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Showing posts with label storytelling tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label storytelling tips. Show all posts

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Rule of Threes

"Third time's the charm," goes the saying. This, in a nutshell, is the Rule of Threes, an almost universal pattern in storytelling. Three wishes, three wise men, three billy goats gruff, three sisters, three brothers, three little pigs - when you begin to notice, you will see threes everywhere in traditional stories.


It is now well-understood that humans are pattern-making and pattern-seeking creatures. This cognitive behavior helps us learn that Chihuauas, Great Danes and Basset Hounds are all dogs, for instance. It helps us with predictions: when the heat and humidity and air pressure build on a summer day we prepare for a thunderstorm. This behavior can also lead us astray, tricking us into seeking significance or meaning in random events, or can give rise to superstitions (such as "bad luck comes in threes.") For good or for ill, we look for patterns.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Day at the Museum

As I have mentioned a few times before, I spent a bit over a year of my childhood in Switzerland, a small country conveniently located within driving distance of most of Europe. This put countless museums, castles, and cathedrals within my family's reach, and we logged a lot of miles in the red VW bug and collected a lot of stamps in our passports.

One of the things that made the strongest impression on me in all our sight-seeing trips was the religious iconography – the pictures on chapel walls and in stained glass windows, the devotional paintings in the museums, the statues gazing down from the pediments and roofs. There are some wild stories in those images! In the days before widespread literacy, this was a very popular story-telling technique: make a picture to tell your tale.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Best Storytellers

Uggh! you say. Do I have to tell stories? Can’t I just read them out loud? Reading out loud is a great thing to do with your kids, and I am all for it, and I hope you have a good folktales/myths/legends etc. collection at home or at your public library (check out some of the book reviews and book suggestions on the bookshelf page). But you can’t read while taking a walk  or sitting by a lake or driving the car or fixing dinner or giving a kid a bath. Since those are ready-made moments when you can get your child’s attention, why not use them for telling stories that will help inspire the six types of courage?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Everyone Is a Hero

Everyone is the hero of her own story, her own heroic journey. We only play secondary roles in other people’s journeys – guide, helper, obstacle, shadow, grail. Having a deep understanding of this allows us to put responsibility where it belongs: I am responsible for the choices in my heroic journey, you are responsible for the choices in yours. Either making ourselves responsible for someone else’s story, or making someone else responsible for ours, creates havoc, weakness, and confusion. Courage often means seeing the difference between my story and yours, and knowing which role to act.

Let me put this another way: If you are playing a passive role, awaiting rescue by a hero, then by definition this is not your story! You are right now playing a secondary role in someone else’s story! When you step back into the active role of hero you are inhabiting your own story again, and you are back on your own heroic journey.  You are back on your path.   You can also see this from Dr. Lisa's perspective as the question of locus of control: do you believe you are an active agent in your life (internal locus of control) or do you think the actions of others are dictating yours (external locus of control.)

Children are by nature self-centered, taking the lead role in the only story in the world that counts – their own. All other people are merely supporting characters who dwell in suspended animation until their turn comes to deliver their lines on the child’s stage. But if I can reveal to my daughter that all those other people are also the heroes in their own stories, she might begin to see that they all probably have something else to do besides think about her. It might make it more obvious who should be taking an active, heroic, courageous role.  Sometimes it takes courage to admit when you are not the hero.  In other words, sometimes it takes courage to shut up and do nothing!  As a parent, I have to remind myself again and again to be  mindful of when it's appropriate for me to step aside and allow my daughter to take the lead.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bedtime Stories

Lisa’s post about snuggling raises for me an image of the time-honored tradition of bedtime stories. We have the parent and child (or children) snuggled together with a book; consider how many things are going on in the scene:
1. Bonding and attachment, as Lisa has explained;
2. The beginnings of literacy, a child looking at words while the parent reads;
3. The transmission of culture (values, traditions, story themes, information) through the storybook being read;
4. An opening of the imagination and a call to empathize with another person or other people, i.e. the characters in the story;
5. Development of focus, attention, concentration and listening skills.
6.  You might also notice that the child is on her mother's left side, a preference across cultures (and regardless of right-handedness or left-handedness) and even across species.  You can read more about  the significance of this for right-brain development in Lisa's post about how we hold our babes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Story Time

I recognize that my lifestyle is very unlike others’. I know that by working at home, and with just one kid in school in a walkable community, I am living in a way that gives me the luxury so many people dream of: time. I have the time to tell my daughter stories. Our weekday mornings look nothing like the stereotype you see in movies or commercials – parents grabbing keys and briefcases while talking on their cell phones, teens reaching for pastries as they race to the bus, kids trying to finish homework while breakfast sits uneaten on the table. Our mornings actually include long conversations!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Telling Our Stories

Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it's an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole. -- Eudora Welty, American author

Have you ever noticed how eager our children are to hear stories of our own childhood? It seems as if they yearn to know us as we were, before they existed. We are their “in the beginning,” their creation myths, even when (as in adoptive or blended families) we didn’t actually create them. They see us as adults, they see us as people who successfully got from there (childhood) to here (adulthood) and they are curious how it happened. What is the story of how I became grown? The Anne Sexton poem Lisa shared a few posts back reminds me of this – those moments of courage from our past are our story, the record of our hero journey.
c. Yanni Raftakis, Dreamstime.com

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to Tell a Story

Man is eminently a storyteller. His search for a purpose, a cause, an ideal, a mission and the like is largely a search for a plot and a pattern in the development of his life story -- a story that is basically without meaning or pattern. --- Eric Hoffer, philosopher

There are many folks out there who believe they can’t tell a good story. Yet people are natural storytellers – it’s in our DNA. Everybody has told stories, but perhaps they didn’t think of themselves as storytellers at the time. Parents should start thinking of themselves as storytellers. It’s okay!  You don't need heaps of social courage to talk to your own kids!

Telling a story well takes a little preparation. A little. Here’s my advice.

1. Pick a story. If it’s a story from your own past, you already know it. If you are searching for a traditional story, take advantage of the Internet and the public library to find a story that suits your needs. Read the story a few times. If you can find different versions of the story, even better.
2. Decide what element or elements of the story you want to highlight. Is it the physical courage of the hero? The moral courage? Emotional courage? What about the story appeals to you? Is it from your cultural tradition or a different one? What drives you to select this story for your child?
3. Spend a few minutes with a thesaurus and reacquaint yourself with all the wonderful synonyms and metaphors for courage and fear. Reflect on your own experiences of courage and fear and try to feel again the physical sensations you experienced. You can add these to the story to bring it to vivid life.  Keep reading for more Storytelling Tips!