“Certain types of folk tales are called ‘Tall Tales.’ Does anyone know why they are called that?” asked storyteller, Paul Leone. “It is because they are just a big fib! Storytellers who tell tall tales try to tell you the story like it is real and we really believe it but actually, the tall tales is not real.”
“Did you believe Mr. Leone when he told the goose story?” asked Bush Elementary School third grade teacher, Amy Anderson. “I think a good portion of you did until you started to realize some of what he was saying couldn’t possibly happen.”
“Once I started talking about the geese freezing the pond and carrying it away, you knew it wasn’t real. I know you are studying the oral storytelling tradition in class and folk tales are oral traditions,” said Mr. Leone.
Bush Elementary School third and fourth graders recently heard oral storytelling from Mr. Leone thanks to a Chautauqua Region Community Foundation grant written by teachers Tari Geisler and Barb Senn. Mr. Leone met with the classes for three days, reciting stories that related to curriculum they are learning in class.
“I love coming in and directly relating to students with the stories I am telling them, to what they are learning in the classroom. It gives students as opportunity to engage in a very intimate way and it’s wonderful because you are teaching them but it’s a fun way of doing it,” said Mr. Leone.
In third grade, Mr. Leone’s storytelling tapped into the classes’ Listening and Speaking goals including: determining the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including orally, asking and answering questions about information from a speaker, and reporting on a topic or text, telling a story, or recounting an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
“For those who struggle in the area of reading and writing, storytelling provides another avenue to learn and to be exposed to great vocabulary and historical information,” said Mrs. Anderson. “All students had to learn the skill of visualizing. They could not watch a screen to provide the movie in their mind but had to create it based on Paul’s words, actions, tone, and emotions as he spoke. Students were able to sketch what they ‘saw’ in their mind right after his visit. Visualizing is a wonderful and important comprehension skill for third graders to master.”
Fourth grade students are learning about the Iroquois and their storytelling traditions. Students became active participants in Mr. Leone’s stories with goals of creating mental pictures, sequencing, theme, lessons learned, characterization, setting, and plot. Another goal is to view storytelling as a means of passing on heritage, beliefs, culture, values, ideals, and lessons to the next generation.
“The big goal is to have students begin to talk more, speak more, and ultimately take this into writing more – having a voice,” said fourth grade teacher Tari Geisler. “Storytelling in the oral tradition is one of the arts that are becoming lost as we become more technological. The storytelling groups are small and intimate, as if we are sitting around a campfire. It is amazing to see even the students that often have difficulty focusing in class become actively involved with the story. When the student sees the teacher or another adult chuckle or whisper a prediction about the story, they begin to see this venue differently. Students are encouraged to participate, being respectful to the story and story presenter. Having a professional in our community interact with us is not only encouraging, but also mentors our youth.”