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Jennings & Ponder: World Tales & Celtic Music /*/ PO Box 522 Montpelier VT 05601

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Storytelling Advice

from a 7th grade English class


For eight consecutive years, I taught a two or three week storytelling residency in the seventh grade English classes of Oxbow Union High School, in Bradford, VT. We told in our classes, visited other classes, and made many trips to tell in the local elementary schools in the area. After a few years of this, students started to come into seventh grade expecting to tell stories. Even better, some were looking forward to it. Best of all, most had developed esthetic opinions: whether storytelling was cool or sucked wasn't an issue; the question was whether they liked this story, or that storyteller.

At the end of one of such residency, I asked the class to write down any advice they might have for next year's seventh graders. Here's a selection of what they had to say.


You should study your story a lot. Don't let the audience fool you into scaredom. If you get stuck, make it look like the charecter is stuck. Tell your story to someone. This way you know it.

 

If you can't remember part of the story, then make your "um" disappear, and make the silence part of the story.

 

Don't be shy, because once it's over you will have wanted to do it.

 

Be aggressive and make the story interesting.

 

Have at least one joke in your story that is planned.

 

It is helpful to decide and start learning your story early, because it's easier to tell the story the longer you know it.

 

Don't take a real long story. It'll be easier to tell if you have one one that's funny or scary or something that will really make the kids listen.

 

Have fun with telling the story, doing voices of the charecters, and acting it out a little bit.

 

Bring in a story that you won't mind telling in front of people. If you find a story you don't like and you bring it in and have to tell it, then you'll be more uncomfortable.

 

I think you should do this, because it is really fun. And if you do, try not to act shy because it's not as much fun if you do. If you show the emotions, and use your hands, and make noises, the kids really think it's fun.

 

You should practice telling your story to anyone. You should not feel dumb telling your stories with actions or making your voice sound like the character, because it actually makes your story better. Practice a lot, because it shows if you don't.

 

Read the story over at least three times. Choose a backup story in case you don't like your first story.

 

Don't be scared! Good luck!

 

Be calm, say your story clearly, use good voice changes and hand movements, and look at the audience when you're telling them.

 

Relax. Don't be scared to try new things. Don't go back in the story if you mess up. Tell a story you like and enjoy; tell it more than once for practice.

 

My advice is to totally forget about the audience, and become immersed in your telling and each of the characters. A good way to overcome being nervous in front of people is to picture the way it feels to be in the audience, and realise that there is really no reason to be nervous, because even if you mess up no one will know it, and you can just keep going.

 

Practice, be calm, don't be too picky when you're picking out your story.

 

Practice out loud at home.

 

Be loud, don't be afraid, try not to laugh, try not to be shy. The story is usually better if you try to make it funny.

 

Talk clear. Tell good stories. Act normal. Don't tell really long stories. Make the impression of the people.

 

Work hard on whatever story you're doing. Pick a story you know pretty good.

 

Don't jiggle your leg. Try to picture the story in your mind while you're telling it. Try to look big or small to show the charecter.

 

Make sure you know your *whole* story.

 

Tell a story not everybody has heard.

 

Work on the story longer before you tell it. Make it an easy one, or you might have a harder time telling it. Tell the story to a family member and get advice before telling it to the class. Don't be afraid if they give critical advice, either. If you need help, ask before hand- not after you already made a fool of yourself.

 

You should start to get used to fairy tales, because that is mostly what you will be doing.

 

Sign up to work with Tim ahead of time- it really helps!

 

Take your time when you're telling to a group of people. Make sure to pick a story that's just right for you.


newspaper article about this workshop
school residency description
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Jennings & Ponder * Sheefra* World Tales & Celtic Music
PO Box 522 Montpelier VT 05601
Email tim@folktale.net
homepage folktale.net