Storytelling Workshop November 2015
Earlier this month I had an opportunity to participate in a storytelling conference led by my friend Ron Green and his partner Carl Emmons of Originateve. Mr. Ron Green approached me a while back and asked if I would join their workshop as a guest speaker. He asked if I could recite Urdu Poetry. This was a great opportunity for me because I had not been formerly asked to speak Urdu publicly, let alone recite poetry for the Colorado Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. The workshop went very well and was well received by the international teaching audience.
More information about COTESOL:
A large part of the interest from our workshop was generated due to the ambiguous nature of it all. Imagine…it was a teaching conference where the format was generally the same in all the workshops. Ours was different. I immediately started with the Urdu poetry and both Carl and Ron began playing live music. They lit a candle, dimmed the lights and this summarily changed the ambiance of the room. Urdu is not a language most people in Denver are familiar with. After I was finished with the poem, Carl sang a song in Spanish, and Ron concluded with a high interest story told in English – The Three Languages, a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
As suggested by Ron Green, the Urdu spoken word had not been explained or translated for audience members. However, after the workshop participants resonated with it in their own way. They liked our surprising presentation style. Some of them tried to guess the meaning. They were excited! The beauty of ambiguity provides a graceful means of conveyance.
The Beauty of Ambiguity: I didn’t need to translate the poem to anyone, not even the presenters of the workshop – Ron and Carl. It resonated with everyone the way it was supposed to. This is the beauty of art.
Storytelling in Casa Tolteca
I met Ron Green last year at Escuela Tlatelolco, where I teach Montessori 1st-3rd grade. He taught Indigenous Storytelling to my students. When Ron Green taught in my classroom last year, he spoke much about how ambiguity causes a higher level of critical thinking among students. I can relate to this as an Artist, and as a Montessori teacher as well. We leave a lot up to the student or recipient, and gauge our teaching based on student’s level of enthusiasm or inspiration.
When Ron Green taught storytelling to my 1st-3rd grade students last year, I watched them transform from restless children with short attention spans when storytelling first began, into highly attentive students who became great audience members! Towards the end of the year, they were able to pay attention to stories for over an hour. I believe that storytelling speaks much to the current culture that inadvertently promotes short attention span – through technology, commuting instead of walking or biking, television, video games, etc.
Upon first glance this was the old fashioned sort of storytelling you may see at a library, with music. The content was highly imaginative and captivating. The students learned all about their indigenous roots as well as indigenous cultures around the world by quietly listening.
Students Becoming Writers Before Reading
One thing that profoundly stood out during storytelling class, was observing one student in particular who had struggled with learning to read in conventional ways. Due to the high interest stories, this student began drawing the images of what he heard. He then exaggerated those images into his own creations. Over time he asked me how to spell certain words, and learned reading through his own writing! It was wonderful, and displayed the self-advocating power that unique learners have; in this case, finding creative ways to acquire knowledge and improve an important skill – reading and literacy. Today that student feels comfortable reading and has gorgeous cursive handwriting, which looks like beautiful art work.
As for the Urdu Poetry challenge, it was such a great experience for me, I have decided to incorporate into Raven Speaks Performance Art! Because I haven’t spoken much Urdu in the last several years, and was more of a listener of Urdu within my extended family, it proved to be a great way to get reacquainted with my heritage. I have always planned to write song lyrics in Urdu, so here’s the segue for that. I am so grateful for this opportunity, am excited to relearn this beautiful spoken language, and share it with others through performance art!
Raven Speaks Performance Art link:
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