Sunday, December 30, 2012

Celebrate the Chinese New Year: 2013 Year of the Snake

The Queen of Snakes
from The Olive Fairy Tale Book
by Andrew Lang, 1907
Illustration by Henry Justice Ford

The Chinese New Year begins on February 10 and ends on February 24 and 2013 is the Year of the Snake.

“Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means your family will not starve. This could be taken metaphorically to mean that a Snake could never have a problem with his family starving because he is such a great mediator, making him good at business. Or it could mean that a Snake would be willing to sacrifice his possessions, something the Snake has a lot of, in order to pay for his family’s food.

Any way it is interpreted is representative of the Snake’s character and is a measure of the value he puts on his material wealth. The Snake is keen and cunning, quite intelligent and wise.”


For more information on this sign and the others of the Chinese Zodiac visit http://www.usbridalguide.com/special/chinesehoroscopes/Snake.htm



Here are some stories to get your storytelling juices flowing, or in this case, slithering!


SSSSSSSSTORIES


The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily
by
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
http://wn.rsarchive.org/RelAuthors/GoetheJW/GreenSnake.html

The Girl and the Snake – Sweden
http://tinyurl.com/dxcw5n8
The King of the Snakes and Other Folk-lore Stories from Uganda
http://tinyurl.com/c7nkznm

The Legend of the White Snake - China
http://www.chinapage.com/wsnake.html
Rabbit Plays Tug-O-War – Native American
http://tinyurl.com/btxxdzm
The Rainbow Serpent - Australia
http://tinyurl.com/arv2cb6
The Three Snake Leaves - Grimm
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/grimmtmp/013.txt

Snake and Serpent Husbands in Folktales – D.L. Ashliman
http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/snake.html
The Snake and the Pauper – Haiti
http://tinyurl.com/c8yxdz9

The Snake with Five Heads – Native American
The Snake with the Big Feet – Native American
http://tinyurl.com/d9hda5q

The Snakes Bride – Bhutan
http://tinyurl.com/dxzc3xf
The White Man and the Snake – South Africa
http://tinyurl.com/dyqy9fs
The White Snake – Germany/Grimm
http://www.authorama.com/grimms-fairy-tales-36.html
Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together - Africa
http://tinyurl.com/d9hzpnk
Why Mongoose Kills Snakes - Africa
http://tinyurl.com/bolyrnz


BOOKS

Kidzone.com
http://www.kidzone.ws/lw/snakes/activities-books.htm

 
CRAFTS

These two sites offer fun snake crafts, coloring pages, activities and more.




CURRICULUM

DiscoverEducation.com - Reptile Adaptations for grades 4-6.
http://tinyurl.com/b9rf9tv


 
GAME

Snow Snakes – An Ojibwe game for grades 2-8.
http://intersectingart.umn.edu/?lesson/22

 

 

Karen Chace 2012 ©

This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at storybug@aol.com. Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.

 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ring in the New Year with Songs and Stories!


The beginning of 2013 is just around the corner so tomorrow we will ring in the New Year at the Whales, Tales and Sails program at the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. Here are some of the fun songs and fingerplays the children will enjoy. These are found all around the web so feel free to use them in your work as well.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and amazing New Year, filled with countless joys and blessings!


FINGERPLAYS/ACTION RHYMES

January

January's a very cold month,
Shiver, shiver, shiver, (Hug yourself and pretend to shiver.)
Button up and cover your ears, (Pretend to button coat: cover ears with your hands.)
Or quiver, quiver, quiver. (Shake all over)


Five Little Snowmen (Tune: Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed)

Five little snowmen riding on a sled,
One fell off and bumped his head,
Frosty called the doctor and the doctor said,
No more snowmen riding on that sled!

Count down from four to one…
No more snowmen riding on the sled
Mother but them all to bed!

SONG

Cheer the Year (Tune: "Row, row, row your boat")

Cheer, cheer, cheer the year,a
new one's just begun.
Celebrate with all your friends,
let's go have some fun!
Clap, clap, clap your hands,
a brand new year is here.
Learning, laughing, singing, clapping,
through another year.

STORY STRETCHERS
The People on the Bus (Tune: “The Wheels On The Bus”)

Oh, the people on the bus wear party hats,
Party hats, party hats. (Children place hands together in a point over their heads)
Oh, the people on the bus wear party hats,
All through the town.

Oh, the people on the bus are blowing horns,
Blowing horns, blowing horns. (Children place fist over their mouth)
Oh the people on the bus are blowing horns,
All through the town.

