The Art of Storytelling for Young People

A well told story has the ability to stir emotions, trigger ideas and conjure images that will last a lifetime. If storytelling is such an enjoyable process, then it is also important for young people to be taught how to tell a story because it is they who will grow up to be consumers of stories in their adulthood. No matter what field they choose to build a career in, storytelling skills will always come in handy. By coaching them to tell stories, we also ensure that this ancient art form is preserved and passed on. Here are some reasons we need to teach storytelling to young people:

  • Storytelling is tradition. It is the oldest form of communication we know as humans. Wisdom was passed on in the form of stories for several generations until we became enveloped by technology and information was measured in kilobytes. With this access to data, young people often stop ‘wondering’ about the world they inhabit. Yet, when a story is told in an engaging manner, they listen. Spellbound. Regardless of age. By coaching young people to become storytellers, we can pass on essential skills and enable them to develop voices that will be heard. Most importantly, we ensure that the tradition of storytelling is kept alive.
  • Storytelling creates stronger family ties. When children make a conscious effort to mine stories from their relatives they learn about their roots. Almost everyone has at least one interesting family member or episode in their past. By telling and listening to stories of such people, young people get the opportunity to know about that uncle and that grandmother who may have passed much before their time. They draw tremendous strength from stories about adversity, loss and success that have taken place in their own homes.
  • Storytelling is an amalgamation of reading, writing, listening and speaking. When a child reads a story to retell it, he or she learns how to analyze its parts, look for hidden meaning in the metaphors, imagine the characters and their traits, reproduce in his/her own words, build sequence, memory and confident articulation.
  • Storytelling builds self esteem. When the audience claps at the end of the performance, the child’s self-worth soars sky-high. This confidence is then carried over to other aspects of life.
  • Storytelling develops good listening skills. In order for anyone, leave alone a child, to be able to tell a story well, it is necessary to observe the details in the environment closely to be able to reproduce it in the telling. For example, if a character speaks with a nasal twang, it is important that the storyteller does justice to this defining trait by imitating the tone of voice, which will add richness to the telling. Listening also helps build memory while recalling a story.
  • Storytelling builds good creative-writing skills. When children work with folktales, they are encouraged to recreate the story by changing some elements and making their own. They pay attention to the sensorial elements in the story and put their ideas into words that form new connections to the original.
  • Storytelling teaches how to engage. When a story is told, the audience are a part of the story. This is why there is no ‘fourth wall’ in the storytelling process. Children learn how to make their telling interesting to the audience by adding various elements such as music, dance, refrains, actions etc.
  • Storytelling drives away inhibition. The audience is a part of the storytelling, which means they’re on the storyteller’s side. They don’t threaten the teller by being disinterested, passive listeners; they tell the story along, sing the refrain and chants and give their responses. This makes the environment safe for the inhibited. Mistakes are alright because the teller learns how to quickly improvise and move on.
  • Storytelling is a lot of fun. Whether it’s a pourquoi story or a tall tale, a fable or a myth, storytelling opens up the imagination of both the teller and the listener. This can be a hugely enjoyable process, regardless of the end objective. Stories are told for fun as much as they are told to send home a message. Children love being different characters and displaying various emotions as they perform the story. It transports them to a risk-free world, where everything is beautiful. With all these benefits, stroytelling cannot be bad for anyone!

As storytellers we have often wondered why storytelling is not encouraged as an important skill to develop in young people in India. Among adults today, there is enough awareness about this skill; what with groups like Toastmasters, TED etc. making it popular and making them realize the need to build it into their repertoire for personal and professional success.

But adulthood also brings with it limitations—one may want to pick up storytelling at 35, but may not have the time nor the resources to do so. If we were to instill good storytelling skills from a young age, we’d only be making adult lives much easier, would we not?

