Our English Curriculum was created by team member Perry Buchan.
Storytelling is how we show who we are, how we know who we are, individually and collectively. It is a way for us to connect with others, to understand our differences and commonalities. We believe that the knowledge built from storytelling can provide a solid and ethical foundation for development and growth, individually and collectively.
We want to help kids hear and understand the voices of others: voices of the past, voices from other cultures, the voice from the seat beside them. We also want kids to develop their own voice, to learn to say in their own unique way,
“This is who I am.”
We want to build a data base of story, a web site that says, “This is who we are.” We want to build relationships with sister schools, a network of learners with common interests and common goals.
READ TO THEM
We learn language through modelling. Kids will become better storytellers (and better readers) by hearing the voices of skilled writers. Read to them, several times a day. Read a variety of literature: legends, historical accounts, journals, tall tales, picture books even for older kids. Read before you send them to read. Read before you send them to write. Fill the minutes before the bell by reading favourite poems and passages, just for the joy.
find literature you love
We live in an age of data driven reading remediation. Lost is the most important goal of a reading program: to foster a joy of reading. Want to teach reading? Find literature you love. If you love it, that will be contagious. If they love it, they will read. If they read, they will get better at reading. And storytelling!
Deliver the stories passion and panache. Watch for what works with your group and bring more. Always have the stuff you read available for them to read.
The distinction that I am making here is telling a story from memory, rather than reading it from a book. You might enjoy the challenge of learning traditional stories and retelling them. But kids will love to hear your personal stories too. Tell them your stories. Modelling is a powerful teaching tool. They will learn about storytelling, they will learn about life, and, as an added bonus, you will develop your relationship with the kids.
Storytelling is also an ideal way to deliver a content based lesson in Social or Science. Story provides context for detail to embed in our memories, especially if the story has a layer of personal significance: “Let me tell you a story about our brothers and sisters in far away Iyoli. It hasn’t rained there much in a long time…”
INVITE THE ELDERS
Find out who the storytellers are in your community. Invite them in to tell stories.
DAILY JOURNAL WRITING
Writing is intimidating for many kids. The rules are many and unknown, and adult expectations of mastery hangs over them. The empty page mocks. The pencil is heavy and the brain mired.
We need to help kids understand that writing is the same as speaking, ‘cause they sure know how to talk. The desire to communicate is innate. They want to tell stories.
In order to foster the development of their voices, choose methods that honour their voice. Emergent Writing for the preliterate child is such a method. Beginning writers are encouraged to represent their story with symbols that may or may not correspond phonetically to the story. Akin is Language Experience, where the child typically begins by drawing a picture. “Tell me the story,” invokes the teacher, and out it tumbles. The child dictates their story to the teacher, and the teacher records it. These methods carry a message of, ”Your story is important and interesting.” This message is further reinforced by the teacher who sincerely values the child’s story, and communicates that interest with their interactions.
While these methods are designed for younger learners, the principal remains the same with older kids. It is all about the story. If the story is valued by the teacher, the student feels they have an audience, a reason to write. Trust is gained, the student-teacher relationship grows.
At first, we accept whatever they write, showing interest and appreciation. They might write about the same thing every day for months. This is their comfort zone, their womb. They will emerge in their time.
When we sense they are ready, we begin to draw out more details in our one to one conferences. We point out that these details can make their story even better. Eventually we have earned the right to hold them to a high standard, to teach creative and technical skills through the conference. But each step along the way, the individual’s voice has been respected and nurtured.
Have them write in their journal every day. I always liked to do it first thing, when the day is fresh. Inspire them with your reading. Give them license to tell their own stories in the same style as a favourite author: “Good writers sometimes copy the style of other writers. You could write a story like this. You could write a new story for this character. You could use this setting…” Inspire them with other art, some music, a painting. List ideas: dreams, wishes, if I was the principal, the time I met an alien, what life is like in Iyoli…
but the child chooses what to write about
The big idea here is find ways to develop their voice. De-emphasize technical skills, or at least keep skill instruction separate from their writing, until the voice is confident.
RETELL A FAVOURITE STORY
Pair the kids up for storytelling. Have them retell a story. Accuracy is not the goal. Changes from the original are good. Keep it loose and fun; anything goes. A timid four word summation could be an insightful, poetic synopsis.
Variations: switch partners, make the groups larger, take turns retelling the same story with each partner adding their own ideas, tell a group story where each partner adds one sentence.
EDIT A FAVOURITE JOURNAL ENTRY TO PUBLISH ON THE IYOLI WEBSITE
Pick a favourite journal entry. Share it with others. Get feedback. Rewrite the journal entry in word processing, incorporating suggestions, adding detail, adding descriptive words, getting the technical aspects right.
Pick a family member who likes to tell stories. Ask them to tell you a story. It could be anything. It could be a true story about you, when you were little. It could be a story from your culture. It could be about a family trip or about your family coming to Canada. It could be a legend. It could be a tall tale.
Maybe your family aren’t big storytellers. As an option, pick a journal entry that represents you.
Learn the story so you can retell the story aloud. Practice with a family member. Share it with a partner. Watch for what works with your audience. Get feedback. Make changes. Tell and retell the story often enough that you can relax and have fun telling it.
Make an audio recording of your story for the Iyoli website.
the emotional power of a child’s voice
REPRESENT A STORY IN ANOTHER MEDIUM
Storytelling is not just about words, spoken or written. Stories can be told in a variety of media: dance, paint, photo, song, animation etc. Computers and tablets have opened up a whole new set of options for telling stories. The possibilities are endless.
Keep in mind that the students from Digital Media Academy will be available to transform the work of our students into a web ready message to Iyoli and the world:
this is who we are