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The Art Of Storytelling
by Michael Berman
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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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