Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Story by Story

This past May I was privileged to be interviewed about my Student Storytelling Troupe by Eric Wolf. Eric also offers other interviews on a variety of subjects from storytellers around the world.

Below is the additional information I shared on his site prior to the interview. However, if you would like to listen to the podcast, Story by Story - Building A School Storytelling Troupe go to The Art of Storytelling With Children.

On a warm, spring night in June of 2003 nineteen third and fourth grade elementary storytelling students took center stage in the school auditorium. The event was the first Student Storytelling Festival where their dedication and talent came together for a glorious evening of folktales, fables, myths and legends from around the world. Each child had personally selected their tale and their work quickly became a labor of love. Without hesitation each storyteller stepped to the microphone and whisked us away on the wings of story to England, Africa, Serbia, Russia, Canada, Tibet and beyond. It was an evening filled with individual and family pride, one which showcased not only the personality and skills of each student, but illustrated the virtues of camaraderie and team spirit. They gave it their all and succeeded beyond their wildest imaginations.

Why was this remarkable? According to scientific research, one of our greatest fears is public speaking, yet these young children took the stage with confidence and poise. Facing an audience of family, teachers, administrators, friends and peers, the young tellers held them in the palms of their hands for an hour.

How did it all begin? With one sentence. In 2002 I had been storytelling for only a few years when I approached one of the teachers and boldly stated, “I would love to start a student storytelling club.” With her support we bravely approached our principal with a proposal and the rest as they say is history!

I am now in my sixth year guiding the Story Explorer’s Troupe. Since its inception I have been privileged to work with over 140 children. I am continually amazed at the innovative, fun and creative work they offer their audiences but more importantly, the changes their teachers and parents observe in their classroom performance, personal confidence and positive peer interaction.Throughout the school year we work on basic storytelling skills, including voice intonation, body language, gestures, improvisation, and stage presence. Our goal is to take the show “on the road.” When the storytellers are ready I organize small group presentations for the teachers and students. The number of audience members increases with each performance; the storytellers continue to gain confidence and we end the school year with a storytelling festival for family, friends and community members. To read an article about last year’s event go to:
Storytelling is a fun and exciting activity but it also aligns with many benchmarks of the educational curriculum across the country. Oral storytelling is rooted in tradition and myths, legends and folktales. It is the conduit that passes on the customs and values of other cultures, while enhancing a student’s view of the global community. The National Council of Teachers of English has published their Position Statement on the value of using storytelling in the classroom and Howard Gardner’s original Seven Styles of Learning (an eighth has now been added to the list: Naturalist Intelligence) offers guidelines on how storytellers and teachers can use the power of story to tap into each child’s specific learning style. In addition, storyteller Kendall Haven has compiled definitive research on how we are innately “hardwired for story.” He has generously given me permission to list some of his work on my website at Kendall has recently published Story Proof, which offers a multitude of additional research on the wide-ranging, positive impact storytelling has in the classroom and beyond.

Since our first tentative steps the Story Explorers Troupe has continued to grow, partnerships have been forged and I have witnessed many astonishing and unexpected success stories. This June, on two separate evenings, 30 students will use the stage as their canvas and words as their paintbrush to craft a world colored by the magic of their imaginations. In 2002 a group of eager students took a chance with me and with themselves. Their first, tentative steps led them to explore the magic of storytelling and they in turn paved the way for others to discover that they too have stories to share.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and their Applications to Storytelling

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence

➢ Enjoy listening and talking to people.

➢ Enjoy listening and telling stories.

➢ Always successful learners by listening and hearing.

➢ Enjoys word games, puns, rhymes, tongue-twisters, and poetry.

Logical and mathematical Intelligence

➢ Like to ask questions and investigate.

➢ Enjoy strategy games, logical puzzles and experiments. (Riddle stories)

➢ Like to use computers. (Use Clip Art to storyboard)

➢ Looks for logical sequences and patterns. (Tangrams)

Visual/Spatial Intelligence

➢ Take information and translate it into images and pictures in their mind.

➢ Have the ability to retrieve the information through the images and pictures.
➢ Good in visual arts, sculpture, architecture and photography. (Storyboarding)

➢ Have the ability to reproduce clear images in their mind. (Visualization)

Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence

➢ They are good with objects and activities involving their body, hands and fingers.

