Story telling from the time of the Griot to the present day is a practice we can claim ownership as a community of ondividuals. I was reminded of that when I read the following piece in the current of the NEA Retired Newsletter.
"The art of atory-telling is a terrific way to jump-start creativity"
For Years, Pennsylvania Member Judy Wolfman Used Storytelling To Reach Out To
Her Students And Help Them Improve Their Writing And Their Reading. Now That
She's Retired, She's Passing On Her Gift To Student And Teacher Alike.
To retired elementary teacher Judy Wolfman, storytelling is the quickest
way to understanding, especially when it comes to creative writing. But it
wasn't a lesson learned quickly. "During my teaching years I really struggled
in the beginning, trying to get students to write stories about themselves,
about their world, about anything," explains Wolfman. I would teach them all of
the basics of writing but when it came time to put pen to paper, they just
couldn't do it. I faced a classroom of blank stares. Then I made one change
that made the difference."
The change was to use her skills as a budding storyteller and children's
author to help the students discover their own creative talents. I learned that
many of my students in my inner city school came from an oral tradition where
stories were handed down," says Wolfman. "That's when I knew storytelling might
be a way to reach them." Wolfman gathered a number of stories in the oral
tradition, added some activities and students began to respond. I gave the students the
opportunity to create their own stories by giving them little prompts like
beginning sentences, characters to use, and more. Once I did that, the students
became engaged by their own stories and encouraged by their progress."
Since her retirement in 1993, Wolfman has taken her lessons on the road and
into classrooms. "Teachers have been stopping me with the same concerns and
problems I experienced in the classroom," says Wolfman. "When I talked with the
teachers and even the students, we realized that the traditional method of
teaching writing wasn't working. Students were discouraged by the red-pen corrections
and stalled in the process."
Wolfman now gives creative writing and storytelling workshops to students
and teachers alike I help them understand that the storytelling process is a
terrific way to jump-start creativity," says Wolfman. "Now the teachers and
students are recording the stories on tape, replaying the tape so they can
together refine the stories or embellish them. Once the students are
comfortable with the stories, they write them down. We also read stories
together to examine the variations of style, of character, of language."
The feedback has been encouraging, says Wolfman. "Teachers tell me the kids'
writing is better and much more complete," says Wolfman. "They're also more
engaged in the classroom. I showed my colleagues that stories were a great way
to pass on facts you wanted to teach. They've been amazed by the results
And Wolfman? She's taking her books and stories to classrooms and even
cruise ships, performing stories all the way. "Stories have a viable place in
the classroom," says Wolfman. "They can open the door to a world of