Teaching Storytelling for Children through Stories Book
by Aryani Nuryusuf
The great difference, including lesser ones, between telling and reading is that the teller is free; the reader is bound. The book in hand, or the wording of it in mind, binds the reader. The story-teller is bound by nothing; he stands or sits, free to watch his audience, free to follow or lead every changing mood, free to use body, eyes, voice, as aids in expression. Even his mind is unbound, because he lets the story come in the words of the moment, being so full of what he has to say. For this reason, a story told is more spontaneous than one read, however well read. And, consequently, the connection with the audience is closer, more electric, than is possible when the book or its wording intervenes.
Beyond this advantage, is the added charm of the personal element in story-telling? When you make a story your own and tell it, the listener gets the story, plus your appreciation of it. It comes to him filtered through your own enjoyment. That is what makes the funny story thrice funnier on the lips of a jolly raconteur than in the pages of a memoir. It is the filter of personality. Everybody has something of the curiosity of the primitive man concerning his neighbor; what another has in his own person felt and done has an especial hold on each one of us. The most cultured of audiences will listen to the personal reminiscences of an explorer with a different tingle of interest from that which it feels for a scientific lecture on the results of the exploration. The longing for the personal in experience is a very human longing. And this instinct or longing is especially strong in children. It finds expression in their delight in tales of what father or mother did when they were little, of what happened to grandmother when she went on a journey, and so on, but it also extends to stories which are not in themselves personal: which take their personal savor merely from the fact that they flow from the lips in spontaneous, homely phrases, with an appreciative gusto which suggests participation.
The greater ease in holding the attention of children is, for teachers, a sufficient practical reason for telling stories rather than reading them. It is incomparably easier to make the necessary exertion of "magnetism," or whatever it may be called, when nothing else distracts the attention. One's eyes meet the children's gaze naturally and constantly; one's expression responds to and initiates theirs without effort; the connection is immediate. For the ease of the teacher, then, no less than for the joy of the children, may the art of story-telling be urged as pre-eminent over the art of reading?
It is a very old, a very beautiful art. Merely to think of it carries one's imaginary vision to scenes of glorious and touching antiquity. The tellers of the stories of which Homer's Iliad was compounded; the transmitters of the legend and history which make up the Gesta Romanorum; the travelling raconteurs whose brief heroic tales are woven into our own national epic; the grannies of age-old tradition whose stories are parts of Celtic folk-lore, of Germanic myth, of Asiatic wonder-tales,—these are but younger brothers and sisters to the generations of story-tellers whose inventions are but vaguely outlined in resultant forms of ancient literatures, and the names of whose tribes are no longer even guessed. There was a time when story-telling was the chiefs of the arts of entertainment; kings and warriors could ask for nothing better; serfs and children were satisfied with nothing less. In all times there have been occasional revivals of this pastime, and in no time has the art died out in the simple human realms of which mothers are queens. But perhaps never, since the really old days, has story-telling so nearly reached a recognized level of dignity as a legitimate and general art of entertainment as now.
Its present popularity seems in a way to be an outgrowth of the recognition of its educational value which was given impetus by the German pedagogues of Froebel's school. That recognition has, at all events, been a noticeable factor in educational conferences of late. The function of the story is no longer considered solely in the light of its place in the kindergarten; it is being sought in the first, the second, and indeed in every standard where the children are still children. Sometimes the demand for stories is made solely in the interests of literary culture, sometimes in far ampler and vaguer relations, ranging from inculcation of scientific fact to admonition of moral theory; but whatever the reason given, the conclusion is the same: tell the children stories.
It is about how to teach speaking skill. Teachers need to achieve a balance between equipping children to use language in ways that enable them to access education and recognizing and valuing the language that the children bring with them to school. School can provide a supportive environment in which the values place on different aspect of language can be discussed and prejudices. English teaching can therefore be used to help children begin to challenge inequity and prejudice and explore the social system that support these. If language captures values and ideas, then analysis of language and text can help children understand the way that society works.
As well as acknowledging and building upon children’s own uses of language, it is important to broaden the range and scope of their language use and competence. In order to harness the kind of motivation and enthusiasm that children exhibit in relation to their language use at home, it is necessary to provide meaningful, motivating contexts within which they can use and encounter language within school.
Producing and responding to text plays a key part in this. Through encounters with authentic spoken and written text, children can gain awareness of the way in which language is used and moreover reflect and the effect it has on them as readers and listeners. As writers and speakers they can create their own text experimenting with using language in different way for real purpose. Children’s literature has traditionally played a central role. Picture books, novels and poetry can entertain and amuse, give insights into experiences and emotions, widen knowledge of other’s lives, challenge assumptions and help find new ways of looking at the world.
DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDING
3.1 THE PURPOSE OF STORY-TELLING IN SCHOOL
Let us first consider together the primary matter of the aim in educational story-telling. On our conception of this must depend very largely all decisions as to choice and method; and nothing in the whole field of discussion is more vital than a just and sensible notion of this first point. What shall we attempt to accomplish by stories in the schoolroom? What can we reasonably expect to accomplish? And what, of this, is best accomplished by this means and no other?
These are questions which become the more interesting and practical because the recent access of enthusiasm for stories in education has led many people to claim very wide and very vaguely outlined territory for their possession, and often to lay heaviest stress on their least essential functions. The most important instance of this is the fervor with which many compilers of stories for school use have directed their efforts solely toward illustration of natural phenomena. Geology, zoology, botany, and even physics are taught by means of more or less happily constructed narratives based on the simpler facts of these sciences. Kindergarten teachers are familiar with such narratives: the little stories of chrysalis-breaking, flower-growth, and the like. Now this is a perfectly proper and practicable aim, but it is not a primary one. Others, to which at best this is but secondary, should have first place and receive greatest attention.
What is a story, essentially? Is it a text-book of science, an appendix to the geography, an introduction to the primer of history? Of course it is not. A story is essentially and primarily a work of art, and its chief function must be sought in the line of the uses of art. Just as the drama is capable of secondary uses, yet fails abjectly to realize its purpose when those are substituted for its real significance as a work of art, so does the story lend itself to subsidiary purposes, but claims first and most strongly to be recognized in its real significance as a work of art. Since the drama deals with life in all its parts, it can exemplify sociological theory, it can illustrate economic principle, it can even picture politics; but the drama which does these things only, has no breath of its real life in its being, and dies when the wind of popular tendency veers from its direction. So, you can teach a child interesting facts about bees and butterflies by telling him certain stories, and you can open his eyes to colors and processes in nature by telling certain others; but unless you do something more than that and before that, you are as one who should use the Venus of Milo for a demonstration in anatomy.
The message of the story is the message of beauty, as effective as that message in marble or paint. Its part in the economy of life is to give joy. And the purpose and working of the joy is found in that quickening of the spirit which answers every perception of the truly beautiful in the arts of man. To give joy; in and through the joy to stir and feed the life of the spirit: is not this the legitimate function of the story in education?
A story is a work of art. Its greatest use to the child is in the everlasting appeal of beauty by which the soul of man is constantly pricked to new hungers, quickened to new perceptions, and so given desire to grow. The obvious practical bearing of this is that story-telling is first of all an art of entertainment; like the stage, its immediate purpose is the pleasure of the hearer,—his pleasure, not his instruction, first.
Now the story-teller who has given the listening children such pleasure as it mean may or may not have added a fact to the content of their minds; she has inevitably added something to the vital powers of their souls. She has given a wholesome exercise to the emotional muscles of the spirit, has opened up new windows to the imagination, and added some line or color to the ideal of life and art which is always taking form in the heart of a child.
Intimately connected with the enjoyment given are two very practically beneficial results which the story-teller may hope to obtain, and at least one of which will be a kind of reward to her. The first is a relaxation of the tense schoolroom atmosphere, valuable for its refreshing recreate power. The second result, or aim, is not so obvious, but is even more desirable; it is this: story-telling is at once one of the simplest and quickest ways of establishing a happy relation between teacher and children, and one of the most effective methods of forming the habit of fixed attention in the latter.
More than one instance of the power of story-telling to develop attentiveness comes to my mind, but the most prominent in memory is a rather recent incident, in which the actors were boys and girls far past the child-stage of docility.
The process which took place in that small audience was a condensed example of what one may expect in habitual story-telling to a group of children. Once having had the attention chained by crude force of interest, the children begin to expect something interesting from the teacher, and to wait for it. And having been led step by step from one grade of a logical sequence to another, their minds—at first beguiled by the fascination of the steps—glide into the habit of following any logical sequence. By the end of a week in which the children have listened happily to a story every day, the habit of listening and deducing has been formed, and the expectation of pleasantness is connected with the opening of the teacher's lips.
These two benefits are well worth the trouble they cost, and for these two, at least, any teacher who tells a story well may confidently look—the quick gaining of a confidential relation with the children, and the gradual development of concentration and interested attention in them.
