06 Aug

RaceBridges salutes our sister Facebook site as it hosts the
10th JustStories Storytelling Festival August 1 – 3, 2012.
Come visit the Festival, enjoy the moving short video stories
and use them for free in your classroom or group.

Our RaceBridges blog text this week celebrates the
power of storytelling as found in our online Festival -
but also in your teaching and classroom.



Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth
and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it
will live in my heart forever.

- Native American Saying


The stories of our lives often hold some of our greatest wisdom.  When we share our stories with each other, we express our identity, details about our heritage, the places where we are unique and the things we hold in common.  Stories often speak of what we hold important or precious to us.

In addition, storytelling activities build verbal communication skills, improve critical literacy and develop the imagination.  Consider bringing storytelling into your classroom or to create community among diverse students Here are some storytelling activities that can be adapted for any group of students along with some starter ideas for larger lessons plans.  


Storytelling in Pairs

Begin a discussion about storytelling by asking students if they have a storyteller in the family.  Who is it?  What are their stories about?  How do they make the listener feel?  How do the stories inform or change your relationship?

Then ask, what is a story?  You could go in many directions from this question but be sure to discuss how a story is different from a memory because something happens in a story. There are people (characters) and action (plot).

Pick a theme for your storytelling session.  Start with a broad, open idea that connects with your lesson plan or a recent issue at the school and frame it as a story prompt.

Tell me a story about a time you didn’t fit in, or a time when you changed, or a time when you stood up for something you believed in.

  • Demonstrate the idea with a short two-minute story of your own to set the tone and stimulate ideas for your students.
  • Ask your students to think of a story from their lives that fits the theme.  Remind them that they should select a story that is appropriate for school and will not make them feel too vulnerable.
  • Compile a list of Group Agreements about how you will listen to personal stories.  What do you need to agree on for everyone to feel “safe” telling stories?  Students might offer “no judgment”, “keeping an open mind”, etc.  Collect these ideas and post a list where everyone can see it.
  • Divide the class into pairs and give the students two minutes each to tell a story to their partner.


Unpacking the Stories

After students have shared stories, bring the conversation back to the big group and ask students to comment on their experience.

  • What was it like to tell your story and be listened to?
  • What was it like listening to someone else’s story?
  • How did your partner’s story remind you of your own life?
  • What about the story was new for you?
  • How did hearing and telling these stories change your relationship to each other?
  • How did hearing and telling these stories change your relationship to our lesson?


Classroom Suggestions

  • Use storytelling in pairs to launch or end each unit or semester.  As students practice, they’ll get bolder and more comfortable.
  • After students tell their stories to a partner, have them write it out as an essay.  Often telling the story first will unearth many details and memories.
  • Ask students to go home and “collect” a story from someone in their family or neighborhood.  Have them bring in these stories and share them with the class by performing a monologue or reporting back as a journalist.
  • Use true stories to create a performance.  Ask students to work in small groups, select one story from the group, improvise dialogue and movement and perform it back for the class.


Suggestions for Teachers

Here are some preparations and ideas to create a conducive atmosphere for “storytelling swaps”:

  • Tell your own story first to set an example.
  • Model Positive Energy And Enthusiasm.
  • Arrange the furniture as much as possible for more open space.
  • Remind students that ALL stories are valuable.
  • Hold students accountable to the Group Agreements.


Recommended Resources to Explore:

New Short Video-Stories: JustStories Festival.
Go to our sister site
This is a free 3-day storytelling festival with stories told by professional storytellers about race and identity.  Consider which group of these 75 free short video stories might be best to use in your classroom, school or organization. 
Storytelling: A Toolkit for Bridging Differences and Creating Community
12 Theater Games for Building Bridges and Finding Common Ground
Sticking Together … Sharing Our Stories
This is a companion site to this one.  Review the variety of short video stories on the Showcase page told by professional storytellers.   Use a few of these as prompts to student discussion and activities in the area of storytelling.  They also provide fine models demonstrating the structure and art of image-making in storytelling.
RaceBridges Story Short Collection
This is a series of brief lesson plans, audio downloads and short videos.  They can be used alone or in a ‘do it yourself’ series around themes you choose.The short discussion guides and transcripts of the stories aids you to use these in the classroom or for personal reflection.





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