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Intro to Storytelling

November 12, 2009 | 7 Comments

I've been listening to your show ever since I was a teenager, and I love it so much. I am a fourth grade teacher now, and I would like to help my students become storytellers. What advice do you have for them or for me?

Angela M.
Portland, ME


Have a unit on jokes: put 40 or 50 narrative jokes in a hat and pass it around and everyone has to tell that joke, impromptu. Introduce them to the classic stories — you, Angela, telling them the stories — The Little Mermaid (the original H.C. Andersen version), Ulysses, Noah and the Ark, the Prodigal Son, Romeo and Juliet, B'rer Rabbit, Snow White, and so forth — and introduce them to the idea of oral impromptu narrative....

Offer them some stories from your own daily life (What Happened To Me On Tuesday) without making this seem like an academic exercise. And then pair them up into writing teams to create works of fiction, thrillers, sci-fi, historical, any genre — each team tells you what they'd like to write a story about and you approve it and then off they go. And the reward is recognition — the best writers get to read some of their work to the class. Team writing is a way around writer's block, self-consciousness, and show-off tendencies (and it cuts in half the number of stories you have to read). Storytelling is a good road to developing all sorts of skills (so you can defend this to your superiors) and it's a pleasure for you. Fourth-graders are a tough audience, but not as tough as older kids. I did a Lake Wobegon monologue — the one about the pontoon boat, a proven crowd-pleaser — to a writing class at the University of Minnesota and half of them sat watching movies on their laptops or updating Facebook pages. Impossible.


It's lovely to see a teacher request advice about how to help her students learn public speaking skills. I would bet you're a wonderful teacher, Ms. M!

I enjoyed your advice on story-telling. As a middle-school teacher, I like to occasionally launch into an impromtu personal narrative--nothing that compares to your wonderful tales, but quirkly, nonetheless. Invariably, my personal stories are met with a few smiles of appreciation and more than a few blank stares and rolling of the eyes. While I've no doubt my students think I'm a bit loony, I hold fast to the ideal of passing on an appreciation for the power of small incidents to reveal deeper meaning, as your wonderful stories so often do. I love your sensibility and wish that I could afford to see your show in Detroit. Why are the tickets so pricey? I'll stop short of accusing you of elitism, but I'm disappointed that I can't be there because I don't have an auto baron trust fund. Keep telling us stories.

With thanks,
Kim M.

I was born in 1951 and I am always amazed at what I learn and/or remember from your program. The Guy Noir character is a combination of Sam Spade, Johnny Dollar, and other detective characters from the golden age of radio.

Keep up the good work!

I belive that the point of a told tale/story/history/ is to allow the listener to develop the ability to see others thoughts via their words. As such I see the whole PHC show every weekend on the radio. Very inexpensively at that! This visuallizing words also works well with the printed word, such as books. Also available at a low cost to the public at a library.
Chris C.


Find the money to go! You will be happy you

We have seen the show twice at the Greek
Theater in Los Angeles and are (hoping)
to see it again in 2010.

If you can't go this year, save the cents
a day it will take to go next year.

San Clemente

As a retired "Grandma" one of my fav things to do is visit my grandchildren's school and read to their classes. I like to do poetry specifically Judith Vorheist. The kids appear to enjoy being read to and I know in some cases it is the only time someone reads to them, esp. poetry. Poetry and stories in general, are magical and engage the imagination, sense of humor and perhaps sense of self. These things no battery operated or electrical device can do as well. Long live the imagination and its vast world.

GK: I seem to write all the time and have many rich memories of my spent youth in Waukegan, Illinois--typical midwestern tales straight out of "Dandelion Wine". Love your advice to new and seasoned writers about having a sheaf of jokes on hand and the retelling of the same ones in a new way....I am doing a speech about a family reunion on my (former) husband's side (in-laws, outlaws, uncommon-laws and the like) and wonder if you have any good reunion jokes in the filing system of your magnificent mind that you can share....??! Much appreciated along with your vast wit and wisdom your admirer, judi

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