Keeping in mind all the above, Ever After intends to start a one-of-its kind workshop called the ‘Tribe of Tellers’ for children between 8 and 12 years that will create and nurture young storytellers and coach them to become performers; The workshop will achieve this through fun, yet structured, activities that involve listening, speaking, reading and writing; it will also teach children theatrical techniques such as visualization, voice modulation, body language and expression to enable them to tell a story in an engaging manner, while helping them understand and appreciate the various genres and techniques of storytelling. The camp will culminate in a performance of the stories that the participants will have learnt during the workshop period.

poster_forweb (3)The first edition of this workshop will commence on Apr 6th and go on until Apr 22nd, at Paradigm Shift in Koramangala. Timings are from 11 am to 1.30 pm on weekdays. Another round of this workshop will take place between May 11th and 24th at Jagriti Theatre’s Summer Carnival. 

Inspired by the work of organizations like the National Youth Storytelling Showcase, Youth Storytelling Foundation, Timpanogos Institute, U.S.A., and The Beauty and The Beast Storytellers (Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss) that work extensively in the area of coaching young storytellers, we also hope to have this Tribe of Tellers trained to perform at various venues through the year, if all goes well. It is our honest belief that these Tellers will grow to become strong voices of the future and carry on the tradition of oral storytelling.

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Learning About Otherness

Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl might be one of the most beautiful YA books ever written. But we won’t look at it here for its merits as a book about teen angst and young love. We’ll take the whole, lovely package and think about it in terms of what it teaches us about difference and non-conformity.

Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli Book Cover | Source: Wikipedia

Sixteen year old Leo Borlock is harmless and startlingly normal. He laughs, he has friends, he has a hobby. We have here, a character who is the very epitome of normalcy, a not-too-quiet not-too-loud person who floats through the corridors of his teeming, bubbling high school and, every now and then, gets swept by school-wide waves of excitement and intensity.

Then Stargirl Carraway enters, riding just such a wave. She’s new in school, and she’s crazy. She carries a pet rat to classes. She dresses like a gypsy. She strums an ukulele and sings to her schoolmates on their birthdays. She has the most gorgeous eyes Leo has ever seen. The students of Mica High are wary of her. Her energy is absurd, magical. They are captivated by her spirit, shocked by her principles. They love her when she cheers for the school team, they hate her when she celebrates someone else’s win. What is she anyway? What’s her deal?

And that’s what everyone, including the mildly lovesick Leo, wants to know. How can they define her when she doesn’t seem to fit into their definitions of anything?

Stargirl is a series of slow, spellbinding sequences. We watch as Stargirl shows Leo how ‘normal’ she really is, that she wants love and belonging as much as the next person. We follow them on long walks into the shining Arizona desert. Most painful of all, we watch as the vicious, confused, terrified teens of Mica High shun and shatter Stargirl.

Jerry Spinelli

Spinelli shows us something obvious in this book: we cannot tolerate otherness. We reject what we don’t know, what we cannot understand. And then he suggests something that suddenly appears equally obvious: beneath the outward differences we are all alike. And also: love and acceptance can exist even between people who cannot understand or categorise one another.

By crafting his novel such that the rejection, the difference, and the love are pinned only to delicate, half-magical characters inhabiting a delicate, half-magical world, Spinelli has created a starting point for discussions on real-world differences of all sorts. At one level Stargirl is the beautiful story of a single girl’s struggle to stay different, and of Leo’s struggle to stay in love with difference. But it’s also a story we can all use to think about acceptance and tolerance, to keep in mind as we navigate our perilous social worlds and watch differences of identity tear our societies apart.

ADDITIONAL READING

Similar Titles

  • Very Far Away From Anywhere Else by Ursula LeGuin
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sanchez
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Things Around Your Neck: Short Stories by Chimammanda Ngozi Adichie

For Slightly Younger Readers

  • Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio

For Young Readers

  • The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
  • Dad David, Baba Chris and Me by Ed Merchant
  • Mukand and Riaz by Nina Sabnani

-Dakshayini Suresh for Ever After

Storytelling to Teach Academic Subjects

As Deeptha Vivekanand, Founder, Ever After, prepares to deliver a workshop on ‘Storytelling to Teach Academic Subjects‘ on February 6th at the Chennai Storytelling Festival 2015, here’s a look at what makes stories and storytelling so relevant and important in a classroom. This post also seeks to challenge the notion that storytelling is only for the very young. Stories in all forms–oral histories, books, films, art–are powerful tools to enrich the teaching of a subject. Read on to find out how:

There’s something really enduring about a story. Maybe it’s the fact that the words and images that go into it are chosen with such care. Maybe it’s the fact that it has progression, from one event to another, from one idea to another. Maybe it’s the way stories and characters emotionally engage us. We go from one place to another with these characters, watching them, listening to them, investing in them, remembering them. This is the strength of a story. What you get from it stays with you, tucked away in a complex web of associations and emotional reactions and experiences.