Oh, the people on the bus say, “Happy New Year”,
“Happy New Year”, “Happy New Year”.
Oh, the people on the bus say, “Happy New Year”,
All through the town.

STORY STRETCHERS
A New Year Has Begun (Tune: "If You're Happy and You Know It")

A new year has begun -- clap your hands!
A new year has begun -- clap your hands!
A new year has begun; a new year has begun;
A new year has begun -- clap your hands!


A new year has begun -- stomp your feet!
A new year has begun -- stomp your feet!
A new year has begun; a new year has begun;
A new year has begun -- stomp your feet!

A new year has begun -- give a shout! HURRAH!
A new year has begun -- give a shout! HURRAH!
A new year has begun; a new year has begun;
A new year has begun -- give a shout! HURRAH!


I have added a few versus:

A new year has begun take a bow…
A new year has begun turn around…
A new year has begun sit back down!


BOOK

We will be reading P. Bears New Years Party.
http://www.amazon.com/P-Bears-New-Years-Party/dp/1883672996


STORY

I will also be telling the Japanese  folktale, The Grateful Statues. You may find the story at this link:
http://karenchace.blogspot.com/2011/01/beginning-new-year-with-gratitude.html


CRAFTS

Kaboose.com

Noisemakers
http://spoonful.com/crafts/noisemaker-shakers





CURRICULUM

Preschool Plan It.com – A number of activities including art, dramatic play and literacy.
http://www.preschool-plan-it.com/new-year.html

ESL Holiday Lessons.com
http://eslholidaylessons.com/01/new_years_day.html

Teacher’s Planet - Lesson plans, worksheets and more.
http://www.teacherplanet.com/resource/newyears.php





Karen Chace 2012 ©

This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at storybug@aol.com. Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stories Work!

A Tale from Decameron
Stories Work!
by Amy Eller  © 2012

Sitting in the presence of a Storyteller, we are given permission to travel deep within ourselves, to a place a the center of our cellular being, that remembers the old ways. Our ancestors, all the way back to the beginning of human time were storytellers. Sitting by fires. Working in fields. Smoking a pipe or sharing teas made from the plants of the Earth. Our ancestors were always telling their stories to each other. They communicated through story. They learned lessons through story. They coped with problems by telling stories. They healed their hearts when they heard stories. They built communities based on stories.

Without story, where would our human race be today? Would we know who we are? Would we have a concept of right and wrong? What would our daily lives be based upon, if it weren’t for the stories of those who came before us?

These were the questions Lenora Ucko asked when she began fine tuning her InteractiveStorytelling technique many years ago. She had a vision of keeping the stories of our past alive. She had a database of folk stories from all over the world with wisdom that ran deep and crossed all cultural lines, and she was on a mission to bring them to the people. It was her vision that these stories could bring people together and create safe spaces for healing in people’s lives. And thus, StoriesWork was finally born in 2000.

Today, with a tiny staff of one, in addition to herself, Lenora continues to bring these stories to the people, in a safe, non-threatening way. She asks easy, open ended questions that get people talking comfortably about issues that they may never have spoken comfortably about before. She opens doors, hearts, and minds in ways that offer gifts to the participants, whether they recognize it in that moment or not. She refrains from judgment and teaches other storytellers this hard to master skill. She does this wonderful work selflessly, with her heart wide open.

We want to keep this vision of Lenora’s alive and keep StoriesWork’s doors open, and thus we continue to tell the stories to the people. Please consider visiting us on the web (www.storieswork.org) and contact us if we can work with you in any way to bring this work to more people.

Please enjoy this sample story and check out the questions at the end. These are questions Lenora would ask you herself if she told you this story today. Please answer them in the comments. We’d love to see the discussion begin here.

A Blind Man Catches a Bird 
African Folk Story, Author Unknown

Two friends went hunting together.  One was blind and one could see.  The one who could see promised to help the blind man hunt.  They each put down their own trap in the forest.  The man who could see was surprised at how much the blind man could tell just by listening to the leaves rustle or the animals scurrying about or the waterfall in the distance.  He asked his friend how he knew so much.  The blind man replied, “When you cannot see, you must rely on other senses to know what is going on.”

The next day the two men went back to the forest and found two birds,  one in each of their traps.  The bird in the blind man’s trap was large and colorful. The bird in the other trap was small and plain.  The man who could see quickly switched the birds so that he now had the big, colorful bird in his own trap and the blind man had the small plain one. 

