When I was a child, I loved to act out scenes and stories and I always had big emotional reactions to events in my life. Now I realize I was… a drama queen. As I grew up I gravitated to theatrical jobs, and found myself working in a puppet theater company and doing side work as a storyteller. I discovered my favorite audiences were elementary aged children and families, and I especially liked performing in the schools.
I have a lot of inspiration, creativity, and enjoyment developing folktales and fairytales for young audiences. Schools, however, need to be able to justify art experiences in terms of their core curriculum and the required learning benchmarks the teachers have to meet. Over the years as schools have become more pressured with testing, they have had trouble supporting arts experiences for the students. If storytellers want to present their art form in schools, the challenge is how to reach across this divide.
Enter the study guide. Study guides are a bridge between creative content and required educational benchmarks.
Study guides can be made for teachers or students. I’ve always made teacher’s study guides, which means I’m talking to the teacher and giving them ideas and activities they share with their class. Basically the Study Guide has six components.
The study guide introduces the art form, the specific art experience and the artist. You can do a general introduction to storytelling, explaining what it is. Then write about the actual stories you will be presenting – maybe include a synopsis. Finally include a biography about yourself and information so that students can write to you or follow you on social media. (I usually put my artist’s bio at the end of the whole study guide.)
The Study Guide makes Curriculum Connections. Ask yourself, ”Does my story relate to Language Arts?” Most likely it does. How about science? Math? History? Music? If you can clearly see that your storytelling program deals with one or more of these study areas, you need to promote that to the teachers and schools you are working with. Many storytellers will put “Curriculum Connections” up near the title of the study guide and list them out, i.e. Reading, Language Arts, Theater, etc.
The study guide lists Florida Standards that are covered by the arts experience and study guide activities. What are Florida Standards, you ask? According to the Florida Education Foundation, “Florida School Standards are simple statements about what students are expected to know or do as a result of what they learn in class. Standards ensure that all schools and all classrooms have the same expectations for students.“
All the teachers in the public schools in Florida have to make sure these standards are met for their class(s) in each subject. By putting applicable standards in your study guide, you help teachers connect the art of storytelling to the standards they are trying to meet.
Where can you find these standards? www.cpalms.org.
Quoting from the CPALMS website, “CPALMS is an online toolbox of information, vetted resources, and interactive tools that helps educators effectively implement teaching standards. It is the State of Florida's official source for standards information and course descriptions.”
This is a website with a ton of information – it can be overwhelming. What I usually do is click on the standards tab at the top of the home page. Then select the type of studies you want to connect your storytelling to – English Language Arts is a good one. Then select grade level and the standards will pop up with descriptions. You can read through the descriptions to see which relate to your performance and the activities in the study guide. When you find descriptions that relate, you can copy and paste the title of the standard into your study guide. I try to have standards for each grade level, and subject, my performance is appropriate for. I might have 10 to 20 titles of standards in my study guide.
The Study Guide presents pre-show activities the teacher can do with students to prepare them for the art experience. Think of questions your audience may have or information they need to understand the context and setting of the story.
This includes history, geography, cultural studies, theater or audience etiquette, character education and story comparisons. You can pick discussion topics, explanations, graphics, learning games and more for your activities. Be sure they are grade appropriate and don’t forget to add corresponding standards.
The Study Guide provides post-show activities that further engage the students in the art form and make connections to classroom studies. Sometimes making these study guides can seem tedious and uncreative, however, these pre- and post show activities can be fun to explore, develop and include in your study guide. With the post show activities, you can give instructions to encourage the students to try storytelling games, tell stories to their families, or learn to tell a folktale. You can also include activities that emphasis the connection between your storytelling and subjects such as Language arts, science, math, history, music or theater. (Don’t forget to add the corresponding standards.)
The Study Guide gives a bibliography of further reading and online resources. This is pretty self-explanatory, just make sure that your books and online resources are child friendly and grade appropriate.
So I hope if you are not already doing so, you will add study guides to your school offerings.
Here are three helpful resources.
1. www.CPALMS.org - for locating Florida Standards.
2. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, www.kennedy-center.org - I always find their website and educational materials to be very inspiring. You can go to: The Kennedy Center > Education > Resources for Educators > Digital Resources > Lessons and Activities.
3. Talk to teachers in grade levels you work with. Teachers will brainstorm with you about how your storytelling can relate to subjects they are teaching their students.
Katie Adams is an innovative, multimedia storyteller, actress & puppeteer. She is the founder of Make Believe Theater. You can learn more about her here: www.katieadamstheater.com or here www.facebook.com/katieadamsmakebelievetheater
and reach her at (813) 282-4993.