The Art Of Storytelling
by Michael Berman
Storytelling is the art of orally sharing
a story or experience with an audience, usually face to face.
As a learning tool, it can encourage students to explore their
unique expressiveness and can heighten their ability to communicate
thoughts and feelings in an articulate, lucid manner. These
benefits transcend the art experience to support daily life
skills. In our fast-paced, media-driven world, storytelling
can be a nurturing way to remind children that their spoken
words are powerful, that listening is important, and that
clear communication between people is an art.
Becoming verbally proficient can contribute to a student's
ability to resolve interpersonal conflict non-violently. Negotiation,
discussion, and tact are peacemaking skills. Being able to
lucidly express one's thoughts and feelings is important for
a child's safety. Clear communication is the first step to
being able to ask for help when it is needed.
Both telling a story and listening to a well-told tale encourages
students to use their imaginations. Developing the imagination
can contribute to self-confidence and personal motivation
as learners envision themselves competent and able to accomplish
their hopes and dreams.
Storytelling based on traditional folktales is a gentle way
to guide young people toward constructive personal values
by presenting imaginative situations in which the outcome
of both wise and unwise actions and decisions can be seen.
As a storyteller, it is obviously important to know your story
but this does not necessarily mean memorizing the words. You
can do that if you want to, but the main thing is to know
what happens to whom and when it is supposed to happen. One
way of accomplishing this is to make an outline of the story
to study. Another way is to imagine a picture for each part
of the story with all the important things in the picture.
Any special parts of the presentation such as poetry or complex
phrases can be learned by heart and / or you can print them
out on cue cards for reference. The more you repeat them out
loud, the easier it will be to say them, whether you memorize
them or not. Use stories you are confident with from previous
occasions for a first time situation because the knowledge
that you are well prepared helps diminish any nervousness
you might be experiencing.
Before it is time to tell, if possible, check out the space.
If there is something that needs to be set up or changed,
something to be planned, do it early, before you tell. Anticipate
some of the things which might go wrong and know the strategies
you will use to deal with any problems that might crop up.
Make sure you have a fall-back position or some extra material
up your sleeve to use if necessary. Remember that most of
the things which are not right will probably only be noticed
by you. Deal with everything you need to deal with beforehand,
then forget about those things. When you get up to tell, it
is time to concentrate on the listeners.
Keep the introduction and explanation
as brief as possible. You may want to memorize some opening
lines to make sure you leave nothing to chance and to show
the audience that you know what you are doing; from then on
it is up to them. As for the ending, take your time, but not
the next speaker's. Be on, be good, and be off (vaudevillians'
rule). Prepare a clean punch line or closing comment to finish
with. "And that's the story of __," will do. And
remember to thank your audience too.
Making mistakes is a natural part of performing. It is not
a question of what to do if you make a mistake, but simply
a matter of when you make a mistake. The most important thing
is to stay calm and keep going. The audience does not know
you have made a mistake unless you tell them so do not draw
attention to the problem by admitting to it or apologising.
As far as they know, the way you told the story is the way
you meant to tell it.
When you look out at the people listening to you, avoid anyone
who makes you nervous. Try to find the people who make you
feel safe. There is no reason to be scared of your audience.
Your audience is (usually) your friend. They want you to succeed.
And, since many of them are also nervous about talking in
front of people, they will be sympathetic if things go wrong.
Obviously, this sympathy is somewhat dependent on the venue
and how much people pay to see you perform.
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