Then they sat down and rested. “Since you know so much,” said the man who could see, “tell me, why do men fight one another? I’ve often wondered about that.”

The blind man replied, “Because they do what you have just done to me.” 

The other man was ashamed and quickly took the small plain bird out of his friend’s trap and replaced it with the colorful bird he had stolen for himself. 

Then wanting to make amends, he asked the blind man, “How do men make up after fighting?” 

The blind man answered, “They do what you have just done!”

Questions:
 

 
  1. Will the blind man go hunting with this man again? Why or why not?
  2. Why didn’t the man who could see ask the blind man for the colorful bird instead of just taking it?
  3. If he had, what would the blind man have replied?
 


 
  

Amy Eller is a Marketing Consultant in Durham, NC with a focus on sustainable agriculture, local food movements, natural and alternative healing, local culture and art.
 
She has been an active Board Member for Storieswork since 2011 and an active volunteer at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in Chapel Hill, NC where she co-facilitates support groups that use Horticulture Therapy as a method of healing from trauma. She can be reached at amymeller@gmail.com .









PREVIOUS GUEST BLOGGER ARTICLES


If you missed any of the other terrific Guest Blogger articles this link will take you to a separate blog post where all of the links are listed.


 
Amy Eller s a guest blogger for Karen Chace and Catch the Storybug blog. All rights to this article belong to Amy. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without her expressed, written permission. Of course, if you wish to link to the article via Facebook or Twitter, please feel free to do so. I you would like to be a Guest Blogger contact Karen at Storybug@aol.com for the details.



 

 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Listening to the Siren's Call

Ulysses and the Sirens'
by John William Waterhouse, 1891
The Sheer Folly of Callow Youth Age
By Judith Black © 2012

Red faced, I cried out threateningly “Put that thing away or I will flush it down the toilet!”  Kismet (yes, that is what her mother named her) rolled her eyes at me and simply palmed the electronic communication device.  For the 100th time I explained:

“You can’t be here and there at the same time. Please, I will give you a break to check your phones. You need to be present, here, now, with us!”

If she had been the only one that had this almost physiological dependence on frequent, ritualized interactions with their cell phone, the situation would have been easier to cope with.   She was merely the queen offender.

This was not how we began.  The CDC Healthy People 2020 Grant promised that I would work, in cooperation with two other community organizations, with teens from under served communities, to create Story Theater around the issues of bullying/violence, nutrition, and substance abuse and then tour this program to their peers in Salem, Massachusetts (USA) in hopes of affecting their health choices. Unable to rally older teens, it looked like we could only tempt 7th and 8th graders to participate. In my humble opinion, seventh and eighth graders belong roaming nature like feral beasts, collecting knowledge through direct interaction. Alas, seventh and eighth graders were what I was going to have.  Knowing that all of the 14 participants came from homes with a single or no parent, all were economically strapped, and most from cultures where education was not a priority, I had to make some quick planning decisions. There would be a few immutable rules and lots of affirmation of their work and persons.

1. They had to attend every rehearsal.
2. No cell phones during the rehearsal period.
3. In this space we would listen to and be kind to one another.                    

Rule #1 bit the dust on the first day. Meeting time arrived, and six of the fourteen were not there. The program would have to develop flexibility.   

It was rule #2 that would be my undoing.  To my senior citizen brain the fact that warm, living, potentially loving people spent many hours a day contacting and responding to cyber friends in a small electronic box was oxymoronic to actual friendship.  They were living in a half real, but very consuming world that kept their attention off of the vital present. All of the kids who could and couldn’t afford it had a phone, and those phones were more attractive to them than the Sirens were to Odysseus’ men.  I would turn to talk to a single youth and you could feel the rush of air from them pulling them out and checking their text messages.  Without a doubt Kismet was the greatest offender. She carried about 35 extra pounds, dirty blond hair, and an attitude the size of Texas. “I can check my phone and listen at the same time.”  She’d sneer.  “I’m not stupid.”  

In keeping with rule #3, I assured her that her intelligence was not in question, but that I yearned for what she might do if it was all focused on our project.  She’d ritually roll her eyes or turn her back. She spent a good portion of our time with her back to me. Who knew what she taking in?

