Sunday, July 10, 2011

Story Telling

I'm sorting out my front room and came across some notes I took on story telling. I do not consider myself a story teller. I read and I read aloud to my kids until they were in high school. I sang to them every night at bedtime and even made up songs for them. But I've never seen myself as a story teller.

"There is a story telling voice," I wrote in my notes. "There are gestures and facial expressions." And yet the best story teller I ever heard (and I haven't heard that many) did not use gestures, facial expressions, and she told it in her own voice. She stood very still, with her hands behind her back and spoke in a normal tone of voice. And I can almost hear her tell that story nearly 30 years later. Her connection to the story--letting the story take over the space--was so powerful that I remember her story and I have retold that story and it has changed my life in subtle ways.

It was a story about three brothers who set off to win the king's daughter. The older two muscled their way through the world, ignoring the small animals in their path, wreaking havoc wherever they went. The youngest brother took care not to harm the ants, bees, and ducks (if I remember this right) and even aided them. When the king set him three seemingly impossible tasks these small creatures came to his aid and he won the princess.

The story teller prefaced this tale with the story of one of her kindergarten students who requested that she retell this story. Normally the teacher would not retell a story so quickly, but the girl had a reason. A bee had been trapped in her window at home. Her mother set out to kill it, but the girl, inspired by the story she had heard at school, quoted the youngest brother, saying, "Don't harm it. It has done us no harm." She and her mother caught the bee and set it free outside. The teacher told us this anecdote to demonstrate the power of a good story. I too usually try to capture misplaced insects and bugs and set them free outside, inspired by the power of the girl's example.

Here are the notes I have from this wonderful teacher and story teller:

"Sit so I can see your eyes," she asks her class.

"All it [story telling] is is talking a story." She tells it in her own voice and the children listen.

The story is important and the telling is the most important thing--that it is being told.

"I only tell stories I like." Anything worth telling is worth retelling.

She suggested we read Amos and Boris to get started.
She said she reads a story 2 or 3 times.
Tells it to herself.
Practice at dinner time.

"Once you tell a story it's yours for life."

3 - 7 - 12 are the magic numbers

Story telling builds memory. The more you tell stories the freer children are to tell their stories.

True stories are marvelous.

Value of Mother Goose -- 11 good riddles [I'm not sure exactly what this last line means except I think it means Mother Goose is a good place to look for stories and telling riddles is a good way to get started.]

And now I can recycle this sheet of paper which has floated around my writing room for years and years and years. End of story.


Eydie said...

Hi Sally,
This is my first time visiting your blog.
Thanks for all the inspiration.
I love the picture of you, the beautiful view, and your amazing paintings.
I look forward to connecting again soon.
All the best,

Sallie Wolf said...

Hi Eydie,

Thanks for checking out my blog. It's a place I use to make notes to myself and hopefully others will find something of value there, too.

Take care--