Friday’s Presentation

On Friday I was privileged to give a seminar at the North Carolina School Library Media Association Conference in Winston Salem. Saturday morning I performed by Belle Boyd show for them. Pictures are coming in ! But I thought I’d share my handout from that conference with all of my blog followers . The seminar was on using storytelling to support common core teaching in social studies.

Tips for Using Stories in Social Studies Teaching

And Session Outline for October, 2013

By Joan Leotta


“Story interprets Life” Diane Wolkenstein


Presentation to the Group on October 4

1.Sign in of class and request of how they use story

2.Intro and I will Tell a story

3.The why of using story: Social Studies are a perfect blend with story. Even better when they mix story with language arts. Also spills into science.  Makes it come more alive to them, but even so they will be doing some non-fun (unless like me they love research) work to get fun and good results

4. Finding and shaping stories–your work will model this.

5. Technique and Follow-up

6. Imitation and Extension–storytelling by students and forming story clubs


Tips and Bibliography

Find and Shape Stories

-When selecting each story, carefully consider the source. Many stories translated into English in the years before 1960 or 70 were translated without respect to the origins of the tale


-When you find a story you like (and always tell stories you like if you can) then check out the sources. Find at least three sources, compare them.


-Research the author of the tale you choose for his/her qualifications as a cultural representative


-Research the culture of the land yourself with respect to folklore and traditions as well as history if you can. The 970s are just as important as the 398s in storytelling


-Establish a small cultural context for the tale when you tell it, use this as the intro or end point, or part as intro and part as end point–also a good source for follow up crafts and questions!

    Geography Describe the country in setting the scene for the story. If you can, make allusions to parallel places in their own geography

–History–set this story in that country’s history or at least the time period.

      A point of time–time difference is even more foreign than another culture–be sure to explain the role of the festival or the need for an object or custom that is no longer used even in that country in modern times–for instance, cooking over a fire

–learn how to say a word or two in that language

–today’s allergies prevent sharing foods in many cases, but you can share recipes with them and tell them about things you have tasted in that other cuisine

–Describe a point of similarity and a point of difference between the culture to be explicated and our own–for instance, the French kiss on both cheeks when they say hello (point of difference).


Look at topical collections of stories and tell several –sue this as a starting point for comparing and contrasting cultures.


–single culture volumes–what do these tales tell us about the culture–use this with short pieces about the culture of the country garnered from single book sources, the US government’s sources on other countries and more


-Don’t violate cultural taboos ( if you can help it). Do not tell tales women can’t tell or as with Native American tales, don’t tell when corn is growing. If, for some reason, you choose to tell a tale that is not appropriate for you to tell for some reason, then explain that to the audience


Learn the correct pronunciation of names–places and people. If there are names you cannot simply wrap your tongue around, then use other names and tell the students you have changed them


“Staging” Consider carefully the space where you will perform, it’s advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps a timeline showing where your character fits in history can be in background or be made as a craft afterwards.


Map showing where the stories come from and other countries where similar stories are told or where the story may have traveled on trade routes (gets them into geography and even economics)


Trade me a story. Specific emphasis on those trade routes–good for older students. Look at how stories show the economy of a nation, Golden pear and others, as well as teach its values.


Narrative Poetry in story–also a good use for social studies, poems like the Highwayman can enchant–look for other times when “bad men” are made into folk heroes–what was the economy of the time? Robin Hood, Jesse James, Pirates are now looked at with benign eye (old ones!) but what does such glorification say about history?


Dramatizing a Single Person from History–see my performance on Saturday. Works in facts and fiction and history thread. Students find this a fun project  too. Can make transition as a project you do to a follow up by them, assigning them figures, no mandates on costume. Encourage less emphasis there–perhaps some simple props or story hats. It’s the research skills you want to build in a fun way!


Technique and  Follow Up


Your voice, hands, face, gestures. These are the prime tools


Use props (music, costumes, masks, art,) to enhance the environment of the story even if you just show them. Some people do not like to use props in telling—not necessary, that is a personal style matter but the props to be explained afterwards can help the students put the story in cultural context


If you are comfortable moving and with music, add some music and dance from the culture if it will help you get them in the mood–put major movement at the end of your program so you don’t have to deal with quieting them down again. If you can contrast dance or music with our own –all the better


Participation Use participation as much as possible without violating the elements of the story or the story flow. Where participation is not part of the flow, be sure to have follow-up activities to help fix the story in the child’s mind.



Craft, map of country, other things

Imagine a trip to that country

   What do they need to get there—can teach research skills–shots, passports, flight,

    How will they get around

—What will they see–major sights and why important–history and culture

    Who are the leaders—will you meet them–who might you meet?

    What would it be like to go to school there?

   Who were the important people in their history—who would George Washington Have met? Lincoln, other leaders of ours in major time periods that coincide with the subject country’s historic leader moments

     Draw a map

–Puppet retelling–especially good with areas of the world where other types of puppets were used often in telling–such as shadow puppets. Tell a bit about puppet traditions in those countries and make that type of puppet if possible

—Craft is very dependent on each country and different –you will need to research but there are many different types of books that offer craft of these other countries

    Food is great but again, with so many allergies!!! Ask students to describe food from that country if they have tried it or get a recipe and talk about the spices and ask if the students know what that spice is and if so, how they use it at home. Bring examples of the spices if you can just to show them what these look like.


Imitation and Extension

Story Clubs

The student storytelling



Bibliography specific to Multi-cultural telling

World Tales: The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places (Hardcover) by Idries Shah  shows how stories pass from one culture to another

Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling by Margaret Read MacDonald, Jennifer MacDonald Whitman and Nathaniel Forrest Whitman (Oct 7, 2013) (Brand new update of her old one– deals with common core. My review of it will be coming in my blog

Three-Minute Tales by Margaret Read MacDonald (Dec 15, 2005) great for source for student telling

Thirty Three Multi-Cultural Stories to Tell by Pleasant DeSpain , great for student telling resource

Cinderella Tales, —multi-cultural versions of many stories can be found on:

Same can be done to find Rumplestiltskin, Beauties and the Beast, Tom Thumb and others. Oryx Press used to publish volumes on these. Can be found online in used books

Favorite Folktales from Around the World edited by Jane Yolen

Animal Folktales from Around the World Kathleen Arnott (out of print, but you can find it on Amazon)

Aesop–Many Versions–ancient Greek wisdom in our culture today. Short versions are great for student telling. Nice to see how ancient Greek ideas flow into ours. Have some students tell from other wisdom traditions-Nasreddin Hodja Tales are good for this as well.

World Folktales by Clarkson and Cross

Improving Your Storytelling by Doug Lipman

Past into Present by Stacy Roth (best book I’ve found on creating a costumed character)

Fair is Fair by Sharon Creedon–an excellent collection of stories on the theme of justice. I find this a great one for conversation starting–can easily flow  into anti-bullying exercises and conversations

Of course, the entire 398 section is a gold mine of story!





One response to “Friday’s Presentation

  1. This sounds really good, Joan. I’m sure the audience got a lot out of it.


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