Telling kids about storytelling

I’m very excited to be visiting one of the local day schools tomorrow. For a change, I won’t be doing a read-aloud of Raizy. Raizy may not even come up, due to the age of the kids involved. Instead I’ll be talking about “Storytelling,” to coincide with the current unit the students are studying in school.

Fishing for a few stories on this fine morning

Breaking down storytelling in forty-five minutes will be challenging, especially at the upper-elementary school level. After a little intro, I plan on making an extended metaphor connecting storytellers to fishermen. I’m hoping it will be both instructive and age-appropriate. I’ve spent quite a bit of time preparing and concocted a whole series of visuals, and the like.

How is a good storyteller like a fisherman?

The truth is, everyone is a storyteller. You might hear a story from the guy next to you in line, a fellow guest at a dinner party, or even on a job interview. You are swimming in a veritable sea of story. But some storytellers are definitely better than others. If you follow these rules, you’ll be on your way to becoming one of them.

  1. Catch the stories around you. A fisherman has a net…you have a journal, paper and pencil, a computer. Tune into the ideas and jot them down before they swim away, or — worse yet — spoil.
  2. Toss back the bad fish and the unkosher ones. Whether you’re fishing for tuna or for sea bass, you won’t want a rotten one. Or a squid. And if you’ve been eating a lot of herrings, you might find yourself hankering for a little variety in your diet. Discard stories that are boring, too common, or not appropriate to share (because they are gossip, private, are the property of another storyteller who doesn’t give permission for you to share it, or the like).
  3. Gut those fish. Some details add nothing to the story. Get rid of them.
  4. Time to prepare the fish for the table. Do you plan to fry them, grill them, or bake them? Add the right seasonings, and never undercook or overcook. Combine stories to invent new “recipes.” If your audience likes humor, sprinkle in a few jokes. If your audience likes suspense, keep them hanging with dramatic pauses or cliffhangers. Don’t drag out a story, but don’t rush it or end it without a resolution, either…then they won’t come back for seconds.

I’m hoping that my fanciful take on storytelling will amuse the students and help them remember what I tell them.

If you had to make a metaphor about storytelling to teach a bunch of eight and nine year-olds, what image would you use? Please share in the comments.



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