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Interactive Storytelling Technique

An Interactive Storytelling Technique helps children think about and prepare for the future while learning the art of storytelling.

Introductory notes by Carol L Steen, Program Co-Chair and Past President Rotary eClub One; Retired Elementary School Teacher

If you are a Rotarian involved in a literacy program, I salute you!

The following article presents ideas for working with all children, but I see it as especially important for those adults working with at-risk youth. Studies of resilient children and young adults have outlined many common factors of these "survivors." Two of them are:

Having a mentor or mentors - A mentor may be someone who is in the youth's life for a short time or an extended time; the important factor is that there is always someone the youth may count on, such as a tutor, coach, teacher, or community worker. Rotarians are in strong positions to provide such mentoring.

Being able to imagine one's self out of the current situation - This is where ideas in this article come into play. "Future Stories" are guided by an adult storyteller. The adult sets time, place, situation, and adds characters. With younger children, these stories remain oral and are interactive between the guide and the child or group of children. But those working with older children and young adults might use the idea of Future Stories for writing assignments, dramatic improvisation, or video production.

The Joy of Being Heard by Youth Using Future Stories

Excerpted from material by
Peter Eldridge

What is a Future Story?

In a "Future Story," we take our current audience and set them in a future time. We have absolute control over the situations our characters find themselves in (since we are making them up). We allow them to interact with friends and enemies of our choosing. The main difference between these stories and any others we might tell children - the name, the character and the reality of who the listener is becomes interwoven with a world that doesn't yet exist. Unlike "role playing" games, the stories we make up are under our control and are based on the real character of the child we know.

What if I'm not good at telling stories?

Many who now tell "future stories" felt inadequate as they began. What they discovered was that because the central characters were the listeners and because all of us are deeply interested in ourselves, the audience loved even their first, feeble attempts. Don't worry that you may forget the plot or the characters as your story develops. As you begin to share these with children, they will remember for you.

Another important point. NOT ALL FUTURE STORIES SHOULD HAVE A MORAL. Just like life, much is simply about fun and adventure. Some stories may involve the resolution of a moral dilemma, but others simply explore the future that may await. If you weave the realities of their character and inclinations into each story with the complications and twists that will naturally occur later in their lives, you will hold their interest in the present while building their competence for what they will face in the future.

What is the age when future stories can be most effective?

As children grow, their attention span and social awareness will grow. Somewhere around 5 6 years of age a child will sit and focus long enough to hear you tell a story with more than a simple plot. From then until the onset of puberty, they will have a fascination with what life will be like in 3 5 years. (Don't tell a 6 year old about getting married, tell him about being 10 and going on a camp out where he sleeps in his own tent for the first time. Where he finds a pocket knife on the trail and what he does with it. Where a bigger boy takes away his football, or the YMCA pool closes just before he gets there. Tell him about how he feels when he first gets back home from this long trip.)

As your children's interest grows, consider stories that are "serial" in nature. Our kids once built a Christian radio station in our town (in a story) because there wasn't one. The oldest was the CEO. The next, the fund-raiser and entertainer. The third born laid the block and built the building. Each has unique gifting and each was given a role that fit.

What are more ideas for stories?

Think about the culture children are entering, and issues they may face. Choices are often limited. How will the child react when pressed into a difficult choice? Remember - situations that are 3 5 years out will have the most appeal.


Rotarian Peter Eldridge is a friend of a Rotary eClub One member. Peter lives in Dillon, Montana.




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