Easy Learning of Stories

The Retelling Method.
It's great to learn stories to tell to your audience. The chief advantage is that knowing a story allows you to put down a book and free up your hands to help bring the story alive. A good way of learning a story is with the Retelling Method.

The method is:

1. Work with one other person. Person A reads all of the story to person B. Person B listens well without trying to read the story.

2. Put the written version away out of sight. Talk together to list all the characters and objects in the story. Have some fun with these e.g. ‘what is dribbling down the side of the big cooking pot?’ Just what does a troll look like?

3. Person B tells his/her own version of the story back to A. You don't have to get it absolutely right. You can make 'mistakes'. You can improvise. Your partner's job is to make it easy for you.

4. Talk together about ways of telling the story that will make the telling more interesting for your listeners.

5. Both teller and listener stand up while person A tells the story using some of the methods that you discussed in the last section. Standing up allows and encourages the teller to bring the story alive with movement, gesture and sound.

6. Talk about ways of involving the audience in the story or ways of co-telling or following up the story.

Some advantages of this method include:
- it works;
- you can work with a colleague and can both learn a story quickly;
- it can be used for learning any story, speech, joke, lyrics of a song;
- it is easily adaptable e.g. the original source doesn't have to be written. It can be an oral source.
- the more you use the method the quicker and the more automatic it becomes.
- it utilizes different modes of thinking about the story thus forming links about the story as you go.
- you prepare your telling of the story as you learn the story.
- it encourages improvisation and creativity
- it cuts down that block or fear of ‘I might forget something or get it wrong.’

Disadvantages include:
- it’s not especially good for learning the whole content of poems, ballads etc where you want to learn the exact words but it does provide a good base from which you can add the exact words if you like.

Some useful techniques
If you can't work with a partner you can try telling to yourself in the mirror. Some people like to record themselves and play it back. I find however that it is often enough to simply imagine that I am telling my version to someone else or to a group of people.

Remember, stick to the 'letter of the technique' for a while and after some practice you will find it becoming subconcious. Eventually you will be able to 'automatically' use the technique as you read a book or listen to another teller. Listen well once and you will be able to tell your version straight back. This is a great skill for the class room or library when you need a story in a hurry.

Further information on the use of the re-telling method can be found in
- 'Read and Retell': Brown, Hazel and Cambourne, Brian: Methuen, Melb., 1985.

© 1998 Daryll Bellingham. One copy of the above notes are available for your personal use for developing your storytelling skills. If you would like to copy, distribute or publish them whole or in part please seek my permission.

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Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller
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Last update: 26th February, 2007.
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