The good news was that these kids, all of them, loved stories and the theater games we were playing in order to bring them to life.  They were, after all, their stories.  The stories of friends and relatives who became caught up in drugs or alcohol, the ones about bullies, their fears of them and what their most courageous selves might do if given an opportunity to stop them, and the story of what they put into the mouths each morning and how it might help or hurt them. We worked for days and weeks and months developing these stories, but there was never an entire 10-minute period during which I did not hear myself beg, “Please put the cell phone away.  You can’t be there in the future and here now at the same time.  Kismet, that includes you.”After four months or development and rehearsal we were ready to tour our program.  Kismet, with a starring role in the longest piece did not show up for the final rehearsal.     I tracked her down to an aunt’s house from which she promised to be there by show time the next day.  She wasn’t and I had to replace her, but welcomed her to stay with the company.  She was spitting mad, but surprisingly, attitude unabated, continued with the smaller roles she had in the other pieces. Then, going into our 6th show, one of kids was held up by a teacher.
 
“What shall we do?”  I asked the cast.

 “I know her part,” said Kismet.  “I know all of them.”

And she did!  She replaced the missing actor that day and did it perfectly.  Four days later, at the last minute, she was called to replace another teen in a very different part.  She performed it seamlessly. When I congratulated her, she rolled her eyes and said, “I would of done the other one good too.”

What did I learn? Three lessons:

  1. Don’t make immutable rules
  2. They can be looking at their cell phones and be in the present!
  3. In this space, in all spaces we should listen to and be kind to one another.
If you would like to view their work follow the link: http://www.youtube.com/user/salemtheatreco



Judith Black, one of America’s foremost storytellers, Retells history from new perspectives, tickles familial dysfunction, and offers ironic explorations of aging.

Featured on stages from the Montreal Comedy Festival to The Smithsonian Institution, to eight features at the National Storytelling Festival, she is the winner of the Oracle Award, storytelling’s most coveted laurel. She teaches two classes annually:
www.tellingstoriestochildren.com
http://www.storiesalive.com/MakingStories.html

Locally she sings with Calla Lilly, is social action chair of the Marblehead Harbor Rotary Club, directs Bridging Lives, a community peer mentoring program.

 

PREVIOUS GUEST BLOGGER ARTICLES

If you missed any of the other terrific Guest Blogger articles this link will take you to a separate blog post where all of the links are listed.
http://www.karenchace.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-rising-tideguest-bloggers-share-their.html

Judith Black is a guest blogger for Karen Chace and Catch the Storybug blog. All rights to this article belong to her. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without her expressed, written permission. Of course, if you wish to link to the article via Facebook or Twitter, please feel free to do so. I you would like to be a Guest Blogger contact Karen at Storybug@aol.com for the details.
 

 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Owls: Flying High with Fingerplays, Songs and More

Owls and Faeries
by Richard Doyle 1824-1883
Last week we celebrated “Owls” during our lapsit program. We had lots of fun with the fingerplays, songs, games and flying around the room hooting “Woo Woo Woo…” Below are some of the items I shared with the children, along with an easy, inexpensive game I created, Feed the Owl, that was a huge hit!

I found the songs and fingerplays all around the web so feel free to use them in during your storytime. I have added some folktales and legends from around the world at the end of the post for the storytellers among us.

FINGERPLAYS

Five little Owls

Five little owls on a moonlit night five little owls are quite a sight.
Five little owls Are you keeping score?
One flew away! And then there were four.
Four little owls Happy as can be,
One flew away! Then there were three.
Three little owls Calling "Whoo! Whoo!"
One flew away! And that left two.
Two little owls having lots of fun.
One flew away! And that left one.
One little owl we’re  almost done.
He flew away! And that leaves none.

For the above fingerplay I had five little flannel board owls and we counted down each time one flew away.
The Owl

There's a wide-eyed owl (thumbs and forefingers around eyes)
With a pointed nose, (thumbs and forefingers to make a point)
He has pointed ears(clenched hands, forefingers up for ears)
And claws for toes:(make hands into claws)
He sits in a tree and looks at you; (fingers circles around eyes)
Then flaps his wings and says, (hands to chest and flap elbows)
"tu-whit, tu-whoo " (hands cup mouth to hoot)

SONGS

Owl Song (Tune: "I'm a little Teapot")

I'm a great big owl, as you can see.
I live high up in a tree. |
All the other birds wake me up when they play,
Because I like to sleep in the day!

Owl in the Tree  (Tune: Skip to my Lou)
Owl in the tree says, "Who, who, who."
Owl in the tree says, "Who, who, who."
Owl in the tree says, "Who, who, who.
Who, who, are you?"
We sang this song a few times and after the last line I encouraged the children to yell out their name. Normally, I would have gone from child to child but there were so many in the session I decided to do them all at once. The loved it!


