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
The Hobyahs is a spooky old English tale. It’s a little scary, but 4 year olds love it. It involves a little girl, a bunch of dogs and some hungry creatures called hobyahs.
Robert D. San Souci has a great retelling by the same title.
Yesterday, I told stories to kids in one of the few summer camps I perform for annually. The kids range from age 6 to 14 and seem to be happy with all the ages mixed together.
Before we started our stories yesterday, I asked if anyone remembered what I told them a year ago. A ten year old girl replied, “I don’t remember, but there was a platypus who was different from the other animals and the animals didn’t get along with each other at first, but then it changed in the end.” She remembered an Australian aboriginal dreamtime myth I told twelve months ago!
A seven year old boy listened as she practically told the whole story verbatim, then said, “Yeah, I remember that one too, but I remember, I was the man in the story with the bundle of cloth on my head and it talked and then I threw it down, screamed and ran down the road. Remember me?” That was ‘Talk,’ the humours West African folk tale that I have kids help dramatize as I tell.
It never ceases to amaze me how well kids remember the stories I tell. Most of my stories are obscure, practically forgotten tales from long ago, that most children have never heard before. For kids to be able to recall the characters and plots from only hearing it once, astonishes me, over and over again. It shows how powerful the art of storytelling is and how brilliantly these old tales shine in the imagination.
I always ask groups that I’ve seen before to tell me what they recall, just for my own delight and to remind myself that the arts are an essential profession.