As examples, why is the book a favorite? How is the author making use of a fairy tale? Why might a book have been considered a classic?)
  • Address the style and tone of the piece, what marks the text?

Things to consider while working with a text:

  • What is the overall tone of the piece?
  • What kind of language is the author using? Is there a certain kind of phrasing? Allusions? Rhythm? Verse?
  • Are there words that you aren’t sure about meaning or pronunciation? Take time to look them up.  If you do mispronounce something, don’t worry about it! English is weird and we often read a word much more than we hear it.
  • Is the passage particularly descriptive? Can you really imagine it in front of you? The more you do, the more your listeners will as well.
  • How do you make the beginning and the ending of your excerpt clear on their own, rather than adding an unnecessary “Here’s the excerpt” “I’ll start” “And that’s it” or somehow trailing off.  Think about taking a breath before you start.  Think about tone as you end a last sentence to feel final.  Take a breath to let that excerpt sit with us before you rush away/turn the camera off.

Telling a story physically and vocally

  • Try not to rush, it takes a listener longer to process than it takes you to read at what might feel a natural speed. 
  • Silence is useful, pauses help create phrasing.  These are moment to look more directly at the camera, to use your facial expressions, your physical body.
  • Mark up a text ahead of time.  Identify those breaks, phrases, and even physical movement you might use.
  • Characters are not just different vocally, they are different in body language, what can you bring in to indicate that?  On camera, think about your shoulders in addition to your face.
  • Your face and body are a tool for conveying emotion.
  • What isn’t in the text? What’s “between the lines” that you can use your body to convey more clearly. (Example: It doesn’t SAY the character is nervous, but you can tell they are/would be.)
  • Experiment with exaggeration.  It may feel strange at home alone recording, but, in general, as viewers, we enjoy a ‘bigger’ presentation.
  • Make deliberate choices about physical movements and vocal choices.  Commit to those choices rather than being afraid of them.
  • Breath!
Tech Resources

Cuny Academic Commons

To get started as a student user for this class you will need to claim your Cuny Academic Commons account.

Complete information for doing that is here.


Our class meets on Zoom. Zoom is free for you to use to join a meeting.


We may be using Dropbox over the course of the semester, or you may wish to use it with your group partners. You also entitled to a free Dropbox account via CUNY. To access it, go to dropbox.cuny.edu and use your CUNYFirst credentials.

Brooklyn College Library

You will need to have access to your Brooklyn College library account. We will be using both e-books in the collection as well as accessing articles and materials through several databases.

Getting other materials for presentations

If materials aren’t available at the BC Library there are some other resources to try before purchasing.

Brooklyn Public Library (or another local library): Libraries today have extensive ebook collections that will likely have many books that you might want to use available.

Public Domain books: Books (and other materials) published before 1924 are out of any copyright. Many assigned books presentations use materials in the public domain. Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) is a great source for these materials.

More from archive.org: Throughout this site, I’ve linked to public domain (out of copyright) books from archive.org, but if you sign up for a free account you can also ‘check out’ many more books.

Tips for Reading Aloud
Being on Camera
All of these tips are the same for in person!
Fairy Tale Resources for finding and contextualizing your story

For older textual versions, the best places to turn are:

Ashliman, D.L., ed. Folklore and Mythology: Electronic Texts. The University of Pittsburg. Last modified Sept. 5, 2021. https://sites.pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts.html

This database is divided by story type so you may have to do a bit of searching to find your story. If the category isn’t immediately obvious or under the letter you expect, you may want to try Googling your story title and the title of the website.

“Books in Children’s Myths, Fairy Tales, etc.” Project Gutenberg. https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/bookshelf/216

There are a lot of different public domain books here (pre-1925) many of which include illustrations that you could potentially use as a visual version as well. You may have to do some creative searching but there’s a wealth of material here.

For visual variations

To come

For Performed variations

To come

For post 1970-YA/Adult or Middle Grade Variations

One of the best places to turn is going to be the Brooklyn or New York Public Library. They have an enormous amount of ebooks that fit this part of the assignment.

The Brooklyn College Library has most of Ellen Datlow’s edited collections of modern fairy tale short stories available as ebooks which are a great resource.

If you want to purchase something you can of course!

To help you find something, below is a large list of adaptations that I maintain, some of which I may have available for lending. You are by no means required to stick to this list.

Academic Article or Chapter

You are looking for something that is peer-reviewed so you will be best served using the Brooklyn College Library where you can sort by peer-reviewed material for articles. If you are looking at a book chapter, you want to pay attention to the publisher – Is it an academic press? Sometimes you won’t necessarily find an article or chapter clearly based on the title of your story. Remember: Story titles change over time. Especially for less well-known and studied stories, you may end up finding a chapter or article that deals with the type of story that it is a part of. For example, The Gingerbread man is a type of “Runaway food” story that exists in a number of places.

Some of the most prolific scholars of folk and fairy tales, both old and new, and who have published extensively and/or recently published books: Jack Zipes, Maria Tatar, Marina Warner, Ruth Bottigheimer, Anne Duggan, Donald Haase, Don Ben-Amos, Cristina Bacchilega, Sue Short, Mayako Murai, Nancy Canepa, Ann Schmiesing, Rebecca-Ann C. Do Rozario, and many more.

One thing to be wary of as you search is that sometimes the name of a fairy tale may have been attached to a medical, psychological, or business concept which isn’t really going to help you in your understanding of the tale.