SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Storytelling the Future

My first storytelling session was in a Multi Ability classroom of a Special School ( Vidya Sagar) in Chennai. Year 1996.
 I took the children to the garden, we sat around and we had a bucket of water in the middle. Each child had a puppet in their hand – made with simple newspaper; a lion, a rabbit and a few more animals. As we peered into it, we saw our reflection.  So by now you may know what story I went on to tell. The Panchatantra tale of the Lion and the Rabbit and how the rabbit outwits the lion. This experience triggered a series of reactions. The children (a few of them) started noticing and looking at themselves on reflecting surfaces - as that is what they took back from that story experience. It is mind blowing...to think of this cause and effect in retrospect...
 It was an experience for the children. That story allowed children to experience an idea, a concept, abstract or literal notions within the space of a narrative arc.

As a storyteller I create a safe space for the child to go on a journey, to step into a space that is co- created (a world of our mutual creation), where imagination is the vehicle that drives us through many lands, validating what they know already and introducing new things and at the same time acknowledging every little thing that the child wishes to bring into that space – their thoughts, feelings and experiences in order to reach a destination, a place where they are emotionally stronger.

We all know Humans are hardwired for stories, and storytelling has been the most ancient method existing to pass on knowledge, ideas, values, and beliefs. Yet we in the field of education struggle to include it in our day to day life and curriculum.
The Aha moment for me was when I realised the reason for this is we don’t recognise what Storytelling is about and we have forgotten that we are all Storytellers. We just have to be present to this fact and find opportunities in the classroom to tell stories. We have to create a Climate of Storytelling within the classroom in order to provide an Immersive Storytelling Experience for the child and it starts in preschool.
“Storytelling is a gift of understanding the self, others and the story itself (Dr.Mary F Lenox in an article on telling multicultural tales).

There is the Story, the Storyteller and the Audience.
·        Let me tell you about the STORY - Story is not just Book with pictures, nor is it Panchatantra/ Jataka tale/ Aesop fable with a value/ moral at the end. Most teachers are given a story to tell, and they don’t even connect with the story. Or they tell a story without really understanding why they are telling it. According to Dr. Mary Read Macdonald, the Grandma of Storytelling, all one needs is a good story to tell – but we don’t spend enough time thinking about the stories we are going to tell.
So we need Reading Circles for the Teachers, tell each other stories, practise, and decide what stories you would like to tell. I sincerely believe the Teacher must decide what stories they want to tell. Find the Story

·        Create the Space: Storytelling is a way to facilitate Listening and Awareness – You need to create a space to transport the child – like an orchestra conductor who has a place to stand, a storyteller must create the space for storytelling.
·        Storytelling is a ritual where the story is an offering. Create your own rituals and systems that resonate with you and the audience. Do it every time...sometime just tuning into the audience will help you find this ritual.
·        Tell stories at every opportunity you can get or create opportunities within the class to tell stories.
·        Tell Stories from Personal experience, Traditional Tales, Made up stories
·        Play around with the story – Story Acting, Ask Children to Dictate (Vivian Paley in her seminal work called “Helicopter Stories – let the imagination fly” goes into detail about it).
·        Make up Stories from objects around the class/ house. Even the mathematical operations can be storified (Emperor Equal, Angel Addition, Duke Division – Waldorf Schools use storytelling at every opportunity.Very small children are taught through songs....and then progress to Fairy Tales, Mythology and Made up tales.)

The Teacher has to don the Storyteller persona – feel comfortable in that skin, According to Eleanor Duckworth (a Harvard trained educationist) The teacher must use what she already knows and question what she has and that is the way to becoming better and better at what she does. Building a Storytelling Classroom is essential. We don’t have to invent the wheel again. We need to reflect back in time to the days when Stories were used as didactic tools and then learn to apply it to the ever morphing Chimera that is the 21st century. There are many workable systems available which can be applied into the classroom...all we need is to see value in the methodology and then tell more stories.
Lets gather together to say “Once Upon a Time”.

# This is the presentation given by me at the Panel Discussion on "Storytelling for Preschool" , held at VHD Institute in April 2017. I was giving my perspective as a Storyteller and the other panelists were wonderfully multitalented from the Theatre, Education, Counselor and Content creator spaces.