Category Archives: Literacy

Pull Up Your Pants and Get In Line


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.

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

 

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Were They REAL Before I was Born?


lexmarkaioscan56Last 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?

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

 

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Encore for Aesop and Hercules


Lion + MouseEach 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.

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

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The Storyteller’s Journey Includes Bringing in the Hay


hired boyLast 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.

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

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Mythology and Footwear


256px-PumaNov06Today, 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.

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

 

 

 

 

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Always a Storyteller


1001-nights-burton-v3-p010Yesterday, 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!

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

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Moving with the Story


Greek_-_Herakles_and_the_Erymanthian_Boar_-_Walters_48253_-_Detail_AThis morning, I’m meeting with my twenty storytelling apprentices to explore non-verbal communication. We’ll be focusing on gestures, posture and facial expressions today as we tell the labours of Hercules.

I look forward to seeing what these amazing 12 and 13 years olds will say and do.  They’re so filled with insights and enthusiasm for learning the art of storytelling!

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

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It’s So Great Getting That Attention


The Dog and the Pig This morning, an eight year old spoke with me after a storytelling session.  She said, “The best part was getting to act out the stories with you.  It’s so great getting that attention!  I’m practicing for Broadway!”

Adorable!

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

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The Hunter and the Polar Bear


Ursus_maritimus_par_Louis_Agassis_FuertesToday I’m going to tell an Inuit story, The Hunter and the Polar Bear for the first time, other than to my husband.  I love trying out ‘new’ stories (new to me, but usually hundreds of years old).  I’m always amazed at how many stunning stories there are to tell.  I can’t wait to hear what my little listeners have to say about this gem!  I’ll keep you posted!

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

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Low Five Highlight


ImageFebruary is always a busy month of telling great stories from Africa in celebration of Black History month.  There are so many fabulous African stories to tell and I always look forward to sharing my favourites with students all over southern Ontario.

This week, I visited seven different schools and as always, came home with many lovely stories to share with my husband after a day of storytelling.  Here are some of the highlights of my week.

After presenting an assembly in Pickering, a group of children were crowded around me asking questions and telling me which story they liked best, when I felt my hand being taken by someone small.  I looked over and saw a junior kindergarten boy positioning my hand to receive his “low five” slap of appreciation.  He didn’t say a word, but just smiled at me and continued walking in line with his kindergarten class back to their room.

In another school, I met two grade seven boys as they set up chairs for the teachers prior to the assembly.  I told them that if they wanted to be in one of the stories, that I’d choose them up if they volunteered.  One of them took me up on my offer and played the role of the lazy farmer in the story called Talk.  He had the whole school roaring with laughter and afterwards, one of the teachers told me that he was a shy student and was so pleased that he had had the chance to shine!

Yesterday, I told a little girl who wanted to play the elephant, that she had to sit properly when volunteering to participate.  She sat down so eagerly that it was clear she really wanted a turn.  I invited her up and she preformed her role beautifully.  Afterwards, her teacher told me she was autistic and normally didn’t participate in assemblies.

Next week, there will be more stories to tell and more children to touch my heart.  I’ll keep you informed.

Happy Storytelling!

Cheryl Thornton

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