"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jackpot! 5 Ways to Boost Your School's Luck with Storytelling

I am not a gambling person, but I am willing to bet that storytelling would make a difference in any school.

If the art is promoted and supported, then it may not be long before students experience higher test scores and. . .some major life skills.

5 Ways to Boost Your School's Luck with Storytelling:
  • Classroom, School, and District Level Events
  • Training Teachers to Merge Storytelling with Curriculum
  • Storytelling Residencies
  • Games
  • Schools Standards

Classroom, School, and District Level Events
Any state could be a strong youth storytelling state. One classroom could lead to one school and finally one school district who support the art.

In Utah, the following school districts promote storytelling the strongest: Alpine, Davis, Jordan, Morgan, Ogden, and Weber. The Canyons District is in progress to be added to this list. Private and charter schools are becoming more interested due to the Weber State University Storytelling Festival. In February 2010, there were 87 youth tellers invited to tell for the festival. This did not count the hundreds of students who had classroom, school, or district level showcases to determine the top tellers.

Did Utah become this way overnight? No.

Though if you would like a "fast-forward" approach, then nearby festivals need to extend invitations to schools. You may be surprised at who accepts the opportunity.

Training Teachers to Merge Storytelling with Curriculum
A one-time visit from a professional storyteller can have influence, but teachers are with their students on a daily basis. These teachers could take already-made lesson plans and merge storytelling in them.

A book called “Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story” by Kendall Haven shows that test scores do go up when students learn through story-based teaching. The brain seems to feed off stories and remembers facts much more quickly that way.

Storytelling Residencies
Schedule a professional storyteller for more than the "one moment" with the students. When there are 2-8 weeks dedicated to literacy and communication skills, then a storyteller could guide the course through stories.

The lessons linger longer. . .and so do the "happily ever afters".

Any storytelling game could connect with the curriculum. Kids to adults love these activities. Games serve as a way to kick-off a new topic or section, to reinforce concepts, and to review.

Example Game: Mixed-Up Mayhem
Set aside a bowl for each of the following categories or create your own: Status, God of Choice, Daily Activity, Place, and Object. Note that these reflect social, political, religious, geographical and economical areas. On slips of paper, write a word and place in the appropriate bowl.

For a Greek game, here are ideas to put in each bowl—
a. Status—Rich, Middle Class, Poor, Slave
b. God of Choice—Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hephaestus, Ares
c. Daily Activity—Farming, Sailing, Hunting, Wrestling, Attending Wedding, Running Household, Going to School
d. Place—Athens, Sparta, Mediterranean Sea
e. Object—Lyre, Flute, Petasos (broad-rimmed hat), Metal Headband, Tunic, Hairpins, Rattle, Little Clay Animals, Yo-yo, Terra-cotta Dolls, Pet Goat, Pet Mice

Pull a paper from each of the bowls. Create individual or group stories that connect each of the items drawn. Be prepared for stories to go in any direction as long as all words are used.

School Standards
The Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance has a one-page
position statement that could guide states in how to review their school standards.

These standards are not in stone and chiseling the words "story" or "storytelling" into it does not have to be an impossible task.

So take a chance. . .roll the dice. . .and see if you can soon yell "Jackpot! There's storytelling in my school!"

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/

Sunday, August 01, 2010

"Eat, Pray, Love"--A Teller who Traveled to Conference

Thanks to Karen Rae Kraut, we have this picture (left to right): Rachel Hedman, Joel ben Izzy, and Willa Brigham. This was after we sung and danced "We love our hats!" at the 2010 National Storytelling Conference in Los Angeles. Consider it a jazzy thankful prayer.

Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" has had a resurgence of popularity with the movie hitting theaters.

Little did she know that those three words could also apply to anyone attending a storytelling conference. . .or any kind of conference.

I have had the privilege to attend six National Storytelling Conferences: 2004--Bellingham, WA; 2005--Oklahoma, OK; 2006--Pittsburgh, PA; 2007--St. Louis, MO; 2008--Gatlinburg, TN; 2010--Los Angeles, CA.

Here are some wisdom gained:

Whether the aroma of food or the word "free" in front of "lunch", people are drawn to meals. A storytelling conference revolves around food.

Focus groups. . .and eating.

Membership meetings. . .and eating.

Celebrations. . .and eating.

With so much food to be had, sometimes came the thought, "Boy, do I wish I would have asked the hotel if they had a small refrigerator!"

I smiled when the National Storytelling Network membership meeting merged with a free lunch for the Los Angeles Conference. More people seemed to linger and listen than at other conferences. As we relished in the one-minute stories of why people came to the art, the entertainment brought a satisfaction to our stomachs.

Eating does not consist only of that physical sustenance that calms the grumbling stomach.

There is plenty to feast upon while at a conference. There are workshops, intensives, concerts, fringes, keynotes, story swaps. . .and the list could go on. A conference attendee may be tempted to "taste it all".

I used to think I had to go to everything. Then, with conflicting sessions, decisions had to be made. I could rush everywhere and go crazy. Or, I could absorb whatever opportunity presented itself in the moment. Giving attention to one person in the hallway may be better than being counted among the hundreds.

As can be the case in eating too much, there is the risk to spew forth when too much is in the belly.

Allow time to digest and savor every flavor.

Singing naturally comes from my mouth. If I do not sing, then a hum is sure to pass my lips. All is like a prayer no matter the tempo or energy.

Some conferences have had talented musicians like Larry Brown, Joseph Sobol, or Willy Claflin to strum the guitar and inspire the people in group singing. For the Los Angeles Conference, I watched delightedly as my friend, Holly Robison, was asked to join Joseph and Willy on stage. She swayed with the music and added an angelic voice to the mix. Her wardrobe had a modern hippie look with her yellow loose slacks and long yellow scarf. Since the song was a parody of the classic "Get Together" by the Youngbloods on the changes for the National Storytelling Network, everything established the perfect mood.

Afterward I told Joseph, "You see why I love working with her?"

Holly and I sometimes do tandem telling/singing for the Family Famine Series. Electric guitarist Joshua Payne joined us for the "Family Famine: Hunger for Love" fringe while at the Conference.

On Sunday morning of the same conference, Victoria Burnett slipped on some white gloves and gave us a "tour" of the Black Baptist Church (B.B.C.) with music that could move any soul. With swaying and call-and-response, the hotel ballroom transformed into a spiritual place full of fervor.

Even as a new conference attender, you could feel the urge to embrace when a Facebook friend or social network buddy becomes flesh for the first time.

Holly Robison, as one of these new attenders, said, "I've been telling people how generous and loving the storytelling community is. . .then at the conference, I saw that as I talked with people, they were genuinely interested in what I had to say."

If you are not the kind who gives--or receives--hugs, then you may at least give handshakes. The next step could be to place your hand on someone's shoulder.

I lost track of the number of hugs I gave or received during the Los Angeles Conference or any of the conferences. Many people relate conferences as family reunions, and who fails to hug at a reunion?

Laughter and tears are shared along with the hugs. As my husband and I are in the middle of the adoption process, several peopled asked for updates. Sometimes I did not know where to start except that "On January 20, 2010 we became 'visible'. Birth parents can find us online now." A smile spread across my face as I told people, "I am a vocal person. When there is something to report, you will know!"

So. . .Eat. . .Pray. . .Love!

You find it all no matter which storytelling gathering you attend.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/