From: Dr Eric Miller, Director,
World Storytelling Institute
(based in Chennai)
Date: June 2015
Subject: Storytelling in Schools
Dear School Teachers and Administrators,
Whenever we might want to teach-and-learn abstractions such as concepts, processes, and mathematical and scientific formulas and procedures, it is essential to provide numerous and colorful examples.
Students can then be encouraged to play with these examples, especially in sensory manners -- drawing pictures of them, dramatizing them (acting them out, by role-playing elements of the examples, and perhaps personifying these elements as characters).
Then, a final test is whether or not a student can help other students to understand the concept or process.
Along the way, as many of the five senses as possible, and the full verbo-motor facilities of the teachers-and-learners, should be brought into play, so there could be integrations of the body and mind; and of emotions, thoughts, facts, memories, etc.
All of the above is related to storytelling.
I have earned a PhD in Folklore (University of Pennsylvania), and am scheduled to complete an MSc in Psychology next year (University of Madras). In addition, I have been trained in using storytelling for education by professional storytellers in NYC, my hometown.
Myself and others founded the World Storytelling Institute (WSI) in Chennai in 2007. Since then, I have given multi-session Storytelling trainings to approx 250 adults. I have also conducted many Storytelling -related teacher-trainings in schools in Chennai, elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, and around India.
For work in schools, I can call upon the 21 members of newly-formed group, the "Chennai Storytellers", most of whom are listed on the Indian Storytelling Network's Chennai webpage. (The Indian Storytelling Network is an project I co-facilitate with Geeta Ramanujam of Kathalaya in Bangalore.) Even if I am not physically present at all sessions, I can help to plan and supervise the process.
The "Chennai Storytellers" -- of which I am also a member -- work in many languages, and are based in various parts of Chennai.
In relation to schools, we offer,
1) Performances, with activities, for children (during the school day).
2) Workshops for children (during the school day).
3) Workshops for teachers.
4) Workshops for parents.
5) Workshops for children (after school, and on weekends).
1, 2, and 3 can be done in a single visit, with teachers observing 1 and 2 before participating in 3.
Of course, one can perform for children of any age, and lead them in activities. However, we especially like to train -- and to assist teachers and other adults to train -- children 7-years-and-older to find, adapt, create, and tell stories.
Storytelling is not just for children. It is also a fun and educational activity for teenagers -- for whom it can be explained that storytelling is a form of public speaking that also involves acting (when one plays characters). Public speaking and acting are activities many teenagers might be interested in.
We seek to train teachers to conduct storytelling activities with students. We also seek to work with teachers and administrators to complement and reinforce the existing curriculum with storytelling activities. Notes on my training for teachers are here.
We would like to do 6-month or 1-year projects with individual teachers, or with groups of teachers, possibly relating to particular academic subjects.
Our workshops and follow-up sessions with teachers could occur once a month, or as requested.
We would like to conduct experiments that would, we believe, provide evidence regarding the educational value of storytelling, especially in terms of students' reading and writing abilities.
In one type of experiment, students' reading and writing abilities before and after the storytelling experiences could be compared.
In another type of experiment, one group of students would experience storytelling activities, and another group would not. The reading and writing abilities of the students in the two groups could be compared.
A number of such studies can be found here.
Regarding fees: Standard pay for trainers in the business world in Chennai today is Rs 5,000 per half day, Rs 10,000 per day. In the education world, we often need to work for less. So fees are negotiable. Of course, long-term projects involve reduced-fees per session.
The first three editions of the Chennai Storytelling Festival have been presented primarily by the WSI. The theme of the Festival this past February was "Storytelling for Teaching and Training".
In the course of CSF 2015, we discovered that "Using Storytelling to Teach Languages" is one of the most popular educational applications of storytelling. A recording of a videoconference I and others participated in regarding this subject, as part of the Festival, is here (60 minutes, on Youtube).
My PhD dissertation concerned ways children's singing-games could be used to assist language-learning.
I am in the process of writing an article that would compile and discuss many of the methods of "Using Various Verbal Arts to Teach Languages", and I am eager to assist language teachers to put these methods into action.
Note: When geographical distance is a challenge, myself and team members are adept at using videoconferencing for training purposes (Skype, Google+, etc). In such cases, alternation of physical-presence and tele-presence often works well.
Dr Eric Miller
PhD in Folklore
MSc in Psychology (first year completed)
Director, World Storytelling Institute,
The WSI is based in Nungambakkam, Chennai.
Mobile: 98403 94282
Landline: 044 4209 0890