Teaching Storytelling: Example Assignments

In a short paper for the journal Education for Information, called "Storytelling as Non-Textual Pedagogy," I describe some of my course themes, related assignments, and assessments for those assignments. This blog post offers a quick look at three of the assignments for my storytelling courses to augment that forthcoming paper.

Three assignments:
1. Future File assignment
2. Storytelling in Professions paper
3. Storytelling apps posting

1. Future File assignment

Your future file is a long-term tool for you in your career as a storyteller. During the semester, you should read as many stories as possible from various genres and cultures. Keep a file of those stories you might like to tell, including folktales, picture book texts, personal tales, fairy tales, myths and legends, and selections from contemporary literature. These might be stories you forsee using in the future for library programs, curriculum enrichment, literacy promotion at festivals, or stories that you can’t yet forsee how or where you might use but want to keep. 

Your file may be a simple word document, a blog, wiki, or other database as long as it is easily readable by the instructors. The file should consist of 20 or more entries and be approximately 20-30 pages in length (about one page per entry, 12pt font, single or double-spaced). Each story entry should use the following form:

   --Title of story
   --Source(s) where found (in MLA citation style, which you can find online)
   --Summary of story (one paragraph or a brief outline of story events)
   --Cultural origins information and research: source notes in the text, information in the story, information found in other sources about the story, etc.  How would these cultural origins relate to, limit, or otherwise influence your introduction or telling strategies?
   --Your audience ideas, including your best thoughts on an appropriate age range and best-case audience settings: school, library, museum, etc.  How would variations in the audience composition and location influence your telling of this story?
   --Your adaptation ideas, including notes on what to do/what not to do, voices you might use, choruses for group participation, tone of telling, etc.  How would you take this story and make it your own, stylistically or in terms of content?  Stylistically, what tone would you express through this story?  In terms of content, how is this story meaningful to you, and how might you convey that to the audience?
Excellent future files will:
-include an introduction to the whole file describing your intended audience
-display professional writing (use complete sentences throughout) consisting of complete entries (elements above accurately and thoughtfully given for each entry)
-demonstrate an effort to include variety in your choice of stories in the file, including variety of tone, cultural sources, and age appeal



2. Storytelling in Professions paper

Your goal in this 4-6 page paper (12pt font double-spaced or 1,200-1,800 words, not including references) will be to construct an argument about the uses of storytelling, as a practice in libraries or other information organizations or education institutions.  Your argument will be based on 3-5 published articles (or book chapters) from either scholarly or practice-based literature.  Your initial literature searches might include terms such as "story," "tell," "story time," "digital storytelling," "storyteller," etc.  After doing some initial searching, focus on one practice of storytelling and identify 3-5 articles on this practice.  

Examples of practices include: 
 storytelling in museums; storytelling at national parks or monuments; storytelling in classrooms, libraries, or both); storytelling at the National Storytelling Festival or other festivals; storytelling in business or corporate settings; digital storytelling for urban youth; and professional storytellers' performances.  

Excellent papers will:
-develop an argument about the use of storytelling in the practice of your choice, with a questioning approach toward the articles you selected
-describe and/or compare how storytelling is used/understood in these practices or in the articles you have chosen
-analyze the evidence from your articles as to how/whether storytelling is effective (and whether you agree or have questions about the evidence)


3. Storytelling apps posting

Download and evaluate any storytelling app of your choice.  In your posting, describe this app and evaluate it.  What does this app do, who is its audience, and how does it relate to storytelling?  Does it create a story, support storytelling, or inspire creativity in some way?  Is it effective, and why or why not?