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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Before Storytelling

As an introduction to storytelling students might tell riddles, jokes, or personal anecdotes that have some story elements. In each case, practice beforehand is required and close attention must be paid to the conclusion or punch line.

To ease students into the practice of storytelling, the teacher might suggest that they make up different endings to stories that are old favourites and tell them to one another. After a story is read aloud, an individual or group could create an add-on story and tell it. Another introductory activity is having students recall one incident in a story they have read, and telling about that incident as though they are one of the characters involved.

When students are comfortable with the idea of storytelling they can choose to tell tales that appeal to them. Some of the best sources are collections of folk tales and fairytales from around the world. These tales have been gathered from the oral tradition and are records of human survival throughout the ages, as well as unique glimpses into cultures. Titles of suitable collections of tales for storytelling are listed in the bibliography that accompanies this curriculum guide.

The following guidelines apply to storytellers in general (teacher and students):

* choose a story that you like that enables you to use words you enjoy, and communicate enthusiasm to your audience
* look for a simple, direct story in which the plot unfolds crisply and the characters are few
* choose a story that will not lose meaning when translated into your own words
* memorize only refrains or phrases used for special effect
* record yourself reading the story aloud and listen to the tape several times
* divide the story into sections, constructing the divisions in a way that will make sense to the listeners (e.g., use a storyboard, an outline, a diagram, or a story map)
* visualize the settings and the characters (e.g., close your eyes and imagine each location; add details of colour, shape, and light; make a mental picture of each character; picture facial expressions, hand gestures, and mannerisms)
* next, in your mind, silently run through the story's action from beginning to end (e.g., picture the scenes happening in sequence and develop a sense for which ones happen slowly and which ones are fast-paced)
* in your own words, tell the story aloud to yourself
* continue with the visualization process as you speak, using your voice to tell about the action, describe the settings, and speak the dialogue
* tell the story over a few times referring to your story notes, if necessary
* put your notes away and tell the story directly from your moving mental images (you will have internalized the tale by now and will know it "by heart")
* tell your story on audiotape while it is fresh in your mind and play back the recording to clarify the visual story elements in your imagination
* practise telling your story to a live audience (family, friends, pets) until it comes naturally.

Students may wish to tell stories from real experiences or from their imaginations, rather than retelling stories they have read; or they may wish to retell a story they have heard. Topics for personal stories might include how students got their names, favourite family possessions and the stories behind them, grandparent stories, family pet stories, or pourquoi tales (e.g., where does lightning come from?).

If students like to develop their own stories, they might borrow traditional plots, themes, and story patterns; or they may take several versions of the same story and combine them to achieve the results they want. A story could be transposed from the past to the present or future, or a traditional tale could be transferred from one time period or geographical setting to another. Some new stories are actually traditional ones, reconstructed with a different perspective in mind.
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