3.2 SELECTION OF STORIES TO TELL
Some of the teachers were genuinely disturbed because the few stories they had introduced merely for amusement had taken so pre-eminent a place in the children's affection over those which had been given seriously. It was of no use, however, to suggest substitutes. The children knew definitely what they liked, and though they accepted the recapitulation of scientific and moral stories with polite approbation, they returned to the original answer at a repetition of the question.
Inasmuch as the slightest of the things we hope to do for children by means of stories is quite impossible unless the children enjoy the stories, it may be worth our while to consider seriously these three which they surely do enjoy, to see what common qualities are in them, explanatory of their popularity, by which we may test the probable success of other stories we wish to tell.
The briefest examination of these three stories reveals the fact that one attribute is beyond dispute in each. Something happens, all the time. Every step in each story is an event. There is no time spent in explanation, description, or telling how people felt; the stories tell what people did, and what they said. And the events are the links of a sequence of the closest kind; in point of time and of cause they follow as immediately as it is possible for events to follow. There are no gaps, and no complications of plot requiring a return on the road.
A second common characteristic appears on briefest examination. As you run over the little stories you will see that each event presents a distinct picture to the imagination, and that these pictures are made out of very simple elements. The elements are either familiar to the child or analogous to familiar ones. Each object and happening is very like every day, yet touched with a subtle difference, rich in mystery. For example, the details of the pictures in the Goldilocks story are parts of everyday life,—house, chairs, beds, and so on; but they are the house, chairs, and beds of three bears; that is the touch of marvel which transforms the scene. The old woman who owned the obstinate pig is the centre of a circle in which stand only familiar images,—stick, fire, water, cow, and the rest; but the wonder enters with the fact that these usually inanimate or dumb objects of nature enter so humanly into the contest of wills. So it is, also, with the doings of the three little pigs. Every image is explicable to the youngest hearer, while none suggests actual familiarity, because the actors are not children, but pigs. Simplicity, with mystery, is the keynote of all the pictures, and these are clear and distinct.
Still a third characteristic common to the stories quoted is a certain amount of repetition. It is more definite, and of what has been called the "cumulative" kind, in the story of the old woman; but in all it is a distinctive feature.
Here we have, then, three marked characteristics common to three stories almost invariably loved by children,—action, in close sequence; familiar images, tinged with mystery; some degree of repetition.
It is not hard to see why these qualities appeal to a child. The first is the prime characteristic of all good stories,—"stories as is stories"; the child's demand for it but bears witness to the fact that his instinctive taste is often better than the taste he later develops under artificial culture. The second is a matter of common-sense. How could the imagination create new worlds, save out of the material of the old? To offer strange images is to confuse the mind and dull the interest; to offer familiar ones "with a difference" is to pique the interest and engage the mind.
3.3 ADAPTATION OF STORIES FOR TELLING
It soon becomes easy to pick out from a collection such stories as can be well told; but at no time is it easy to find a sufficient number of such stories. Stories simple, direct, and sufficiently full of incident for telling, yet having the beautiful or valuable motive we desire for children, do not lie hidden in every book. And even many of the stories which are most charming to read do not answer the double demand, for the appeal to the eye differs in many important respects from that to the ear. Unless one is able to change the form of a story to suit the needs of oral delivery, one is likely to suffer from poverty of material. Perhaps the commonest need of change is in the case of a story too long to tell, yet embodying someone beautiful incident or lesson; or one including a series of such incidents. The story of The Nürnberg Stove, by Ouida, is a good example of the latter kind; Ruskin's King of the Golden River will serve as an illustration of the former.
Having this essential body of the story in mind, one then decides which of the steps toward the climax are needed for safe arrival there, and keeps these. When two or more steps can be covered in a single stride, one makes the stride. When a necessary explanation is unduly long, or is woven into the story in too many strands, one disposes of it in an introductory statement, or perhaps in a side remark. If there are two or more threads of narrative, one chooses among them, and holds strictly to the one chosen, eliminating details which concern the others.
In order to hold the simplicity of plot so attained, it is also desirable to have but few personages in the story, and to narrate the action from the point of view of one of them,—usually the hero. To shift the point of view of the action is confusing to the child's mind.
When the analysis and condensation have been accomplished, the whole must be cast in simple language, keeping if possible the same kind of speech as that used in the original, but changing difficult or technical terms to plain, and complex images to simple and familiar ones.
All types of adaptation share in this need of simple language,—stories which are too short, as well as those which are too long, have this feature in their changed form. The change in a short story is applied oftenest where it becomes desirable to amplify a single anecdote, or perhaps a fable, which is told in very condensed form. Such an instance is the following anecdote of heroism, which in the original is quoted in one of F.W. Robertson's lectures on Poetry.