Stories can have a great positive impact on education methods and can increase the level of student involvement in a subject. While acknowledging that syllabus-prescribed texts nowadays are probably more colourful and anecdotal than the material she remembers from her school days, Deeptha, talks about the shortfalls of a textbook based learning system: Students “don’t feel challenged to go beyond the given text, look for information and draw their own conclusions. But when we ask them to write a story based on a topic, they get the chance to both look up the facts and express their thoughts creatively, hence engaging both sides of the brain”. There is, for instance, something mechanical about the conventional curriculum approach to social studies and science, a fixation with memorising in learning. Engaging with the narratives of a concept gives students a chance to see it as more interesting than what is presented in the text. They suddenly see the opportunity to use creativity
and active thinking in the learning process.

One significant example of a story that can be effectively used in teaching social studies and history is Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. This is a well-known book that children often come across outside the educational context. Its strong narrative thrust and moving emotional content give it all the qualities of a novel. However, it is actually a real-world account of the persecution of Jews during WWII. It is grounded in the political and social backdrop of war-torn Europe. It can be used as a way to study and discuss the events of history, the impact of political turmoil on individuals and to understand the importance of basic human rights in any context. In studying such a rich and personal account of the war, students will find themselves understanding historical events at an emotional level, remembering them not just for the dates and political manoeuvres, but for the human trauma they represent. A contemporary equivalent of the Anne Frank story is Malala Yousufzai, whose tale captures the suffering of schoolgirls in militancy-affected Pakistan.

Narratives of science are also becoming increasingly relevant to understanding the scientific method and the discoveries that it has spawned. Visual media, like the new production of the Cosmos series (presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson) incorporate snippets of biographical information about the astronomers, physicists and chemists behind the discoveries that make our conception of the universe what it is. Students retain information about rules and processes by associating them with the dynamic, brilliant individuals who make up the field of science. Examples of popular (and important) written word narratives include The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and The Double Helix by James D. Watson (chronicling the research and intrigue that led to the discovery of DNA). Skloot’s story about Henrietta Lacks discusses the ethical questions that emerged when the cancer cells of a poor Black American woman were used, without the knowledge and sanction of her family, to fuel a scientific endeavour and create an immortal line of cancer cells which are used in medical research till date. Skloot also provides information about what exactly biologists learned about the disease from Lacks’ cells. These are, effectively, the stories of the units that make up human life.

Stories have incredible scope. Deeptha feels that if they had used textbooks in their sessions, the learning of students “would have been limited to only the basics—who, what, when, where. The whys and hows would have been ignored because there isn’t much to ponder over.”

Whether we use the Jataka Tales to learn about Buddhism, the Akbar-Birbal stories to discover the of culture Mughal India, or the glamourous classic stories of Greek heroes and polymaths to uncover the meaning life in the ancient civilizations, there is no limit on what we can glean from the stories around us. None of this is to undermine the values of traditional education systems, but only to suggest that the introduction of narratives can create a window for imagination, memory and understanding to manifest in broader and more exciting way. Also, Nisha Abdulla, Co-founder of Ever After believes that stories can be used to encourage linking ideas across disciplines, as this might be the “need of the hour.” She describes a lesson in which the term ‘physical features’ of a country was studied as a combination of science, geography and economic trade. She also describes instances of stories providing the opportunity for discussions about values and dialogue: “In a recent history session we were looking at the legacy a strong leader leaves behind and the influence it has on a country and its people. We compared the legacies left behind by Mandela and Hitler in South Africa and Germany respectively in the form of stories written about that time. The children were then challenged to flip the narrative.” Students then find themselves raising questions about “democracy and rights, nation building in a diverse country like India with its own history of marginalisation.”