STORY STRETCH
If You Want To Be An Owl (Tune: If You’re Happy And You Know It)

If you want to be an owl, shout – Who! Who!
If you want to be an owl, shout – Who! Who!
Then you get to sleep all day
And at night you get to play.
If you want to be an owl, shout – Who! Who!

I added the additional stanzas below. Perhaps you can add more! The children had a lot of fun singing and doing all of the gestures with me.

If you want to be an owl flap your wings…
If you want to be an owl look around…
If you want to be an owl shake your feathers…

BOOKS

I read the book The Littlest Owl by Caroline Pitcher and the children were delighted by the illustrations.

Here are a few more suggestions:

I'm Not Cute! - Jonathan Allen
Hoot Hoot! - Richard Powell
Little Owl - Piers Harper
Mrs. Owl and Mr. Pig - Jan Wahl
Owl Babies - Martin Waddell
The Sleepy Owl - Marcus Pfister
Whoo-oo Is It - Megan McDonald

CRAFTS

Look What Mom Found – This is the craft the children made during the program. Kara printed out the masks on cardstock. The children colored them and attached the popsicle stick  with the help of their moms and dads. Voila! Easy and oh so cute.
http://lookwhatmomfound.com/2012/09/owl-mask-craft.html

Dltk-Kids.com – Owl animal crafts and activities to add to the fun!
http://www.dltk-kids.com/animals/birds-owls.html

Ato Z Kid Stuff – O is for Owls coloring Page
http://www.atozkidsstuff.com/owlcolor.html

GAME

Feed the Owl

I wanted an easy game for the children that would be interactive and also help them with counting and colors. I purchased some white, plastic buckets on clearance, the type the children use for Halloween candy when they are trick or treating.

Initially, I tried to find bean bags but instead purchased two packages of plastic, round scrub brushes at the dollar stores, five to a package: green, red, yellow, orange, blue.  (see picture here: http://tinyurl.com/d3w9kfy . They were perfect, soft, light and would do no harm if a child accidentally threw one at another child.

I printed out two clip art pictures of an owl, 8 x 11, in color, and placed one in each bucket. The children took turns “feeding the owl” as we counted the number of throws and called out the colors.  We played before the program and afterwards; so much fun for a total of $4.00.


LESSON PLAN

Owl Themed Lesson Plan for Preschoolers – Lots of great information, including craft ideas.
http://voices.yahoo.com/owl-themed-lesson-plan-four9two9five06.html


STORIES

Battle of the Owls - Hawaii
http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/hft/hft22.htm
Concerning the Hawk and the Owl - Nigeria
http://www.worldoftales.com/African_folktales/Nigerian_folktale_37.html
The Fire Owl – Inuit (site also includes a lesson plan)
http://www.grundschule-englisch.de/children/pdf/The_fire_owl.pdf

The Hunter and the Owl - Native American/Lenape
http://www.indianlegend.com/lenape/lenape_003.htm
The Owl – Germany/Brothers Grimm
http://myweb.dal.ca/barkerb/fairies/grimm/174.html
The Owl Husband – Native American/Passamaquoddy
http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TheOwlHusband-Passamaquoddy.html
Why the Owl Flies at Night - Portugal
http://www.worldoftales.com/European_folktales/Portuguese_folktale_25.html


Why the Owls Have Big Eyes – Native American
http://www.sjwildlifecare.org/why_the_owl_has_big_eyes.htm
Why There is Day and Night – Native American
http://solar-center.stanford.edu/folklore/day-night.html


Karen Chace 2012 ©

This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at storybug@aol.com. Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.

An Audience of One

Oh Sweet Vanity
by Ray Caesar
An Audience of One
by Barry Stewart Mann 
©

Back when I was an aspiring actor in New York City, fresh out of conservatory and performing in showcase productions in Off Off Broadway theatres, we had a rule -- understood if not articulated: cancel the performance  if the actors outnumber the audience.   I remember a particular production of Richard III when the cast of fifteen consistently put the policy to the test.

Whether or not we actually cancelled shows, the principle is clear:  don’t squander your talents on less-than-ample audiences.  Or, more pointedly: what if you put on a show and nobody comes?  This primal fear also exists in the storyteller; many of us have had experiences, especially in public venues with fluid spaces, where the audience is mighty small.

