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 such shenanigans, 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

 

Scary Stories


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Yesterday was Halloween and I told ‘scary’ stories’ to my Thursday group of 5 and 6 year olds.

After telling the Chinese folktale, The Brave Girl and the Monster Snake, a little boy told me he had a video showing a capybara being eaten by a python and thought it was too bad the capybara hadn’t  heard this story about how to survive a monster snake attack!

Happy Storytelling!  

Cheryl Thornton

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

Encore for Aesop and Hercules


Halios_geronEach 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

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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Storytelling and the Art of Inference


Sorrow of the King by Henri Matisse‘Sorrow of the King’ by Henri Matisse

One of the greatest artists the world has ever known created the above image. The assemblage of cut paper is lyrical and melodic, using an inspired choice of colour that infers a kind of story. If we take a moment and are so inclined, we might well be curious about what is going on here.

The arts invite us to play with possibility; to wander in and around what the artist has created, to think and feel and come to our own conclusions.

Looking at Matisse’s work posted above, if we let ourselves, we might even imagine hearing the music and wonder at the source of the king’s sorrow. We can follow the inferences to see where they lead; possibly to a new and interesting way of seeing the world.

Or not! 

Each year we hear from many educators about how challenging it is to ‘teach inference’ to children and how difficult it is for modern students to draw parallels between their own experience and what they are learning and experiencing at school.

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The question is, ‘why is this so’?

‘Art imitates life’, as the saying goes. As storytellers and artists (and educators), our job is to inspire as well as to inform. Like the painting by Matisse shown above, the world does not explain itself through factual information alone; it requires participants to ‘play along’ to create something original from the raw materials of experience.

Interactive Storytelling is one of the most effective ways of bringing children (and adults) into that realm of profound creative play where inference comes naturally, as a result of deep engagement. It offers a way to play along with the world, to uncover a deep relevance that encompasses both fact and fiction.

It all comes down to engagement. As we have seen countless times, enthusiasm for learning (and the ability to make personal connections with information) comes out of hiding when children are engaged.

The art by Matisse shown above is such a vibrant, joyful image. It seems odd that the King is sorrowful, but perhaps he’s just not been inspired to see the creative possibilities that exist all around him.

Nothing a well-told story can’t cure!

-Matthew Giffin

Shared Fire, Part 2


 

In response to yesterday’s Storyvalues Post entry, ‘The Shared Fire of Inspiration’, Jacob Froelich sent along this picture of a project from his class at the University of Northern Colorado, School of Art and Design.

The assignment was for each student to contribute to the recreation of Diego Rivera‘s North Wall mural in Detroit, Michigan.

Here’s a photograph of what the class created:

DiegoStudentMural

And the original work by Diego Rivera:

Diego

Thanks for ‘sharing the fire’, Jacob!

– Matthew Giffin

 

 

 

The Shared Fire of Inspiration


Detroit Industry‘Detroit Industry’ by Diego Rivera. Conceived in 1932 and completed in 1933, this amazing mural tells a story – many stories, in fact – to communicate the vitality of American manufacturing, centered as it was in Detroit at that time.

pacino di buonaguida

‘Appeal of Prato to Robert of Anjou’ by Pacino di Bonaguida, from the 14th century. Subject matter differs from era to era, but the intention of telling a story runs throughout history.    Mithila Art

Sacred art from the ancient kingdom of Mithila, in present day Nepal. Visual storytelling that blends the sacred and profane. Styles vary from culture to culture, but the impulse to create and communicate spans all of humanity.

Composition II

Composition II by Piet Mondian.

Art is a fundamental way in which humanity leaves its mark.  Like graffiti on the wall of existence itself, each image tells a story that we can experience,  interpret and share in our own creative way.

As storytellers and artists, our job is to inspire others with the richness of life and a sense of possibility. For adults, the effect can be personally and professionally transformational. When applied to children, the results are often a wonder to behold. There’s nothing like witnessing a person discover their own ‘voice’, or visual language, and in so doing, the voice of others.

Visual literacy… An aspect of education (and life) too easily overlooked.

Happy (visual) storytelling!

– Matthew Giffin

Freedom of Imagination


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Polyphony2, by Paul Klee.

Paul Klee, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, is a wonderful example of a man who seemed to place no restrictions on his own creativity. The breadth of his visual work is simply astonishing; some paintings are so complex and unusual they seem as if they’ve originated from an entirely other plane of existence. Others are extremely simple; basic grid patterns or washes of colour.

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Fire in the Evening, by Paul Klee

The example of Paul Klee is but one example of how artists lead us to look at life in different ways and to consider new possibilities through the art they create. This is one of the great gifts of creative freedom.

Having the freedom to explore and interpret the world in our own unique ways allows us to ‘draw’ our own conclusions. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to create art.

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This amazing painting is by a Grade 2 student at Wm. Burgess PS in Toronto. Freedom of imagination on display. Beautiful!

– Matthew Giffin