- Julie Della Torre, Storyteller
The strongest work we as storytellers do in the classroom, the work that has the most impact on students is when the teacher and the storyteller work collaboratively--two professionals working together, a professional storyteller and a professional teacher--each bringing unique skills to the project.
The professional storyteller does the work of learning her/his story in-depth. The storyteller researches and finds the story, learns the text, analyzes the story, and studies the culture from which the story emerges. She/he understands different types of stories from the folklore genre.
The professional teacher knows her/his students. She/he is eminently familiar with grade curriculum and the skills students need in their classroom.
By telling stories and leading literary discussions of the stories, the storytelling gives a class an oral text from which to work on all types of curriculum. We storytellers hope that teachers learn from our tellings and from the follow-up discussions and activities. In truth, we storytellers, if we take time to listen to teachers, learn much more.
I was the storyteller for a Storytelling Arts residency in a middle school in Paterson, New Jersey. As part of the residency I told stories to the 5th and 7th grades and facilitated follow- up discussions.
The goals for the project were to
· Increase students' awareness, comprehension, and appreciation of literature.
· Improve listening skills.
· Stimulate students' imaginations.
· Help students' to have a more intuitive understanding of story structure which will carry over into their writing skills.
· Reinforce teachers' understanding that the ancient art of storytelling can serve and integral role in the school curriculum
· Increase students' awareness, comprehension, and appreciation that stories are the world’s culture
But as you will see below, the fifth grade teacher, Ms. Kober, went far beyond these goals. It was the second year for me in her classroom. I told the story ‘The Seven Ravens’ from the Brothers Grimm. Ms. Kober spoke of her experience with storytelling. She said, “Last year I didn’t know what to expect, but now I know what I can do with it (storytelling). It’s great when you come in because I’m not a good storyteller. I can’t do it. So it’s great to have you and then I can take it from there.”
And she did! After hearing the story, she had the students do all sorts of reading and writing.
Ms. Kober went on, “All of the skills you see are prior skills. This was just a great way to review. They loved it. I was amazed that they could sequence the story after just hearing it once. And they could read and follow the directions to make origami ravens. That’s reading informational text.”
Take a look at the writing assignments her students completed and what a beautiful bulletin board it made for showing off their work.