Deirdre Moore | April 2016

The Art of Storytelling

A number of years ago a good friend introduced me to a literary magazine called The Sun.  It’s a monthly publication filled with black and white photographs, no advertisements, and lots of great stories.  There is one section in particular that is usually the first thing I read as soon as my newest issue arrives. It’s called “Readers Write”.  Each month, there is a different theme and readers send in their personal reflections on that theme. Sometimes with their name and sometimes anonymously, but always with their heart.  I think that’s what draws me particularly to this section of the magazine, the art of storytelling.

Art of storytelling are short –  usually just a few paragraphs – but the stories are real and as i read them, that’s how they resonate. They are honest and vulnerable.  Some are sweet, some are touching, some are provocative, and some are heart-wrenching, but all of them are personal.

Then, just a few years ago, I was driving along and heard a program called The Moth Radio Hour on my public radio station.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  It was just like The Sun magazine’s “Readers Write” section except it featured storytellers of all kinds, some professional and some not, sharing real stories on a particular theme from their own lives.  As The Moth website says, the story must be yours – “not your sister’s and not your best friend’s.”

There is something so incredibly compelling about someone telling a story from their own lives, when it has been framed and crafted to intentionally share something real – a universal truth.  It turns out that it’s not just a radio show, but a program that runs storytelling slams, adjudicated competitions, in lots of big cities in the US and beyond. However, I wondered about the name The Moth.  Curious as to where the name stemmed from, i checked it out.  The founder of The Moth is the novelist and poet George Dawes Green.

The website explains that he and his friends used to sit on a porch in summer evenings, and tell each other stories while moths would come through a hole in the screen toward the light, so they started calling themselves The Moths.  George started the story slams in New York City to honor those summer nights, but the movement has grown to other cities and countries. “Audiences are drawn to the stories, like moths to a flame.”

That’s me, a bona fide moth, but I am not alone.  Storytelling is an ancient art form.  Humans are born storytellers, and today there are so many ways to record and share our stories.  We as educators have the opportunity to ensure that our students keep the art of storytelling in all its forms alive.

We have the ability to be role models for the methods for crafting stories and the reasons for doing so to our students, as well as mentors in guiding students to tell their own stories to the greatest effect.  In a series of articles, I will explore with you ways we can keep the art of storytelling alive in our classrooms, so it remains alive in our world.  Turn on the light, and let the moths come! Start your own art of storytelling now.

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.