Storytelling Part Two: The Dreamer Awakes

The Dreamer Awakes

Over 20 years ago I took a class in Oral Narrative in which we had the opportunity to hear storytellers of the highest calibre: Alice Kane, Dan Yashinsky and Robert Bringhurst are the tellers I remember.

At each storytelling session the instructors would set the mood  by bringing in a rocking chair and a lamp.  They dimmed the lights, and the listeners were swept away with the tales.  Alice Kane is the one whom introduced me to the opening:  The Dreamer Awakes.   Her nephew, Dr. Sean Kane, later edited her stories into a collection by the same name.

Dreamer awakes

Three of Alice’s stories  stuck to me: Ivon Tortik, The Silver Saucer and the Transparent Apple, and the Selkie Bride.  I’d never heard these tales before, and I was deeply enchanted by them.  I tucked them away and  kept them in my back pocket for a rainy day.  I’m glad I did, because they came in handy in my first classroom experiences.

When I taught at the Hutterite Colony, it was often difficult to find the right novel to read aloud to this unique community.  The students had heard all of the books deemed appropriate, and I was truly challenged to find something engaging.   That’s when it hit me – I would tell thFront Coverem stories. I thought back to the tales in The Dreamer Awakes, and started there.  I practiced telling them in the car on the half-hour drive to the colony school.

I should say that I’m definitely not an expert storyteller, but I did experience that bit of magic that happens between the teller and the listener.  It’s a different feeling from sharing a good book, more personal somehow.  When you read a story from a book, the book usually stands between you and the listeners.  When you tell them a story, there is nothing between you.

This experience with the power of storytelling is what I want our pre-service teachers to consider as they prepare for their future classrooms.  What follows are more tips by Jennifer Ferris, our local storyteller.

When You Tell a Story – Tips from Jennifer Ferris

Does the thought of sitting/standing in front of an audience make your feel weak in the knees?  Are you afraid you will begin, and then draw a blank with all those eyes and ears on you?  I’ve been there, but I’ve got to tell you that the feeling of accomplishment that follows the telling of a good story, far outweighs the jitters.   Jennifer Ferris shared her performance tips with us and perhaps they will help you along:

  • Choose a story that is right for the audience.
  • Choose a story that you really want to tell.
  • Stand or sit, but make sure that your position allows you to breathe properly. Take a moment to breathe before you start.
  • Use props (puppets, musical instruments, etc.) if you wish but don’t let them overwhelm the story.
  • Gather the attention of your listeners and use a strong story opener such as “Long ago, Far away…”
  • Use a variety of tone and pitch.
  • Slowing down or pausing now and again can help your listeners catch up with you.
  • Plan a strong ending. You may want to use a traditional close, such as, “Snip, snap snout, my tale is out.”
  • Remember to quote the source of your tale if you are telling to adults.

Creating Personal Stories

Jennifer has also passed along suggestions to inspire our own personal storytelling, several which could be used as prompts in the classroom:

  • My first lie/ My best lie
  • My grandmother’s baking
  • My favourite store
  • I wish I had not said. . .
  • I wish I had said . . .
  • It was a great vacation, except for. . .
  • The day I got into trouble
  • My mother did not like him/her
  • My favourite teacher
  • The class bully
  • The neighbours from hell
  • I remodelled my bathroom/kitchen
  • My favourite animal/worst pet
  • A long lost friend I wish I could see again
  • My parents were so embarrassing. . .
  • The story of a family saying
  • Camping
  • The longest car journey
  • My mother’s best friend

You don’t have to have a classroom of school children in order to tell your stories.  Start with your family, your friends, or the person you love most. Telling our stories helps us know ourselves better and is a great way to help us find our place in this world.

If you’ve been inspired to wander into the realm of storytelling, let us know how it goes!

Suggested Resources

We have a great collection of fables, folk tales, legends, mythology and fairy tales as well as some professional resources to get you started. Have a look at the Storytelling page on the K-12 Lesson Plan Guide. We also have great story suggestions on the Traditional Tales section of our Children’s Literature in the Classroom Subject Guide.

Snip Snap Spinach

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