The Magic of Storytelling

18 Jul

Today, I spent half a day at McKinnon Primary School in Melbourne, telling stories. Tomorrow, I’ll have the chance to meet the two remaining Year 1 classes.

The thing I love most about telling stories to class groups is the level of interaction I have with the children, both during the storytelling and afterwards. Their responses to a story always inspires me. And today was no exception.

Using a narrative structure borrowed from ‘The Gingerbread Man’, I told a new version of this fairy tale called, ‘The Autumn Leaf Man’. In the discussion that followed, one boy put up his hand and asked whether the Autumn Leaf Man was actually a  good or a bad character.  It seemed unclear. Good question for a six year old. We took a vote and the class was divided. Binary opposites exist not only in literature but the world at large. Good/Bad. Weak/Strong. Funny/Sad. And this little guy in the front row, wanted to work out exactly where the Autumn Leaf Man belonged. But isn’t that the great thing about stories ( and life itself really)? Whilst binary opposites certainly mark out the boundaries, a whole lot of variation occurs along the base line. Good and bad aren’t always that easy to untangle. Other questions started to surface. Did the autumn leaf man have a family? Would they know where he was? Did he really belong to anyone? Did they have the right to chase him? A story itself, will start and finish but the emotional pull – the deeper meanings and issues found inside that story will linger on. And the thing I love best, is the fact that although I tell the same story each time (more or less), the group will feel and respond to it in their own way. All these questions and the tremendous opportunities for real learning that hide inside a simple story.  Ahhh the magic of storytelling!

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