➢ More successful in learning if they can touch, manipulate and move or feel whatever they are learning. (Props)

➢ Children with high Kinesthetic Intelligence learn best with activities: games, acting, hands-on tasks, building.

➢ Uses their body well to express themselves. (Mime, origami, cut and tell)

Musical Intelligence

➢ Have the ability to here and recognize tones, rhythms and musical patterns.

➢ These people enjoy listening to music and singing to themselves.

➢ Musical children usually play a musical instrument.

➢ They learn through rhythm and melody. (Incorporate songs, chants or use an instrument in their storytelling)

Interpersonal Intelligence

➢ Sensitive to facial expressions, gestures and voice.

➢ Gets along with others and they are able to maintain good relationships.

➢ Like to teach other kids, take part in school organizations and clubs. (Peer Coaching)

➢ Have the ability to influence people and are natural leaders.

➢ Feels comfortable in a crowd. (Storytelling Performance)

Intrapersonal Intelligence

➢ They have the ability for self discipline to achieve personal goals.

➢ These children are self-motivated. (practice stories on their own)

➢ Prefer to study individually and learn best through observing and listening. (Self Critiques)

Naturalist Intelligence

➢ Nature smart (Pourquoi stories)

➢ Likes to spend time in nature; recognizes subtle meanings and patterns in nature.

➢ Likes to speak out about animal right and earth preservation. (Environmental stories)

➢ They would enjoy using audio/visual equipment to record nature. (Digital Storytelling)


Enoch Pratt Libraries

Listen to some of our most beloved storytellers share their tales in streaming video; a delight for children and adults alike.

Karen Chace offers a global feast of folktale websites, each with a short synopsis. In addition, there is a smorgasbord of sites focusing on Oral History, Crafts, Arts Education, Puppetry, Grants, Teaching Tools and more!

With the help of Storytell listserv members, storyteller Jackie Baldwin has compiled an extensive array of stories and books. Click on “SOS” and you will discover your own private folklore library right at your fingertips. Jackie even offers a Google search tool so story exploring is a breeze!

Storytelling Arts of Indiana

Teaching Guides, games, activities and resources from such quality tellers as Heather Forest, Doug Lipman, Rex Ellis, Doug Elliott, Janice Harrington and Ed Stivender. You can’t go wrong taking advice from this group!

Storytelling In Schools

After months of detailed research Jackie Baldwin and Kate Dudding have organized an amazing, downloadable booklet and brochure that will help you meet that question head on. Quantitative studies, innovative projects books, journals, articles and web sites are all at your fingertips, but the best part is that the project is not complete; it is an ongoing process that will be continually updated as new studies surface.


These books contain stories that are perfect for beginning student storytellers.

DeSpain, Pleasant Eleven Nature Tales: A Multicultural Journey Little Rock, Ark.: August House 1996

DeSpain, Pleasant. Thirty-Three Multicultural Tales to Tell. August House, 1997.DeSpain, Pleasant Twenty: Two Splendid Tales To Tell From Around the World Volume One August House 1994

DeSpain, Pleasant Twenty-Two Splendid Tales to Tell From Around the World Volume Two August House 1994

Hamilton, Martha and Mitch Weiss, Children Tell Stories, Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc., 1990.

Hamilton, Martha and Mitch Weiss. How & Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read and Tell. August House, 1999.

Hamilton, Martha & Mitch Weiss: Noodlehead Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read & Tell: Little Rock, AR: August House, 2000.

Hamilton, Martha & Mitch Weiss (1996) Stories in My Pocket; Tales Kids Can Tell Golden, CO: Fulcrum Pub.

Hamilton, Martha & Mitch Weiss Through the Grapevine: World Tales Kids Can Read & Tell Little Rock: August House Publishers, 2001.

Raines, Shirley C. and Rebecca Isbell Tell It Again!: Easy-To Tell Stories With Activities For Young Children Beltsville, Md. : Gryphon House, c1999.

Raines, Shirley C. and Rebecca Isbell Tell It Again! 2: Easy-To-Tell Stories With Activities for Young Children Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House, 2000