In December, two Murray elementary schools got to hear national storyteller Donald Davis present his folklore.
Davis, who is considered one of the foremost storytellers in the country, performing at the Smithsonian, National Storytelling Festival and Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, told stories to Longview students on Dec. 10 to inspire them to create and share their own tales.
“Storytelling carries our identity. It tells us who we are, and if we don’t know who our families are, then we’re lost,” Davis said. “So many kids nowadays never hear stories from their families, and they’re missing a whole museum about who they are.”
When Davis tells the stories, he hopes his audience is “drawing pictures in their heads.” Then, he knows they can relate to his story. When students want to tell him about similar experiences, he asks them to wait.
“Telling, drawing or writing about your experience; it’s a story that is trying to come out and then, you too, will be a storyteller,” he said.
Davis, who has been telling stories for 45 years, encouraged students to talk about their experience before they write about it.
“Telling stories is our natural language. Sometimes, we get so worried about using the right words that the story can get lost. This way, they can tell the story simply and as questions are asked, they can add color,” he said.
Before telling his stories to students, Davis met with Longview Elementary teachers to explain how to incorporate storytelling into learning, using oral and written skills.
He gave the schools his DVD, “Make It, Tell It, Write It: A Donald Davis Approach to Unlocking Stories,” along with other teacher resources to help students develop their own five-minute stories.
Fifth-grade teacher Tina Nilsson plans to include a time for storytelling in her curriculum.
“He suggested that we find at least a few minutes to talk to one another, to connect and tell stories. Most of the time, students get stuck on finding ideas, but he has shown us how simple the stories can be. After telling the stories to each other at least three times, then we can work on writing them down,” she said.
Longview plans to participate in the Murray Storytelling Festival in the spring. Last year, each school was invited to send a few students to participate so most schools held their own classroom and schoolwide festivals to select those who would participate.
Longview has enlisted the help of storyteller Janine Nishiguchi to help students prepare for the event.
“We are then going to use this as a springboard to have mini-lessons in classrooms about storytelling and have class and school storytelling competitions,” Principal Chad Sanders said.
Davis also visited with Grant students and teachers on Dec. 17.
Davis’ presentation was free, thanks to funding from the Utah State Legislature and the Utah State Office of Education Professional Outreach Program to Schools. The event was coordinated by Timpanogos Storytelling.
“Oral storytelling is essential to all communication,” Timpanogos Storytelling Executive Director Eliot Wilcox said. “It you can’t communicate effectively, other people can’t understand you, and then they won’t do business with you. This presentation will allow students to learn great writing and oral presentation skills so they can tell a good story. ”
Davis said that the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last September, is amongst his favorite festivals.