3.4 HOW TO TELL THE STORY
Selection, and, if necessary, adaptation—these are the preliminaries to the act of telling. That, after all, is the real test of one's power. That is the real joy, when achieved; the real bugbear, when dreaded. And that is the subject of this chapter, "How to tell a story."
How to tell a story: it is a short question which demands a long answer. The right beginning of the answer depends on a right conception of the thing the question is about; and that naturally reverts to an earlier discussion of the real nature of a story. In that discussion it was stated that a story is a work of art,—a message, as all works of art are.
And the mind must be sensitized to these differences. No one can tell stories well who has not a keen and just feeling of such emotional values. A positive and a negative injunction depend on this premise,—the positive, cultivate your feeling, striving toward increasingly just appreciation; the negative, never tell a story you do not feel. Fortunately, the number and range of stories one can appreciate grow with cultivation; but it is the part of wisdom not to step outside the range at any stage of its growth.
The art of story-telling, intensely personal and subjective as it is, yet comes under the law sufficiently not to be a matter of sheer "knack." It has its technique. The following suggestions are an attempt to state what seem the foundation principles of that technique. The general statements are deduced from many consecutive experiences; partly, too, they are the results of introspective analysis, confirmed by observation. They do not make up an exclusive body of rules, wholly adequate to produce good work, of themselves; they do include, so far as my observation and experience allow, the fundamental requisites of good work,—being the qualities uniformly present in successful work of many story-tellers.
First of all, most fundamental of all, is a rule without which any other would be but folly: Know your story.
One would think so obvious a preliminary might be taken for granted. But alas, even slight acquaintance with the average story-teller proves the dire necessity of the admonition. The halting tongue, the slip in name or incident, the turning back to forge an omitted link in the chain, the repetition, the general weakness of statement consequent on imperfect grasp: these are common features of the stories one hears told. And they are features which will deface the best story ever told.
One must know the story absolutely; it must have been so assimilated that it partakes of the nature of personal experience; its essence must be so clearly in mind that the teller does not have to think of it at all in the act of telling, but rather lets it flow from his lips with the unconscious freedom of a vivid reminiscence.
But when these faults have been corrected by several attempts, the method gives a confidence, a sense of sureness, which makes the real telling to a real audience ready and spontaneously smooth. Scarcely an epithet or a sentence comes out as it was in the preliminary telling; but epithets and sentences in sufficiency do come; the beauty of this method is that it brings freedom instead of bondage.
A valuable exception to the rule against memorising must be noted here. Especially beautiful and indicative phrases of the original should be retained, and even whole passages, where they are identified with the beauty of the tale. And in stories like The Three Bears or Red Riding Hood the exact phraseology of the conversation as given in familiar versions should be preserved; it is in a way sacred, a classic, and not to be altered. But beyond this the language should be the teller's own, and probably never twice the same. Sureness, ease, freedom, and the effect of personal reminiscence come only from complete mastery.
The next suggestion is a purely practical one concerning the preparation of physical conditions. See that the children are seated in close and direct range of your eye; the familiar half-circle is the best arrangement for small groups of children, but the teacher should be at a point opposite the centre of the arc, not in its centre: thus, it is important also not to have the ends too far at the side, and to have no child directly behind another, or in such a position that he has not an easy view of the teacher's full face.
Little children have to be physically close in order to be mentally close. It is, of course, desirable to obtain a hushed quiet before beginning; but it is not so important as to preserve your own mood of holiday, and theirs. If the fates and the atmosphere of the day are against you, it is wiser to trust to the drawing power of the tale itself, and abate the irritation of didactic methods. And never break into that magic tale, once begun, with an admonition to Ethel or Tommy to stop squirming, or a rebuke to "that little girl over there who is not listening." Make her listen! It is probably your fault if she is not. If you are telling a good story, and telling it well, she can't help listening,—unless she is an abnormal child; and if she is abnormal you ought not to spoil the mood of the others to attend to her.
The children ready, your own mood must be ready. It is desirable that the spirit of the story should be imposed upon the room from the beginning, and this result hangs on the clearness and intensity of the teller's initiatory mood. An act of memory and of will is the requisite. The story-teller must call up—it comes with the swiftness of thought—the essential emotion of the story as he felt it first. A single volition puts him in touch with the characters and the movement of the tale. This is scarcely more than a brief and condensed reminiscence; it is the stepping back into a mood once experienced.
