by Nicole Timbrell
We teachers are no strangers to the joy felt by our students when we digress from the lesson plan to tell a story from our lives, or let the children tell their own. Stories, particularly personal stories, engage students of all abilities and, therefore, are a perfect entry point from which concepts of language, literacy, and literature can be taught. The emergence of new technologies and portable devices has changed not only the access we have to stories, but also the nature of the delivery. Students can receive stories by downloading podcasts, streaming audio files, following blogs, watching YouTube, or visiting storytelling websites. Likewise, students can create and share their own stories by recording a podcast, building a blog, composing a digital story, or filming their own storytelling event. A focus on storytelling in the classroom also provides encouragement for students to extend their wide-reading practices to include biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs.
I have found the following websites useful in my secondary school English classroom as they provide models of diverse ways of sharing personal stories, as well as explicit teaching resources on traditional and modern forms of storytelling.
English for the Australian Curriculum
Seven billion people, seven billion stories: What makes a compelling life story?
A unit of work that gives students experiences of listening to, viewing, and reading the life stories of a range of diverse individuals, with a culminating project which requires students to produce and share a life story in print or digital form.
What’s your story?
A great example of a website which contains a collection of stories contributed entirely by members of the community. This storytelling project was designed to give a voice to Australians living in regional or rural areas. Contributions are in a diverse range of forms some of which include photo essays, interviews, video postcards, and 500-word stories.
A multimedia collection of resources, incorporating audio files, images, video clips, and interactive games about the origins of traditional storytelling forms and how the methods of storytelling have changed over history.
Storytelling in the classroom doesn’t always have to require public speaking or lengthy forms of writing. The following two websites host projects that are easy to emulate and provide an opportunity to discuss, predict, and compose the deeper story behind them.
Six Word Stories
A collection of short stories, told in just six words. Inspired by Ernest Hemmingway’s short story: For sale: baby shoes, never used. For an added technology dimension, get your students to Tweet their responses.
This website invites contributors to take “a picture of a picture, of the past, in the present.” It is easy enough for students to reproduce using a photo from a family album, and a mobile phone. Students could potentially submit their work for publication on the website or to a class blog.
Finally, for all teachers currently enjoying a well-deserved school break, give your eyes a rest from your summer reading list and let your ears have some fun by listening to some of the stories on the websites below, many of which are available to download as podcasts from the iTunes store. You may even find the perfect story to share with your students in the coming academic year.*
Long Story Short
“Remarkable, real-life Australian stories and the best first person storytelling.”
Now Hear This Stories
“Funny, moving or silly stories, all in a few spellbinding minutes.”
“True stories told live.”
This American Life
“It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, but not always…”
* Remember to always listen to the story before playing it for your students as, at times, topics and language may be unsuitable for the classroom.
Nicole Timbrell is currently on study leave from her teaching position at Loreto Kirribilli, in Sydney Australia. She is about to commence as an international graduate student in Cognition, Instruction and Learning Technologies at the University of Connecticut.