During a full day of storytelling yesterday, my second assembly was attended by 175 kindergarten students. After an hour of sitting in the gym listening to a variety of stories, the teachers lined up their students and began leading them back to their classrooms. As the lines of 4 and 5 year olds slowly snaked their way out of the gym, I overheard the most extraordinary sentence that could only be spoken in a nursery school or a kindergarten class, with the exception, my husband added, of a senior’s nursing home. A young student teacher noticed that the end of her line was not moving because two small boys were frozen in place in what could only be described as a stand up wrestling match. One boy had the neck of his classmate’s shirt in his mouth and his pants were half way down his backside. The 19 year old student teacher, seemingly experienced with suchshenanigans, looked at the tableaux and said in a bored voice, “Pull up your pants and get back in line.”
I’m so grateful that I get to witness these moments and wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Yesterday was Halloween and I told ‘scary’ stories’ to my Thursday group of 5 and 6 year olds.
After telling the Chinese folktale,The Brave Girl and the Monster Snake, a little boy told me he had a video showing a capybara being eaten by a python and thought it was too bad the capybara hadn’t heard this story about how to survive a monster snake attack!
Last week, after telling the story of The Ghost Dog and the Milky Way to a group of grade 1 students, a six year old little boy raised his hand and said, “I know dinosaurs used to be real, but they are extinct now. I think ghost dogs were real too. Were they real before I was born?”
The spoken word is so powerful. Stories seem believable because listeners actively participate by creating mental images of the narrative. If you can imagine it, it becomes real, right?
Filed under Art in Education, Children, Creativity, Drama, Education, Elementary schools, Folktales, Ghost Stories, Literacy, Performing, Storytelling
Each Tuesday I tell stories to a class of 2 and 3 year olds. We had our first class this week and as always, I was amazed to see the powerful effect myths and stories have on young listeners.
When I stepped into the classroom on Tuesday morning, one little boy was crying for his mommy. Having seen this sort of thing many times before, I knew it was best to get started right away, before they all started crying. I began telling the fable of the Lion and the Mouse. After establishing the jungle scene, the weeper stopped crying and started listening.
When I finished the fable, a bright-eyed little 3-year-old girl said, “Do that again! Start from the beginning!” She wasn’t sure what is was that I had done, but she wanted more.
Next, I told the first labour of Hercules, and the little boy who’d been crying, shouted, “More,” with gusto!
By the end of the 30 minute period, they were all sitting silently, fully engaged in listening to stories from long ago and far away, like old hands.
Filed under Art in Education, Character Education, Children, Creativity, Drama, Education, Elementary schools, Fariytales, Folktales, Literacy, Myths, Performing, Storytelling
Last week, school started in our part of the world and I was asked by a principal to help kick off the new school year with a storytelling assembly.
At the beginning of the presentation, I invited the gym full of students to join me on the Storyteller’s Journey, to discover their own voice and learn to tell their own story. Throughout the hour, many eager children helped me dramatize ancient world myths and even on the first day of school 200 children sat attentively engaged in the mysterious narratives of long ago and far away.
After the assembly, I suggested that they practice their new skills by re-telling one of the stories at home. I asked which story they might like to tell and several children raised their hands and answered my question.
Ten minutes or so later, as I walked from the gym to the exit passing various lines of students snaking their way down the hallway in search of their classrooms, a willowy 6 year old boy spotted me, stepped out of line and said, as if continuing an interrupted conversation, “It is hard for me to decide which story to tell because I liked them all! I might not actually get the chance to tell one because I’ve got to get the hay in before winter, but I’ll try.” The principal had mentioned that the school was located in a strong farming community. With that, the young farmer and newly christened storyteller, waved good-bye and set off in search of his long gone classmates.
