Workshoping the Workshop for Youth

This week I wrapped up the first Tell Us Something storytelling workshop for youth. I hope they learned as much as I did.

Stephanie Wing, a multi- time Tell Us Something storyteller, teaches English Arts at Willard Alternative High School. She has been encouraging me to offer storytelling workshops for youth for years. I resisted it for a while, but finally relented with enthusiasm, and began teaching in a classroom setting for the first time in almost 20 years.

I had forgotten so much.

Mainly, I had forgotten two main components:

1) The kids need to be motivated to care about the subject matter. Just because I am passionate about it does not mean that they will automatically “get” it.

2) Starting any new process right before summer is a challenging prospect.

But we helped each other out, the kids, Steph and me. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always, for me, fun and exciting.

For just over two weeks, between 7-9 kids (not everyone showed up to class every day) and I talked about the history of storytelling, its importance in how we define ourselves as humans and how to be a better listener and storyteller. We listened to and watched examples, both polished and raw, played games to teach us how to be more empathetic listeners and elicit feeling and empathy better as storytellers. We deconstructed examples to learn how we could tell better stories. We practiced telling stories. The kids started opening up towards the end of our time together. And they offered honest and detailed feedback about their experience in the workshop so that I can improve it for the next group.

So I’ve been revamping the lesson plans to make storytelling more relevant to students’ lives, include more activities, more guest speakers, address some Common Core requirements more explicitly and zero in on actual storytelling earlier on in the workshop.

Looking forward to the next one.