Oral Storytelling

We have been fortunate this year in that we have had a resident apprentice teacher working with us who is a storyteller. Avery has a great love of telling stories, but also an intense curiosity about the role story telling can play in a child’s education. We worked out a three week story telling unit which Avery planned to give the students a chance to  learn how to tell a story themselves. One question she wanted to research was:

How is the experience of listening to a story being told different from reading a story or hearing a story read aloud?


As the children have been listening to stories, choosing ones to tell and practicing telling the stories they have chosen, I can’t help but wonder what will transition back to their writing. What ideas and language have we gained that can help us write more coherent, detailed and well rounded stories ourselves. 


It has been so exciting watching these novice storytellers bloom. As with any new experience, some students have embraced it, while others are timid. 

One day, as the children were just beginning to think about how to tell their own stories, a professional story teller came to work with us in our classroom. Anne, the storyteller, told three stories to our class but in telling them, she wove information about the work of a storyteller – how to involve your audience, how to use voices and become your characters in the story, how to use your body to give clues and hide clues and bring the story to life.


She offered a great deal of inspiration to our young oral storytellers. Through her own dramatic effects she gave them permission to be big and loud and bold in their embellishments. When she drank as coyote, the students were mesmerized by her loud slurping sounds that went on and on. 


Once she was done with the tellings of Coyote and the Frog People, Mrs. Mouse, and Caps for Sale, the Opal 2 students got into their story circles. Story Circles are a new idea for me and for the students and I am very intrigued by the possibility of them. Avery introduced story circles as a small community of people who work to support one another’s growth as story tellers. The students were put in groups of four and stayed in the same groups over the week and a half that they met and practiced. They were to get into the world of the stories of the other people in their group and to bring those other three people into the world of their story. It has been interesting working with the groups and watching them – they have needed support on how to offer support to one another and how to listen and figure out logistics like who will go first, but they have become comfortable with one another and many students have really blossomed in the comfort of this small group.They have found the voice to tell their story and have been given support by their circle through appreciation, listening, suggestions and compliments. 



As we transition back into writing our stories in story workshop, I am looking forward to trying this out as a writer’s circle. I am wondering if a small group can support each other all together with everything from editing suggestions to spelling help and a supportive quiet workspace.  I think of this as a challenge to care about peers in the community through caring about their stories and being a part of their process to do their best work. This is a strong goal for us as a learning community – to care about one another’s work and progress. 


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