For the past several months, I’ve been working with a group of twenty storytelling apprentices at Shaughnessy Public School. The students, age 6 to 13, have been shadowing me as I tell multicultural stories to all the grade levels in the school. During our sessions we explore and discover the elements of storytelling; setting the tone, expression and body language.
The goal of the project is to inspire, encourage and empower these young learners to realize their potential by becoming masters of verbal and physical communication. Storytelling is perhaps the ideal approach to this kind of creative literacy.
So far, the apprentices and I have told over 30 myths and folk tales. We use musical instruments, props and costumes as we interact and dramatically interpret each story. Media literacy also plays a role; most of the stories we tell during the story sessions are available on my online program, Storyvalues Interactive. The students make full use of the program, spending time in the computer lab listening to the stories and learning about each story’s culture of origin by exploring the interactive story pages.
In our live storytelling sessions, we instruct the students to focus on a specific aspect of storytelling, such as how voice is used to portray character, set the mood and support a narrative. Sitting in rows with notebooks and pencils in hand, they look like journalist at a press conference, jotting down (or in many cases, drawing pictures of) their observations.
Proof that they are completely absorbing the information is provided by looking through their notebooks and by observing their enthusiastic participation in the performances. For many of the students, the program has provided a way to build self-awareness and confidence in how they express themselves.
This brilliant project was initiated by an amazingly talented teacher/librarian named Barb Cook. Barb and I have worked together many times over the past ten years. She has always impressed me with her dedication to her students and creative approach to literacy. The walls of her library overflow with student artwork; a testament to her ability to spark the interest of her students to help them learn comprehensively and passionately.
Next month, we will celebrate our wonderful storytelling apprentices in a school assembly wherein they will be using their newly developed gifts as storytellers and self-confident communicators.
I can’t wait to post the results. Stay tuned!
– Cheryl Thornton