From My Pen To Your Ear

 A workshop for Middle School Teachers developed for the St. Clair Co. ROE. This day is part of a weeklong writers' workshop. The storytelling leads to writing exercises that they can use in the classroom

Part One-- Folktales: The Basis for Success


Goal: Tell a folktale. Why -- they form the basis for successful storytelling and writing.



1. What is storytelling


2. Types of stories: Personal Experience, Historical/family history, Original/Literary, Folk


3. Why tell folktales  

  • Writing - strengthens ability to understand basic story structures; opportunity to retell within a given structure; provides a base for creative fracturing; can be written to tell or to perform as a play or reader’s theatre
  • Good for teachers to introduce science, geography, social studies; nice additions to multi-cultural days; promotes character building; easy to learn; promotes discussion on choices made by characters; meets many educational standards, appeals to different learning styles

 4. What are folktales – small lecture on types of folktales – Morality tales (trickster, animal, and pourquoi), legends, tall tales, urban legends, fairy tales, fables, philosophical  (religious, Sufi, etc)


5.  Finding Folktales – 398.2 collections and picture books; on-line sites, storytelling festivals


Tell a simple folktale 


As a group identify:

·        what are the bare bones? Character, Setting, Problem

  • what are the interesting details, not necessarily crucial to the story's Big 3 (C, S, P)
  • what are the 'other' Big 3 -- Beginning, Middle, End?
  • what did you observe in Marilyn's telling that brought the telling of the story to life? (Hopefully they will note: voice, dialogue, facial expression, simple gestures )


How to learn them using several different learning style techniques: (differentiation)

  • Retelling orally (audio-learner)
  • Outline (writing)
  • Story map (visual learner)
  • Story scenes (visual learner)
  • Story walking (kinetic – muscle memory)
  • Creative dramatics (group learning)


Activity: Retelling a Folktale to Make it Your


·        Hand out simple folktales and have the participants bring it down to its bare bones.

·        In groups or as individuals, pick one of the above to work on the story

·        Making the story your own – visualization, senses, details, dialog, participation


Class Ideas: Tell a folktale:

  • Have them work in groups to bring it down to bare bones and then flesh it back up
  • Make it into a fractured tale, a radio interview, or readers’ theatre

Part Two: Everybody Has a Story to Tell


Tell a Personal Experience Story and its development process




List of story prompts on large paper (ex. At the top of the page “I remember…”

·         When I got this scar

·         When I had my driver’s test

·         A special Christmas/winter holiday morning

·         The scariest moment of my life


Do a visualization with the group. Have them identify a significant person, place or thing. Take it and make a webbing exercise..


In 3-minute segments have the teachers tell the story (or about the story) to a partner. Then, partner tells. After the next direction, change partners and tell it again, but make changes. Each idea below needs to be explained, discussion, and then told (3 minutes each) in pairs:


1. Tell the story – in the sequence it happened


2. Use a different plot: Tell it from someplace towards the end or from some detail in the story


3. Visualize – ask questions to elicit more details…who, what, where, when, etc


4. Senses – go through the story using the five senses

(Theatre Game – Write “Goldilocks and the 3 Bears” on the paper. Give each person a card with a sense written on it – sight, smell, sound, taste, feel. Ask for words that could be in the story related to the given card)


5. Physicalize the story: Walk through the story and play with gesture and movement.


6. Tone – What do you want the audience to feel as they listen to this story. Add words to stimulate this.

Group activity:  As a group, discuss the types of  tones and words that elicit that tone.  Tone can also be "felt" by storyteller's movements.

(Theatre Game – Write a sentence such as “My, my, don’t we look pretty today.” Say it in different tones – sassy, complimentary, ugly, uncaring, etc - add gestures)


7. Use different point of views:

·         Tell it in first person – “I”  (this is probably how the person tells it already)

·         Tell it from another person’s point of view

·         Tell it in second person – “you”


8. Who is the focus on in the story? Change the focus


9. Add Character Voices and Conversation 

Have a good mix of narrative and dialog.

Change tone of voice to reflect those speaking

(Theatre Game – Write a sentence such as “Where do you think you are going” and have participants say it as different characters – Mother, Father, Principal, fellow student, etc)


Time to write out story they now can tell


Have participants tell their stories