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  • Writer's pictureKevin Cordi

Encouraging Kids to be Storytellers

Courtesy is a very important rule. Students must feel comfortable performing in front of the group. The courtesty rule states that when a student is performing, we are quiet and listen. We give positive feedback first. "Your character voices were great!" We give criticism in a positive way. "Is there a way you could use your body to show how angry the king is?"

The next rule is: perform, perform, perform! Storytelling is a performing art. In order to stay on the team, students must perform. The first performances are in front of other team members. The next performances are in front of audiences that the kids find encouraging and non­threatening. We entertain small children in day care centers, and elderly people in adult day care centers. We find that assisted living facilities are especially happy to have us entertain the residents, and the residents greatly enjoy the students. I would not recommend nursing home performances for young tellers because the residents of nursing homes are generally not able to remain alert and quiet during a student performance. Finally, when the students have achieved a certain level of "stage presence," they are ready to perform in more challenging settings. We have storytelling as a category in Forensic Competitions, our students tell stories at local bookstores and at storytelling festiv als. In all the years I've coached storytelling, I have found that every team's greatest audience fear is the same. The students do not wish to perform in front of their class. They know who the hecklers are. I respect this wish and have never forced them to do this.

Fun is our most important rule. We always have a snack. Sometimes, we make up silly stories just goofing around. We always get pizza or ice cream after we perform. One of our great motivators is our end­of­the­ year party. We make it a murder mystery party, and each student gets a role to play. They wait for that all year!

For my end of the bargain, I teach skills. We do voice exercises, diction exercises, acting exercises. They kids love them. They enjoy the feeling of achievement. Just yesterday, a new student came to us, wanting to try out. The varsity team members said to him, "Oh, you need to work on exercises to project your voice. We know how to do it. We'll teach you."

In my opinion, the best way to encourage kids to be storytellers is to give the kids what storytelling elders have long received in centuries past. Give them respect for their skills. Give them encouragement. And watch them perform!

Carol Krakower

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