These were the thoughts underlying my concerns in a small rural town a few summers ago.  I was touring with stories to complement the Vacation Reading Program, and the Children’s Librarian for the Regional System had booked me into three libraries, not realizing that the third (and smallest) site was not generally open on the afternoon chosen.  Still, she put the word out, and accompanied me there, opening it herself, as she had no staff there for the afternoon.  It was a beautiful site, a new building along the tracks, modeled after the historic train station a few hundred yards off.  There were high skylights, neat shelves of books, bright posters on the walls, rows of shiny computers.  A very small, very rural library.

The presentation was set for 3 o’clock.  When I realized the unusual circumstances, I wondered what we’d do if nobody came.  As I set up my backdrop and laid out my props, the librarian talked about having lured children in from a nearby playground to a program earlier in the summer.   But the swings and slide were empty on this particular sweltering afternoon.  She mentioned a daycare center across the four-lane, but then explained that they have no van and are not allowed to walk across.

As 3:00 p.m.  approached, I thought with a mix of discomfort and relief about not having to do the program: it would be awkward, but also would let me hit the road an hour earlier for the trek home.  Then a woman and child walked in.  It was a boy of about 8 -- the upper limit of the target age range for the show, which was, with quick pace, constant interaction, and colorful visuals, geared for the 4-5 year-old crowd.  But he was somewhat interested.  At first I thought -- “Do I do the show for an audience of one?”  My old New York principles came to mind -- though, at this point, the cast no longer outnumbered the audience.  But how could I adjust the program for a single 8-year-old boy?

The program included a songs, poems, and stories about insects (to the VRP theme “Catch the Reading Bug").  For sections, I would lead the whole audience in gestural repetition and call-and-response, and during the course of the 45 minutes I needed 16 volunteers, with a variety of props and costumes to be held, worn, or manipulated.

'Dustin’ (as I’ll call him here) seemed only mildly interested, didn’t know much about storytelling, and had a fairly short attention span.  His mother sat in the other section, working on a computer.  Dustin was antsy, and didn’t come with the assumption that as audience he should remain basically quiet and passive.  I soon realized that my sense of my own role, as active presenter, needed adjustment.  In fact, with an audience of one, I could engage him more directly, and change the program in any way I wanted.  I soon understood that this was not standard storytelling, but something closer to ordinary conversation.  I could indulge his responses and questions.  I could adapt my language to his level, add some mild irony or humor, cut or shorten when I noticed his interest lagging, or challenge him to engage more deeply.  When the program called for volunteers, I gave Dustin the chance to step up, or made instant adaptations.  He put all the animals on the felt-board Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly; we tried each of the Eric Carle insect costumes on him before laying them on the floor to continue the story.  While I felt strange about the changes, it all seemed very natural to Dustin.

At the outset, I expected the experience to be diminished, watered down, and nothing like real storytelling.  Instead, I found that the one-on-one session pared the performance down to the essential element of storytelling: dialogue.  It became a teaching experience -- in both directions, as I was taking constant cues from him about his interests, his modes of language and image processing, his comfort levels, his relationship with his mother, his psychology (he alluded several times, with a bit of frustration, to a fairly accomplished cousin who had skipped a grade and was now his grade level rival), and the strengths and weaknesses of the show.  I was consciously guiding his attention, filling his vocabulary gaps, checking his comprehension, taking his creative suggestions, and more -- the types of engagement we use in classroom situations but not in large audiences.

I wonder: How rich it would be if we could treat a large audience as an aggregate of audiences of one!  If we could remember that each child (of whatever age) has her own attention span, her own questions, his own body of references, his own phantom all-star cousin lurking in the psychological wings.  If we could be sure to have a moment of connection with each audience of one, to offer through our stories something personal, something customized for each person out there. We can’t do it through actual conversation, we can’t let them each express real-time responses.  But we can strive to remain mindful of the basic fact that storytelling is a conversation, and that we must balance speaking to a full audience with speaking to individuals within that audience.


Barry Stewart Mann is an Actor, Storyteller, Writer and Arts Educator based in Atlanta.  He tells stories from many world traditions, as well as personal narratives from his travels to over 50 countries.  Barry tours theatrical storytelling programs to schools, on such curriculum-based topics as the Cherokees and Greek Mythology, and spends his summers touring libraries with thematic literature-based programs.  He was featured earlier this year at the Festival Internacional de Cuentacuentos in Santo Domingo, DR.





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