Quick Tip Tuesday: Find your storytelling voice

December 23rd, 2008

Storytelling is an important starting point for young learners as they begin their journey to becoming writers. In Talking, Drawing, Writing, Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe say that it’s important for children to tell their stories before they put them down on paper. To model this storytelling, teachers need to be able to come up with their stories to tell in the classroom. Martha and Mary Ellen offer some strategies for teachers to find their own storytelling voice.

Teachers need to know that they have stories. When we tell teachers that we want them to use their own stories as models, it’s not uncommon for them to say, “But I don’t have stories” or “What would I tell?” or “That’s the most difficult part for me – coming up with a story to tell my students.” That usually reflects a perception of storytelling as a crafted performance – the kind that people sometimes do for a living. Yet once we model for the teachers how we tell one of our stories to children, they see the ordinariness of it and realize that not only do they have stories by they tell them to their students all the time.

As teachers become aware that they everyday stories they tell in passing are actually stories they could tell in this context, they begin to listen for them and collect them. Danita Kelley-Brewster has a strip of chart paper on the wall next to where she sits at the meeting area, at the top of which she has written “Stories to Tell…”

“I’ll be in the middle of a story” she explains, “and I think of something I want to tell them and I’ll say to the kids, ‘I just thought of another story I want to tell you sometime,’ and I jot it down right then.” Not only is she making it easier for herself to find her stories when she needs them, but she’s modeling for her students that writers are always seeing possible stories and that they usually have a place to collect those ideas.

…When choosing a story to tell students, we want one that is accessible to them. By that we mean one they will be able to relate to, one that matters to us, one that as they hear it, causes them to say, Hey I could do that. We sometimes ask ourselves questions such as these when thinking of stories to tell our students:

  • What is a recent happening that I’ve told others about?
  • What’s an ordinary, everyday happening from my childhood?
  • What personal stories do I tell my own children at bedtime?
  • What stories of my childhood do I keep coming back to, the ones that cause people to say, “Tell the one about…”?
  • What’s a moment, a seemingly simple happening, that I hold dear?
  • Who do I know and care about and what stories do I have about him or her?

It is by beginning with ordinary, everyday topics that we make it possible for all of our students to feel they can enter in.

Martha and Mary Ellen go on to talk about how to bring out student’s stories, beyond the ones that begin with “Once upon a time” or involve dragons and princesses.

Entry Filed under: Literacy,Quick Tip Tuesday

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