|Storytelling - turning passive consumers into
distinguishing between story reading, story viewing and storytelling
It is always worth distinguishing between storytelling and story reading because they are quite different activities with quite different benefits. I define storytelling as the act of telling a story in an entertaining, impressive or dramatic way.
Telling is standing or sitting and using ones voice or sign language to present a story without reading from a book. It can be listened to on site or broadcast via radio, tv, video, podcast or vodcast.
2 - What makes storytelling entertaining and engaging?
Most children can tell stories by age three. We've all experienced that request of 'tell the story about ......... again'. Children like hearing stories a number of times because they use these retellings to think and learn about different things contained in the story.
One of the follow on programs from 'Sesame Street', 'Blue's Clues', was so sure of the value of repeating stories to children that they convinced Nickelodeon to repeat each episode for five days before moving onto the next week's stories. The idea worked as well.
So much for the early Sesame Streets premise that children can only concentrate for 3 - 5 minutes on the one story. Of course, storytellers have known for years that children will listen to much longer stories and be enthralled so long as they are told the right story in an interesting way.
They enjoy them even more if the storyteller is 'bringing the story alive', telling it as if it were true and telling with it the energy and expression it deserves.
So entertaining and engaging stories are ones that:
When we learn our home language there are two things that make the learning easy and ensure that it stays with us for life.
The first is immersion. Right from birth we are immersed in the language and the culture of the language. Every day we here competent speakers speaking to each other and speaking to us in light playful ways.
The second is it is happening while our brains are young and plastic. Our young brains are structured to absorb and learn many things but especially language.
So this is the best time to be immersed in the language of storytelling. This is the time when we can most easily learn but also the up about the age of three or four our brain development is such that this is the main way we can make sense of the world.
By age three children can tell and create basic narratives and use it to process and communicate.
So an early childhood program that immerses children in a wide variety of story, storytelling and story creation processes is providing children with a communication tool for life.
The most important part of, what makes anything entertaining and engaging from football to bookclubs is that is undertaken in a culture that values and rewards it.
Look at the energy, emotion and playfulness that fans put into a football grand final. They do so more and more creatively and energetically because we sanction and encourage it.
So what will help make an entertaining and engaging storytelling culture in early childhood programs?
modelling telling all sorts of stories with energy and lightness
tell three stories
- for example 1 fairy tale, 1 personal story and 1 adventure story
- or 1 young story, 1 medium story, 1 older story(for mixed age group)
tell two stories and improvise or create a third story
tell a story, read a story, improvise a story
tell a story, read a story, act out a story
tell a story, play a storytelling game, share personal stories
One of the most important decisions of storytelling is selecting appropriate stories for each audience. Basically you can divide audience likes and appropriateness around their average age and to a lesser extent gender.
If you ask a group of younger children, "What sort of story would you like me to tell?" Boys might say, "a monster story", while girls might say "a fairy story". Boys might say "a pirate story" while girls might say "a mermaid story".
Solution 1 - give them both or all in the same story.
One of the realities is that the sex role stereotyping doesn't run very deep when it comes to stories told well. If asked, girls might say that they don't want a story with a monster in it but, when it comes to it, they will enjoy Captain Hook getting his firey desserts just as much as the boys.
Solution 2 - adding older (or younger) references
While younger children need their stories to make sense, older children like novelty, more action and more detail.
So, for example, the dragon in the above story can be described in more detail, adding appropriate similies to describe how sharp its claws are or how smelly its breathe is. Maybe the dragon talks like a rapster and does a little beatboxing before it blows fire?
One of the reasons that Sesame Street survived for so long is that the writers were careful, right from the start, to include jokes for adults so that parents wouldn't be bored.
Solution 3 - dividing a session up into young, medium & old stories
Children really do want their stories told well with good energy and commitment to the story.
don't be afraid put your own personality and style into your storytelling
7) Involving different ages in different ways
There are a lot of different ways of encouraging active audience involvement.
A nice addition to this is to throw in something different such as 'a dog rounding up the sheep over in the showgrounds'.
'and do you know what happened next?'
What stories next day or next week
- take turns in which group makes the suggestion or have both a young and an old request story each time
8) Regular storytelling activities and projects
Development - The basic idea is to start simply at the level appropriate for the age group and gradually add more roles. For example, with young children I will seize the opportunity when someone wants to tell me something. I ask them out the front to do so and ask who will introduce the student. I rehearse the introducer in how to do it and then invite the student storyteller to tell his or her story. On completion I always make sure he or she gets a big clap for volunteering and telling a story (or singing a song ).
Public speaking is something many adults have high fear levels about but most children love when given the opportunity in a supportive environment.
I remember well an under two year boy who had watched older siblings and acquaintances take on the compere role in one of my regular library storytelling sessions. He wasn't speaking at this stage but enjoyed the stories and, when, I asked for volunteers to introduce the next storyteller, he walked out the front and, with gestures and sounds, he introduced the next storyteller. He was duely applauded for his excellent effort and sat down with a big smile on his face.
One of the traps to watch out for in a case like this is not to laugh in pleasure at seeing this happen. Children so often think they are being laughed at and that hurts.
When you are organizing tellers for future shows you can also organise an introducer for that teller. As introducers get better at the role you can ask them to add interesting details to the introduction, for example, 'one personal detail and one thing they are really good at'.
Immersion in stories, narrative structure and storytelling fun will ensure that all children have a life long story language and communication skill.
It can involve and enthrall all ages.
Storytelling activities are low cost and most use few resources or equipment.
They can be developed over time and can be structured to involve all ages.
Storytelling is firmly embedded in state and national curriculums so playbased storytelling activities will reinforce school learning and be valued by parents and teachers.
Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller
|All contents copyright © 1998, Daryll Bellingham. All rights reserved.|
Last update: 26th August, 2010.
URL of this page: www.storytell.com.au/narrativeexplorers.html