Narratives are conducive to the retention of academic concepts, and they encourage adopting stances through slow deliberation and a deep, detailed knowledge of multiple perspectives. Perhaps, as Nisha suggests, “children need to go through this process – only then will they become adults who are comfortable with various perspectives in others.” In a world where rigidity and intolerance are prevalent in human attitudes, the construction of mentalities that value dialogue and thoughtfulness and celebrate the growing multiplicity of identities, ideas, and knowledge can only be a good thing.

Finally, perhaps it is also important to understand our own roles in the universe of stories. We, as individuals have a place in the larger scheme of things, and initiatives like the Big History Project discuss the history of the world not just by drawing emotional and other parallels between students’ lives and the stories they come across, but by locating us, as people and as lifeforms in the much bigger story of planets, societies and our place in the universe. History is then conceptualised as a narrative that includes the minute filigree of our lives, as well as the larger sweeping social and natural phenomena that shape us. The stories that we learn through become our own stories—of origins, processes and extinction.

-Dakshayini Suresh, for Ever After

 

 

Reading Nature Writing with Children: Nature’s Spokesman

Nature’s Spokesman is a charming collection of short essays, drawings and poems by M. Krishnan, the eminent naturalist and nature photographer. It is a lovely way to introduce young people to the natural world around them. The book covers an extensive range of birds, animals and landscapes, describing them in flawless, detailed prose. The sentences are stunning, sparing, beautifully worded, and perfectly accessible to readers of all ages.

Krishnan writes based on everyday observations of the environment. These include fleeting anecdotes about the seemingly mundane lives of pigeons and house geckos; brief sketches of mythological animals; discussions around climate change and deforestation; precious encounters with some of India’s most exotic wildlife; and stories of clashes between humans and the natural world. He depicts nature as a dynamic element of our own routine lives, rather than presenting the environment as a static system with elements that must be understood from a purely scientific point of view. The stories of Krishnan’s interactions with nature draw attention to the importance of empathy in learning about other life forms. His gentle humour and understated anthropomorphism convey his genuine affection for the world he describes. The essays encourage young readers to be emotionally engaged with nature.

The author dedicates essays to simple analyses of phenomena that we, in our daily lives, pay little attention to. Images of sleeping dogs, felled sidewalk trees, rain… these seem so ordinary to us. We rarely experience curiosity, feel the urge to open our eyes and stare at a fallen wild fruit or a crow perched on a compound wall. Krishnan, in his descriptive language, reveals the pleasures of minute observation, and teaches his readers to feel fascination even for the most “boring” aspects of nature. His brief pieces express wonder and sorrow and frustration, all provoked by the smallest, most incongruous comings and goings.

The credibility and actual information value of this collection is high. The author was, after all, a naturalist, and an expert in his field. However, he imparts his knowledge in beautiful, unintimidating prose and invites his readers to draw as much solace from mere observation as he did. Children will find facts in this book, but they will also discover an enthusiasm and a mild protective instinct for nature within themselves. This collection will manufacture many Nature’s Spokesmen.

Similar titles:

Of Birds and Birdsong, M Krishnan

My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell

Three Singles to Adventure, Gerald Durrell

For younger readers:

A Boy and a Jaguar, Alan Rabinowitz

The Lorax, Dr Seuss

The Tree Lady, H. Joseph Hopkins

-Dakshayini Suresh for Ever After

‘The Creative Educator’ Contest Details

Are you an exciting educator? Do children listen to you with wonder? Do students look forward to your classes? Do you do magical things to make your teaching interesting? If yes, here’s a chance for you to win the ‘CREATIVE EDUCATOR’ contest!

All you have to do is:

Submit a lesson plan based on a story/narrative and stand a chance to win some cool prizes!female teacher writing various high school maths and science for

How to enter the contest

  • Pick a classroom topic/theme/subject/grade of your choice.
  • Pick a children’s/ young adult story (from a storybook/ the internet/ or any other source) that relates to the topic.
  • Think up a lesson plan using the story.
  • Send the completed lesson plan to info@ever-after.co.in on or before 25th Sep, 2014.

