Friday, December 23, 2011

The Art of Storytelling

When was the last time you were told a great story? Do you remember being captivated by the visual imagery conjured up? Was there ever a time when you couldn't wait for another tale to be told by that one person be it your grandfather or quite possibly a teacher? If not, you've missed out. It seems the art of storytelling is declining and it's a shame. Think about it, there was a time when that's all people had.

Before writing people told stories as a means of passing oral tradition as well as entertaining everyone. In ancient Greece there were traveling bards who would command vast audiences at times and would tell tales that would enthrall the crowd. Some of those great tales like "The Illiad and The Odyssey would later be written down by the likes of Homer.

In some parts of the world today storytelling is still an important piece of culture. Some peoples rely on the oral tradition to establish norms, mores or folkways for their society. In every part of the world storytelling is important for the transference of ideas and socialization. Let's face it, everyone likes a good story. 

Those of us who have the task of teaching to the generation of today must be master story tellers if we intend to capture our audience. Weaving in the hidden history of an event or person requires knowledge beyond the textbook. Personally, my favorite reads are ones that include the back stories of history. For example, "America's Hidden History" by Kenneth C. Davis is an excellent source for some of the stories in U.S. History. Other great sources are biographies. I loved "Founding Brothers" by Joseph Ellis, "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff, "Augustus" by Anthony Everitt, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris and many others. They all have great stories you can share with your students. 

Knowing the stories is one thing but you must be able to entertain with them as well. Doing a Ben Stein interpretation will certainly not do. Get animated! Have fun with it and get into character. Stories are what you make them. So go out and read some interesting history and share it with your students. They will thank you for it. 

1 comment:

  1. A great way to present stories in history is using Historic Character Presentations - becoming the "person of the past." This is one of the things I do as a profession, but is also very effective for teachers and laypersons. I also teach how to do this in the classroom. Please excuse the shameless plug - Thank you for encouraging storytelling in History.