Last week I had the privilege of attending a storytelling workshop and performance right here at Bank Street. Educators and performers from the Lincoln Center Institute worked with Bank Street graduate students and faculty to discuss and analyze the myriad ways in which a basic story can be altered and conveyed. The mission of the Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) is to develop skills of imagination, creativity, and innovation through education and the arts. They work not only with students in Pre-k through 12th grade, but also educators. This workshop coincided with the weekly conference group meeting time, providing a nice alternative to our weekly two-hour chat around a table.
Many conference groups gathered with our advisors as well as a performer from LCI, Jean Taylor. She initially gave us a prompt with a simple story on it, and then asked us how it could be altered. People called out suggestions such as changing characters and setting, and I suggested changing the point of view of the storyteller.
With partners, we wrote our own brief versions of the tale, and prepared how we would incorporate movement and sound. This was definitely a challenge for those of us who are not naturally performers. Thankfully, we did not have to perform in front of the whole room, rather just with one or two other pairs. It was truly fascinating how one story could lead to so many variations. The workshop was a great example of how a meeting of minds can produce a plethora of ideas. Not only that but the LCI instructor was inspiring for her zestful approach and palpable joy in storytelling, which I think all educators endeavor to project in working with children.
After the workshop, we were treated to a masterful performance by Charlotte Blake Alston, who not only deflty manuevered through a handful of stories and songs, but also played an African stringed instrument made from a hollowed goard, called a kora.
I was very impressed with her timing – how she would ease right from one story into the next, or seamlessly enter a story from her introduction. And her memory! How on earth this woman remembers the stories is beyond me.
As the Bank Street graduate audience sat spellbound, it was clear to me that the storytelling skills demonstrated could be employed in engaging students, young and old, by any educator. Storytelling skills can bring life to any subject and encourage imaginations to soar, while fostering social relationships in all classrooms – even on a graduate level!