I’m Somebody & So Are You!

The ‘Human Connection’ in Education:
Teaching Tools for Character & Academic I.Q. Growth:
IV Storytelling

By Vera Ripp Hirschhorn, M.S.

Contact for professional development & teacher training workshops

In this technological age where alienation tends to become the norm, the ‘human connection’ is even more necessary. What better way to create it than through storytelling? Stories evoke images and are more effective when referring to sensory images. We respond with our senses and are changed by the experience.

“Thought flows in terms of stories-stories about events, stories about people and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best storytellers. We learn in the form of stories.” (Frank Smith)

‘Storytelling has been around since cave men told stories of the hunt. Greek myths, Aesop, before there was written word, before hieroglyphics there was the oral story and someone telling what happened to their grandfather.’ (Mij Byram, Storyteller).

Recently, Rachel Maddow, a journalist, stated that “storytelling is fun for me.” “But I also think when you’re telling a good story, it sinks in more. That’s a more influential way to communicate information rather than just reading the news.

The power of the spoken word is a nice way to begin the new academic year or each new week. Students can learn early on that their voice matters and that who they are, where they’re from and what their hopes and dreams are matter.
Storytelling develops listening skills and a sense of identity. Thus, it builds confidence and compassion.

Storytelling breaks down social barriers; it evokes universal feelings and emotions. it gives students a sense of camaraderie as if one were on a team and thus respect for one another. Storytelling can offer a sense of community, a sense of oneness rather than duality, a sense of sharing and empathy.

One way to introduce storytelling and to ignite imagination is for the teacher to ask students to sit in a circle and then begin a story with just one sentence; A student next to him/her continues the storyline spontaneously with another sentence and so on.

Another way is to simply ask each student to tell his/her story, either prepared or spontaneously. Acting it out with facial expressions, hand gestures and other forms of body language enhance the story.

With younger students, the teacher can introduce storytelling with music and specifically the song, Getting to Know You from the King and I.

Middle and high school students might enjoy slam poetry which gives them the power to write and/or perform their own life story. Slam poetry gives students an opportunity to inspire action if they feel strongly about a cause.

At the university level, Dr. Susannah Brown, associate art professor and I co-partnered to encourage students to participate in an art exhibit entitled:

“Art has Character
Images of how Visual art supports positive interaction for the
betterment of others”

Our pilot program for future teachers included an activity, ‘Getting to Know You’ that inspired students to tell their respective story via a colorful form of collage.

Here’s an outline of two sample lessons:

originated from ‘hero activities’ in

Teens Are Heroes, Too! Challenges, Choice & Character*

Lesson I

1. Complete and/or Discuss:
a. My Uniqueness P.32
What are your positive qualities?
What positive qualities do others see in you?

b. My Hero Checklist P. 63-64
What are your character attributes?

c. Talents/Skills Survey P. 94

d. Hobbies/interests/Collections P.95
Consider this: If you were asked to visit a new planet with NASA, what ten personal possessions would you take to help you spend your free time?

e. “What’s Bugging You?” at home, school, community, society, state, nation or in the world.?

  • What do you think is the cause?
  • If you were in charge, how could you try to improve the situation?
  • How could you apply your talents, skills, hobbies to resolve one or more of your concerns?
  • To whom would you delegate some of the responsibilities and why?

f. Who are your past or present role models or characters from books and Why?
How have they inspired you?
How would you describe their character attributes?
Any memorable quotes?

g. How do you want to be remembered now and in the future
1.Name something you dream of accomplishing
2.Why is it important?
3.How will accomplishing this goal change your life and/or that of another or home/school/community/society

Assignment: Create an art piece that reflects your feelings, interests, passions, dreams

Lesson II

I Introduce my story which reveals my ‘passion with purpose’ via a photo of my two young cousins who perished in the 1940’s along with my grandparents, aunts, uncles due to hatred and bigotry. I continue with my own two collages; one with images of my garden; another with images of my interests which includes a literary, inspirational role model, Don Quijote, a symbol for social change.

B. View and Discuss students’ art pieces.
a. What do they reveal about each student? their uniqueness? their character attributes? talents? hobbies,? concerns or causes? role models? their legacy?
b. Does their art piece reveal their passion and/or purpose? Why? How?
c. Any special colors used to convey it?
d. Does the art piece appeal to one’s senses? Taste? Sound? Smell? Touch?
e. If it’s an abstract piece, what does it look like and convey about the student? and Why?

C. Question for each Student:
a. Describe the feelings you experienced during the creative process and/or the completion of this assignment.

*Teens Are Heroes, Too! Challenges, Choice & Character is an anthology of stories by, for and about teens who courageously resolved challenges with self-respect and respect for others, with compassion and caring, with an attitude of gratitude and with fortitude. These teens and all those who participated in the America’s Young Heroes program and contests in telling their stories of ‘triumph over adversity’ or those of their peers, are role models for all students.

Teachers don’t just teach; they can be vital personalities who help young people to mature, to understand the world and to understand themselves. A good education consists of much more than useful facts and marketable skills.”
(Charles Platt)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *