Storytelling Workshop for Teachers

Workshop Leader: Dr Eric Miller (PhD in Folklore)
Director, World Storytelling Institute

This Storytelling Workshop is designed to help teachers to improve their own storytelling, and also to help them to assist their students to improve their storytelling.

A value of working with stories for education is that stories can present information in manageable -- and vivid, colourful, and memorable -- packages.  Through stories, students can relate to the material emotionally, because they can identify with the characters and situations in the stories.

Workshop participants think about how stories could be used to teach educational subjects.  Lesson plans and curriculums can be developed. 

For finding and creating stories, a series of creativity exercises are used, involving remembering, observing, questioning, and finally imagining (using one’s imagination).  These exercises and activities can involve participants writing for short periods.

Environmental Studies (Ecology) is a very popular subject in relation to storytelling, so we could start there, giving examples of educational story-making and storytelling activities in relation to: the inter-connectedness of elements of eco-systems; the advantages of recycling, and the use of renewable, green, energy sources; and the disadvantages of global warming, and deforestation). 

We could then also consider stories in relation to any other educational subject matter.

Storytelling involves developing an inner vision of a series of events, and then communicating this inner vision to listeners.  In this Workshop, participants are coached regarding the use of words, tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions, and other factors for effective communication -- and it is always kept in mind that the teachers will be coaching their students in similar ways.

After telling stories, the educational process involves discussing these stories.  So Workshop participants receive training in engaging students in guided conversations in the classroom.  This involves asking “open questions” (questions that call for students to say what is on their minds, with no right and wrong answers).  For more about "open questions", please see below.

Workshop Topics and Activities include:
* Ways of starting with personal experience stories, and adding elements of fantasy.
* Visualising and painting stories.
* The magic of acting out characters.  Transforming body and voice to enact characters.  Ways of having characters speak dialogue to each other.

Training in storytelling involves two areas: story (content), and performance:

Story Content --
Types of Stories.
Elements of Stories.
Models of Stories (Formulas).
Symbols in Stories. 
Story Structure. 
Story and Place. 
Story and Community. 
Story and the Past.  Story and the Future. 
Story and Personality Development.                               

Story Performance --
Breathing/Singing/Moving and Storytelling. 
Styles of Speaking in Storytelling.       
Acting-out Characters (Role-playing). 
Audience-Participation in Storytelling.
Group Enactment of Stories (Performing Skits).
Singing-and-moving Stories.     
Story Drawing/Painting/Illustrating/Mapping.
Storytelling accompanied by Illustrations, Puppets, Masks, and Props.
Ways of Coaching Storytelling. 

Types of Stories
Types of stories Participants explore and tell in this Workshop include:
1) Traditional stories (folktales, epics, legends, myths, etc);
2) Experiences from everyday life (and other true, historical stories); and   
3) Original creative stories.

Regardless of whether a story's characters are humans, animals, divinities, aliens, etc -- all stories are about situations.  Story listeners can project themselves into these characters, and imagine themselves in these situations. The listeners can consider if they might do things the same or differently from how the characters do things.  This gives the listeners and readers practice for living.

Twelve Elements of Story
1) The title of the story.
2) Characters (their histories, thoughts, decisions, abilities to follow-through on decisions, actions, etc).
3) Characters' ways of speaking.
4) Characters' ways of moving.
5) Place.
6) Time (continuous, or jumps, flashbacks?).
7) The storyline (also known as, plot) -- in one sentence.
8) Objects in the story.
9) Sensory Elements in the story: Smells, Flavours, Colours, Textures, etc.
10) Emotions in the story (for the characters, the teller, and the listeners).
11) If the story is being told by a character in the story: Who is the Narrator, and what is his/her Point of View, Tone of Voice, Attitude, and Style?
12) Point (theme, meaning, moral, message).
Elements 1-11 combined produce element 12.

Turning Points
We practice identifying the Turning Points of stories.  Turning Points are also known as Moments of Decision, Moments of Truth, Pivotal Points, Crucial Scenes, Key Scenes, and Dramatic Moments.

After Telling a Story
After telling stories, Participants practice leading conversations with listeners.  Participants are encouraged to ask "open questions", such as,
"What do you remember about the story?"
"What did you think about the story?"
"How did you feel about the story?"
"What did you like about the story?"
"Might you have a favorite scene in the story?”"
"How do you feel about the ways the characters behaved?"
"Do you feel the story shows any positive behaviours?" (that we should seek to imitate).
"Do you feel the story shows any negative behaviours?" (that we should seek to avoid).
"Might there be something about the story that you might like to change?"
"What messages, morals, and meanings do you get from the story?"
Encourage each listener to formulate and express his/her own answers.

Some Criteria for Good Storytelling
Participants are encouraged -- as the storyteller and as characters -- to
1) Throw oneself into telling the story.
Believe in the value of the story, and be enthusiastic about sharing it with listeners. Commit oneself to the story, trust it, get into it, and tell it whole-heartedly.
2) Use voice modulation.
Give variations in tone-of-voice, attitude, and emotion; speed, pitch, and rhythm.  Give contrast -- even opposites -- between the various voices (slow and fast, continuously and with pauses, soft and loud, low and high pitch, meek and proud emotions, etc).
3) Use facial expressions, gestures, body language (posture and movement).
4) Visualise the elements of each scene and describe these elements to listeners.
5) Act-out (step-into, role-play) characters: speak their words and physically become these characters.
6) Make eye-contact with individual listeners -- both as narrator, and when role-playing a character.  Try looking at a single listener while speaking a complete thought.
7) Develop repeated conversational exchanges between characters in the story.
8) Sing songs (or use other verbal delivery styles).
Songs could be sung by the narrator, about something or someone in the story.  And, songs could be sung by a character, about something that she is thinking -- “I want to do this...”, “I feel like this...”, “This is what I did…”

Links to some traditional stories we could use in this Workshop are at .

Workshop participants are encouraged to keep Storytelling Journals.  Follow-up Workshop sessions -- or at least discussions among teachers -- are helpful.  Such sessions enable the teachers to share with each other what works and what does not work in the classroom, and to develop their story-making and storytelling practices.

The Storytelling Workshop for Teachers can be done as a two- or three-hour session, as a full-day, or over multiple days.  It can be done with any number of teachers, and in any language (through translation and/or other World Story Institute trainers).  This Workshop can also be conducted via Videoconference (Skype and other).

For additional information, please contact
Dr Eric Miller (based in Chennai)
98403 94282