Let us say, for example, that the story to be told is the immortal fable of The Ugly Duckling. Before you open your lips the whole pathetic series of the little swan's mishaps should flash across your mind,—not accurately and in detail, but blended to a composite of undeserved ignominy, of baffled innocent wonderment, and of delicious underlying satire on average views. With this is mingled the feeling of Andersen's delicate whimsicality of style. The dear little Ugly Duckling waddles, bodily, into your consciousness, and you pity his sorrows and anticipate his triumph, before you begin.
This preliminary recognition of mood is what brings the delicious quizzical twitch to the mouth of a good raconteur who begins an anecdote the hearers know will be side-splitting. It is what makes grandmother sigh gently and look far over your heads, when her soft voice commences the story of "the little girl who lived long, long ago." It is a natural and instinctive thing with the born story-teller; a necessary thing for anyone who will become a story-teller.
From the very start, the mood of the tale should be definite and authoritative, beginning with the mood of the teller and emanating therefrom in proportion as the physique of the teller is a responsive medium.
Now we are off. Knowing your story, having your hearers well arranged, and being as thoroughly as you are able in the right mood, you begin to tell it. Tell it, then, simply, directly, dramatically, with zest.
Simply applies both to manner and matter. As to manner, I mean without affectation, without any form of pretence, in short, without posing. It is a pity to "talk down" to the children, to assume a honeyed voice, to think of the edifying or educational value of the work one is doing. Naturalness, being oneself, is the desideratum. I wonder why we so often use a preposterous voice,—a super-sweetened whine, in talking to children? Is it that the effort to realise an ideal of gentleness and affectionateness overreaches itself in this form of the grotesque? Some good intention must be the root of it. But the thing is none the less pernicious. A "cant" voice is as abominable as a cant phraseology. Both are of the very substance of evil.
Beyond dispute to those of us who are cursed with an over-abundant measure of self-consciousness, nothing is harder than simple naturalness. The remedy is to lose oneself in one's art. Think of the story so absorbingly and vividly that you have no room to think of yourself. Live it. Sink yourself in that mood you have summoned up, and let it carry you. If you do this, simplicity of matter will come easily. Your choice of words and images will naturally become simple.
Directness in telling is a most important quality. The story, listened to, is like the drama, beheld. Its movement must be unimpeded, increasingly swift, winding up "with a snap." Long-windedness, or talking round the story, utterly destroys this movement. The incidents should be told, one after another, without explanation or description beyond what is absolutely necessary; and they should be told in logical sequence. Nothing is more distressing than the cart-before-the-horse method,—nothing more quickly destroys interest than the failure to get a clue in the right place.
Sometimes, to be sure, aside remark adds piquancy and a personal savor. But the general rule is great discretion in this respect. Every epithet or adjective beyond what is needed to give the image, is a five-barred gate in the path of the eager mind travelling to a climax.
Explanations and moralizing are usually sheer clatter. Some few stories necessarily include a little explanation, and stories of the fable order may quaintly end with an obvious moral. But here again, the rule is—great discretion.
Teachers need to achieve a balance between equipping children to use language in ways that enable them to access education and recognizing and valuing the language that the children bring with them to school. School can provide a supportive environment in which the values place on different aspect of language can be discussed and prejudices. English teaching can therefore be used to help children begin to challenge inequity and prejudice and explore the social system that support these. If language captures values and ideas, then analysis of language and text can help children understand the way that society works.
Based on recent brain research and multiple intelligence theory, this text combines the art of storytelling with popular selections from children's literature. The book is organized by themes around the calendar and is useful for anyone interested in developing effective storytelling skills. The authors provide compelling rationales for the value of storytelling, links to state literacy learning standards, detailed storytelling unit tips, easy ideas for storytelling throughout the curriculum, and carefully selected and extensive bibliographies.
Considered the classic in the field, this book is useful to both experienced and novice teachers and storytellers who work with students from preschool through college. This text creatively integrates multiple intelligences and related activities with methods of effective storytelling. Based on recent brain research and multiple intelligence theory, it combines the art of storytelling with popular selections from children's literature. The text is organized around the calendar by themes. Multiple intelligence activities as well as extensive references are included for each chapter.
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Susan Trostle Brand,Jeanne M. Donato,Susan Louise Trostle-Brand. 2000. Storytelling in Emergent Literacy: Fostering Multiple Intelligence. England : Delmar
Budzt, christisn, Klaus For, Baris Yakaboylu. 2005. Storytelling Branding in Practice. Denmark: Springer.
Denning, Stephen, Katalina Groh. Storytelling In Organizations. USA: Elsevier
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