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“I wanna tell you a story” February 19, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, Teaching Idea, Tools.
Tags: , ,

I hope those (more mature?) UK residents for whom the title quote has meaning will forgive the reference to a long-lived and for many, well-loved English variety entertainer, Max Bygraves. But his catchphrase neatly encapsulated what entertainers need to do – to tell stories. Or at least to adopt the role of storyteller. Storytellers hold your attention, stir your imagination, compel you to want to hear (read/see/experience) more, invoke an emotional response … make you care. Storytelling can be for entertainment and pleasure, but also help understanding, solicit co-operation or build coalition … or even sell a product or service. As Joe Sabia outlined, the influence of digital (and other) media on storytelling may not have changed the essential elements of storytelling, but I’d suggest they have enabled the following:

  • Reach – access to a much wider audience through the Internet and the social networks which magnify.
  • Richness – diversity and profusion of media through which stories can be expressed.
  • Revealing – allowing a wider range of creators, for whom traditional storytelling may have been less accessible, to appreciate that they have something to offer and the media through which it might be delivered.
  • Recycling – where content created by others can be reused to tell the same story in a different way, or weave an entirely different narrative, or be mashed together from different sources.
  • Requesting – the audience need no longer be passive receptors and can be invited in to contribute to, or influence the direction of the story

As teachers, perhaps we need to scrutinise more carefully the role of storyteller and how might exploit the techniques and processes of telling a story so that the experiences to which we expose our students become more compelling.

The ‘story’ I chose to tell for this #etmooc assignment was inspired by a single image a colleague showed me just last week. I wondered whether it could form the subject of a story, but rather than put it up front and centre, I chose to approach it obliquely. Other storytelling techniques such as 5-card Flickr put imagery front and centre in order to stimulate the imagination. I elected to use simple words to conjure images which would hopefully lead the reader in a direction such that the final reveal was a complete surprise. Progressively revealing more and more of the image hopefully served to stimulate the imagination further.

Master storyteller? Well not yet. With such little text, each phrase, each clause, each word needs to be chosen with care and precision. I could have done with a little more time, but you can only tinker so much and eventually you have to ‘ship.’ I think maybe the image reveal could have been done a little better and though I considered making it visible on every frame, thought it might detract from the story and the reader’s need to conjure their own image as they absorbed the words – doing that whilst pondering the imagery would have been too much I felt. One final thing, boy isn’t finding a piece of appropriate CC music for the backing track time consuming?! Wasn’t entirely satisfied with the final choice, but the days are only so long.

Progressively revealing an image is a useful technique on large screen displays, perhaps using IWBs to tease out the storytelling in our younger students. Rather than show a whole image at once, use the IWB spotlight or eraser tools to reveal just a small section and ask students to first describe what they see, then as different scenes are shown, how or if they might be related. It’s surely the process of filling in the background for oneself that stimulates imaginative thinking?



1. largerama - February 19, 2013

What a really good concept Ian and one that would appeal to many teaching English, Art, History and so much more. Also,I’m thinking that this could be a real winning presentation technique.

2. When might a safety manual be a story? | In the pICTure - February 24, 2013

[…] I was thinking about the process of storytelling during a previous post and […]

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