News & Views

A Good Story, Well Told: Teaching The Art and Craft of Storytelling

Country School eighth-grade students Lila Gizzie, Ifeanyi Ndokwu, Ambika Nott and Matt Rivera recently participated in the oral tradition of memorizing and reenacting a culturally significant story. The four were selected as the featured storytellers at a grade-wide assembly held in the school’s Athletics & Wellness Center and online, April 30.
A longstanding part of the eighth-grade humanities courses, the storytelling unit allowed students to read folktales from the many cultures they studied throughout the year and then select one to memorize and present. Professional storyteller Laconia Therrio @laconiatherrio was also brought in to offer the students strategies and techniques used in effective storytelling. The primary goal of the exercise is to develop students who are confident public speakers and astute listeners, in addition to critical readers and effective writers.

Lila told the story "The Most Cunning Animal," which originated in Belgium; Matt, "The Duck, the Goose, and the Pot of Soup" (Nigeria); Ifeanyi, "The Hippopotamus and the Turtle" (Nigeria); and Ambika, "The Man Who Didn't Wish to Die" (Japan). 

“We talk so much about cultural diffusion,” said eighth-grade World Cultures teacher Will McDonough. “Our world relies a lot on technology, which is about saving time and this art of the oral tradition is all about savoring time. They learn about the value of the human experience. They develop an appreciation for the value of the wisdom of elders and the oral tradition. It reminds them that there are generations who have come before them who have wisdom to share.”

“Public speaking is something they will have to do throughout their careers no matter what they do,” added eighth-grade World Cultures teacher Bart Fredo. “Human beings are natural storytellers and kids are engaged by them, so you can impart the confidence and public speaking through something they enjoy. All of them become more confident. All of them. It’s that confidence part that is so critical.”
New Canaan Country School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin and are afforded all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry, or disability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, financial aid policies or any other school-administered programs.