School Storytelling

Seven, collage, e.schoettler, 2009 Series

School Storytelling - with some teaching on the side

Today I told folktales for the fifth grade classes at Harford Day School in Bel Air, Maryland. as part of the activities for their unit on Storytelling. They wanted a professional storyteller to demonstrate a storyteller- at- work and to talk with the students about techniques for telling stories.

The students were primed and ready which makes storytelling such a joy for the storyteller. I told stories which I enjoy telling and which have a variety of gestures, from slight to more sweeping. I chose to tell two "chain" stories as a way to demonstrate that you don't memorise the story - you learn it - scene by scene.

In a "chain" story the action is carried along by a series of changing actions - learn the order and you have the story. After I told the first story we talked about the chain. They got it. Repeated the chain and were confident they could tell the story at home in the evening - using their own words. I bet they did too.

Stories I told: The Old Woman Goes to the North Wind, The Drum - a story from India and Lazy Jack, a story from Ireland or Appalachia, depending on your take on the story. The Drum and Lazy Jack are what I call "chain" stories.

With some teaching:
Usually I go to a school to tell a program of stories and there is not really time to open a door to storytelling for the students. Its active entertainment in that they have to listen and create mental pictures or respond with audience participation - but that's not really an invitation to the students to tell stories themselves.

In this instance I could invite the students to see themselves as tellers and then share a few secrets that make telling the tale seem easier and possible for them to do. For instance: I asked them to tell me what they had seen me do during the telling - that helped tell the story. That was funny for me to hear. I know these stories so well that I was not even aware of small gestures, like reaching into a pocket, that are just a natural part of thinking myself IN the story.

Talking about it - they got it!

An Art Surprise at Harford Day School.
I always enjoy the student art work on the walls in a new school. Today encountered a special treat.
This large and fascinating dragon was hanging in the Harford Day School library. I learned that it was done last year when artist Maryand artist Stephen Parlato came for a working school visit. This particular work was a collabortation with Mr. Parlato and fifth grade students

I hope you can see in the detail photo that the dragon is made of pictures of books. That was hte criteria for the photographs used - books of some kinds, whole books, pieces of books, closed, open, flat or standing. The effect of massing the pictures together within the shape the artist provided is stunning. And the finished work very well done and sophisticated for the student work. It is an exciting project. Fun to look at for the visual discoveries.