Don’t forget to

  • ‘Like’ our Facebook page and/or ‘Follow’ us on Twitter. If you already are connected to us, then jump to the next step.
  • Refer this contest to more teachers like you by sharing and tagging them in the poster. You can also tag friends, colleagues, family members who would love to take part in this contest.

Winners get

  • The title of ‘Creative Educator’ 🙂
  • Flipkart e-vouchers worth Rs.1500, Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500
  • Their plans featured on the Ever After blog/facebook page/twitter feed.
  • Discounted entry ticket to our ‘Teaching Through Story’ Workshop on Sep 27th and 28th at Atta Galatta. (First place winner only)

Contest Guidelines and Format for Submission

All teaching ideas submitted should include the following:

  • Story title, author, source
  • A gist of the story if it is not available in the public domain
  • Submit entries in MS Word or Google Doc format
  • Content Area(s) (if applicable, ex: language arts)
  • Lesson Objective (what do you want the students to be able to do, explain, discuss, etc., by the end of this lesson?)
  • Lesson Assesment (how will the students show that they “get it” or can do what you hope?)
  • Grade Level(s) or Age Group(s)
  • Duration (ex: one 45-minute period)
  • Theme/Topic (ex: Water, Ascending Order, Condensation, Mughal Empire etc.)
  • Materials Needed (ex: felt pens)
  • Supplementary Materials (any worksheets, video links, etc.)
  • Step-by-step activities
  • In these links you can VIEW, DOWNLOAD and use a suggested lesson template that includes all of the above requirements.

And remember

  • The lesson plan that you devise must be 100% original.
  • One contestant can submit only one lesson plan based on one topic and one story.
  • Winners will chosen by experts from the Ever After’s curriculum design team.
  • The contest is open to teachers, educators, parents and tutors.
  • This contest is open to residents of India only.
  • Ever After’s decisions will be final and binding with regard to the contest.

Go on. Create away!

Football World Cup 2014 Post: Children’s Books by Football Players

The Football World Cup, 2014 will kick off (literally) in Brazil in a couple of hours.

As the world gears up for the Football fever, here are three children’s book about football written by football players:

1. Frankie’s Magic Football: Frankie and the World Cup Carnival written by England’s midfielder, Frank Lampard. He is in the English squad or this World Cup. Written for children 5 years and above, this is just one of the many books in the Frankie and the Magic Football series.

A children's book on football written by England's midfielder, Frank Lampard

Picture Credit: Guardian Bookshop

2. T.J and the Cup Run by Theo Walcott, also plays England, but will not feature in this year’s World Cup due to a knee injury. This book for children 9-11 years old. There are more in this series too – T.J and the Penalty, T.J and the Hatrick, T.J and the Winning Goal.

Children's book on Football written by England player, Theo Walcott

Picture Credit: Random House Publishing

3. And then there is For the Love of Soccer written by football’s legend, Pele.

Pele's children's book, For the Love of Soccer

Picture Credit: Amazon.com

Those were three books written by football players.

Now, here is one not by a football player but one that will make a really great read if you are looking for something simple, colorful but highly informative to read with your children and introduce them to the history of ‘the beautiful game’. The book is The Story of Football written by Rob Lloyd Jones and Illustrated by Paddy Mounter

A book to teach young children the history of football

Picture Credit: Usborne Books

Now, if you are wondering how these super busy football players found the time to write a children’s book, read Frank Lampard’s interview with The Guardian’s young reader members.

Teachers and educators, find some very useful, free downloadable teaching resources about football in general and the World Cup in particular to use in your class or learning studios here and here.

We will keep posting more books on football on our Facebook page everyday for the next one month of World Cup, 2014. Visit our Facebook page daily to discover learning (All about football) through stories.

Meanwhile, do you know any other past or present football players who have authored children’s books? Do let us know via and we will add their works to our list. Also, have you used children’s storybooks to teach about sports? Which is your or your children’s’ favorite? Tell us.

About Ever After Learning:

Ever After Learning, Bangalore based learning and development organization that uses stories to make education fun for children. Ever After is a learning and development organization that uses stories to make education fun for the young and the old. We swear by the power of stories to communicate concepts, inspire individuals and impact lives.

