Storyteller Jay O'Callahan - Home Page

Many years ago I taught a course on the art and uses of storytelling to twenty-three adults, most of whom were teachers working for their master's degrees. One was so anxious about the requirement to tell a story before the entire group that she said the very idea was ruining the course for her. But on the fifth day of the class she stood up before the group and related a tale of such beauty and warmth that it moved and charmed us. It was shaped around the memory of an uncle who took her on magical trips to the local dump.


One by one all the members of the class told stories. They did wonderfully and were all surprised by their success. Teachers, ironically, often lack the confidence to tell stories. However, I have found that with some effort and direction, confidence will grow, technique will improve. The teacher discovers a wonderful tool for the classroom.


Storytelling is a musical medium in which the teller is the instrument. The music comes from the sounds of the teller - the tones and pauses, the inflections and rhythms, the sounds of names and places, the very shape given to a word. The lyrics are language. If it is alive and varied, the student learns that language is important and wonderful.


Just as music brings the player and listener close together, storytelling also promotes an intimacy, a special bond joining all those present. The listener gladly follows the teller as they wander together in a special world. The wonder is that each listener sees the same things differently For inside the world of a story, we all shape the scenery and create the costumes in a way just right for us.


With the flood of video games and violent images coming into our homes, children have lost some opportunity to create, play, and use their imagination. Playfulness and creativity are essential because they stretch the mind, the senses, and open the mind to further learning and creative thinking and problem solving. If we can envision the problem, often we can envision the solution.


During my workshops, I use simple exercises to explore the beauty of sound and imagery in stories. I also explore rhythm, repetition and the creative use of space in storytelling. These exercises can then be taught to children for uses in writing, poetry, public speaking, dramatic arts or oral tradition classes.


In many instances, teachers who attend my workshops can get continuing education credits within a school district and possibly tuition reimbursement.


Storytelling Workshop for Teachers EXAMPLE


I will tell one of my short stories to show the storytelling form.


What makes a story: Discussion of the use of details, character, imagery and place in a story.


Storytelling Exercises - I give simple exercises to explore sound, imagery, rhythm, repetition and the creative use of space in storytelling.


Discussion of why storytelling is useful in the classroom


Students work with a folktale, HYENA. This is a short African folktale, a classic trickster story that can be told in a few minutes. Participants will read the story and tell it to a single partner. No one is put on the spot. We’ll tell HYENA in order to explore the process of learning an oral story.


Use of sound and gesture. I tell a section of his award winning story, HERMAN AND MARGUERITE, to demonstrate his use of gesture, rhythm, repetition and movement.


Questions from workshop participants.


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