11/29/2012 - It's Elementary
Each week, I work with Nan Wilkinson’s 5th & 6th grade class at Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center – Phoenix, AZ

The Best Gig in the World
Some of you have asked how this classroom gig got started, and do I have any "lesson plans" or specific goals. I had no stated goals at the beginning, except to tell stories and teach storytelling.

Everything else sort of unfolded.
The teacher, Nan, (Nancy Shaw Wilkinson) had previously had Sandy Oglesby come to the class. Sandy is a great teller and great with kids and taught them a lot about telling. Nan had put out a call for other tellers to come and tell to the class. As I love working with kids, I jumped at it! Nan liked what I did and asked if I could come back. It evolved into a weekly thing, once a week for 45 minutes each time. I do not get paid, but I love doing it. Nan and I have just recently made plans to have a Kids' Concert in the new year.
It should be noted that Nan is a very special teacher in a very special school. She brings Cody, her black Labrador to class each day. He walks around the class, the kids take care of him. He is like a mascot and very calming for the kids. Nan is so innovative and accepting of ideas, and we are quite often on the same wavelength in class. 
I love teaching. I have taught many subjects to adults (dance, acting, psychodrama, mediation, storytelling). My style is much like the way I used to do therapy, and do coaching now; lots of Q&A and let the answers (the story) take us where we need to go. I also “trust the process” that whatever I may do, if I do it with focus, spontaneity, creativity and integrity, over time, learning will happen (different for each individual).
I do not address any "core curriculum" needs, but I know that many schools require it, especially if I am to get paid, so I am working on that. What I do in the class is simply tell stories. I also teach/discuss the elements of storytelling, and the kids get up and tell. They get appreciations, and are asked if they are willing to answer questions, and/or get suggestions. I use a model (read the article) similar to Doug Lipman’s, and when the kids offer suggestions, I have them use Karen Langford Chace’s, “I wonder if...” phrase.
I usually work spontaneously, just letting things happen. Occasionally, I will come with a plan…of sorts. Most often, I will see or hear what the kids are learning and pick a story or exercise that I think will fit. They had planted some small trees one morning, so I told Mikku and the Trees. One time they were dealing with fractions and I told The Eighteenth Camel, a story that deals with attempting to divide up seventeen camels.
I will often do various exercises. I love, and the kids always ask for, Fortunately/Unfortunately. Sometimes we will merely go around the room and Build a Story one sentence at a time. Occasionally, I will bring in different objects and go around the room asking the students to tell us what the object is, where it came from, what it does or how it is significant. A golden candle was "Lit for only the most sacred ceremonies." or "Belonged to King Midas." A small, pink tinted quartz was, "The Rose Quartz, If you hold it, you must always tell the truth. If you do not, it will glow brightly and show that you are lying."
There have been times when I did use a specific plan, like the time we used a photo exercise (read the article) to craft a story, while studying the Colonial era. Or the time we collectively crafted a math story when they were studying percentages, fractions and decimals.
Members of the Percent family went to the carnival and had to find their relatives, the fractions and the decimals. There were 100 people in the Percent family, so if 20 siblings went to the carnival, 20% of the Percent family were there. They had to find their cousins, the Fractions, who were acrobats and always used the least number of people in their family (lowest common denominator). So they found 1 Fraction sister standing on the shoulders of 5 of her brothers (1/5). While she was high in the air, she could see and point to the Decimal family, where Papa Point stands in front of the family who were juggling 2 balls (.2).
So, that's my story, with new chapters happening every week. The kids are fantastic, and have crafted some incredible stories. They come up with questions that challenge me, and answers that amaze me every day. And sometimes, when I arrive in class, they cheer as if I were a rock star.
It's the best gig in the world!

©Mark Goldman 2012

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For more information contact Mark Goldman - 602-390-3858 - Mark@Storytellermark.com


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