Visit our website to know more about Ever After’s services and programs offered. Also, stay connected with us through Facebook or Twitter.

The Art Of Storytelling: Why Should We Learn It?

 

“Storytelling comes naturally to humans, but since we live in an unnatural world, we sometimes need a little help doing what we’d naturally do.”

-Dan Harmon, Author

Storytelling is humanity in words said Jim Blasingame, one of the world’s leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship. And storytelling has been around since the first human beings roamed the earth. In fact, the earliest cave drawings and carvings are proof of their (and our) storytelling capabilities. These first stories helped archaeologists, anthropologists and scientists learn about the earth’s beginnings and early civilizations.

Why should we learn how to tell a story?

Well, storytelling is a powerful method of communication where the storyteller has an engaging conversation with his/her listeners or audience.

The fact is that we all have stories to tell; we were simply born with this ability. However, there is more to storytelling than just plain, passive reading or narration in reported speech.

Storytelling is an art that uses several creative techniques including voice, expression and actions to successfully get across the story’s emotions in the most impactful way to the story’s audience. As individuals, we can personally use these storytelling techniques to make a point, to persuade, to inspire, to teach, to reflect upon and to facilitate action.

Photo courtesy: lifehacker.com/ Melanie Pinola/ Magenta Rose/

Photo courtesy: lifehacker.com/ Melanie Pinola/ Magenta Rose.

Learning how to tell a story: Many benefits

Storytelling is a great tool for effective, purposeful communication. When used correctly and in the right situations, storytelling has plenty of benefits to offer for everyone – team leaders, teachers, brand managers, corporate trainers, parents, artists, creative designers, writers et al.

For brands and business managers:

Thanks to the explosion of social media, brands today are closer to their target audience like never before. To help their brands stand out from the rest, brand managers need to master business storytelling – promoting brands in a way that engages their audience well, holds their attention and compels them to come back to you for more.

Learning how to tell your brand’s story allows you to master the 3 C’s of business storytelling which is: “Connect with your prospects, Convey your expertise and Create customer memories.”

For teachers:

National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), USA says this about the benefits of storytelling in education – “Story is the best vehicle for passing on factual information. Historical figures and events linger in children’s minds when communicated by way of a narrative. Any topic for that matter can be incorporated into a story form and made memorable if the listener takes the story to heart.”

Using stories to teach text book lessons promotes learning faster and facilitates better understanding of the concepts. Here is a great example of a science teacher using storytelling to innovate teaching-learning in school.

For team leaders, sales managers and corporate trainers:                                           

These are people who constantly need to tell their audience (team members or subordinates) how to perform, how to achieve a target and how to succeed. For someone who is always in need of effective ways to demonstrate, explain inspire and persuade, becoming storytellers is the best method by which leaders; managers, coaches and trainers can nurture trust and inspire the desired actions.

For parents:

Parents are not akin to storytelling. However, parents can make this pleasurable activity a learning resource by using stories to teach their kids about different cultures, explain essential life skills like sharing and empathy, help them discover world of science and nature, introduce them to the lives of important personalities and great men and women; the possibilities are limitless.

For individuals:

You could be someone who wants to enhance your communication skills or an aspiring author or creative designer or anybody interested in stories and storytelling. You all need a common starting point – a story. Therefore, learning the nuances of storytelling you learn how to effectively voice your thoughts, how to communicate clearly and how to reflect your experiences in your work.

Story Matters: Your chance to learn the art of storytelling

Now that you know how storytelling benefits us and understood why you should use storytelling in your work and life, here is a chance to learn the art of storytelling. Story Matters, a two day storytelling workshop for adults is being held on 10-11 May, 2014 at Rangoli Metro Art Centre, MG Road, Bangalore.

This one-of-a-kind workshop will tell you everything about storytelling and teach you how to become a master storyteller.

Story Matters will be curated by experienced, professional storytellers, Deeptha Vivekanand of Ever After Learning, Aparna Athreya and Soumya Srinivasan of Kid and Parent Foundation who share among them over 17+ years of storytelling experience and are known for their highly interactive, experiential and delightful storytelling sessions for kids and adults alike.

For registrations and more details about the workshop, please go to our Facebook page.