Filed under Art in Education, Character Education, Children, Creativity, Drama, Education, Elementary schools, Fariytales, Folktales, Literacy, Multiculturalism, Myths, Performing, Stories, Storytelling
Continuing with the big office clean-up, I found another note, this one I wrote to remind myself of a story told to me by a teacher. Here’s the story:
Back in January, as I set up for an assembly, one of the teachers at the school came up to me and told me that her 7 year old son played the role of the half chicken in a story I told during a family literacy night three years ago. “He was 4 at the time,” she said, “and extremely shy. He’s still shy. His dad and I were amazed that he volunteered to act in the story and were even more astonished by the fact that he actually spoke his part so well. That was three years ago and my son still talks about it from time to time, saying, “Remember when I was the half a chicken?”
As a traveling storyteller, visiting different schools every day, I rarely hear the long term effects the stories I tell have on listeners, but when I do, it’s most certainly noteworthy.
This morning, as I was doing some long over due cleaning in my office, I came across a hand written note from a grade 3 student named Cole, from February and wondered if I should keep it or toss it.
In his note Cole wrote, “Dear Presenter, I am sorry for my rude, disrispective behaveur. It was inipoprieit. I am sorry if you saw my rude behaveur. I am also sorry if I offended you. Sicerly, Cole”
Cole hand delivered the note while I was packing up in the gym and I got the distinct impression that this wasn’t the first time he had penned such a letter. As he handed the paper to me, I asked, “What is this?” “I got in trouble and my teacher made me write to you,” he answered cheerfully.
After I read his confession and apology, we had a great chat. He said he really liked the story I told about the hungry goddess who broke in half and was recycled, but his favourite assembly from forever, was when he was in grade 1 and they turned off all the gym lights and had a black light show. Cole suggested I add black lights to my assembly. I thanked him and told him I always welcome helpful feedback.
I think I’ll keep the note.
Filed under Art in Education, Character Education, Creativity, Drama, Education, Elementary schools, Folktales, Myths, Performing, Stories, Storytelling
Yesterday, I performed at North Agincourt Jr. P.S in Toronto. After the assembly, the grades 3 and 4 classes presented a slide show of two of our Storyvalues stories. They had illustrated the stories using Pixie, a digital illustration tool, then linked their art to my audio files. Their work was break taking! The two stories featured in the slide show were also part of my live assembly, so the kids were able to observe and discuss similarities and differences.
Teacher librarian, Patrick McCartney was the mastermind behind this successful project.
Congratulations to Mr. McCartney and the grade 3 and 4 classes of North Agincourt Jr. P.S!
Filed under Art in Education, Children, Creativity, Education, Elementary schools, Fariytales, Folktales, Multiculturalism, Myths, Performing, Stories, Storytelling, Websites
Today, I told a First Nation myth about how turtle outsmarts eagle and frees the animals. In the story all the animals become enslaved by golden eagle after loosing to him in a race. Golden eagle’s first challenger is the puma.
A kindergartener seated in the front row, called out, “What is a puma?” Quick as a flash, another kindergartener answered, “It’s a shoe.”
I run into the same issue when telling the Greek myth involving the Winged Goddess of Victory, Nike.
Yesterday, my group of grade 6 and 7 storyteller apprentices were joined by the grade 8 classes to listen to Greek myths, stories from the Arabian Nights and First Nation tales. 11 to 14 year olds are such a baffling age group! They can swing wildly from being bored out of their gourds to electrifyingly engaged and enthusiastic!
During the first story I told from the 1001 Arabian Nights, I asked a seemingly comatose group of grade 8 students for volunteers to portray the genii and the fisherman. To my great surprise, most of their hands shot up in the air!
I chose two amazing 14 year olds boys to help bring the story to life, both of whom had been storyteller apprentices the previous year. When I first met these two guys 14 months ago, they’d been sceptical of the whole storytelling business and hesitant to perform in front of others. Their transformation over the six months working together was truly spectacular. Yesterday, I was privileged to see that it hadn’t been temporary. They performed with gusto and pride, helping to set the tone for the rest of the session.
Like in the 1001 Arabian Nights frame story of Shahrazad and the sultan, I honestly believe that stories have the power to transform and heal.
Once a storyteller apprentice, always a storyteller!
Filed under Art in Education, Character Education, Creativity, Drama, Education, Elementary schools, Fariytales, Folktales, Literacy, Multiculturalism, Myths, Performing, Stories, Storytelling