Storytelling is the most ancient method of teaching.

Fran's "VILLAGE STORYTELLING" residencies involve students in oral retelling, creative dramatics, story creation, critical thinking, and much more.

Fran and a boy watch another boy telling a story in a classroom

A typical residency (see detailed outline below) includes:

  • Assemblies for all students
  • Training the "target group" as storytellers
  • Multicultural world tales and curriculum integrated follow-up activities for other classes
  • At least one teacher workshop
  • Optional: performance and/or workshop for parents, community members


"It's wonderful for self-esteem. I've never seen those guys feel so good about themselves!" -- Bartlesville OK.


"She was nice, kind, patient, polite. If we made mistakes she was nice in correcting us."   "I learned how to make people laugh. I've never done that so well in my life."


Builds Self-Esteem & Community Among Students

In our ancestors’ villages, storytelling happened in small, informal groups of people who knew each other -- and often already knew the stories. Adults swapped yarns while they worked An older child entertained young neighbors. A village elder instructed children and adults alike through story. The tales they told were important. The relationships between the people were at least as important. Stage “performance” was not important at all.

These traditions are my models for “village” storytelling. Most people rarely need to perform on stage, and have a desperate fear of public speaking. I have found, in years of training adults and young folks as storytellers, that they learn easier and faster when we work in a small-group format, sitting down with a circle of listeners. We recreate the traditional setting for storytelling in our ancestors’ villages.

Under these circumstances, even reluctant tellers relax and find their storytelling voices. The intimacy and informality inspire fanciful flights of intonation and gesture. Self-esteem blossoms in these exercises, as students discover skills they didn’t dream they possess. The self-esteem is further enhanced by rewards of genuine, earned admiration (adoration!) from younger listeners, who beg for more stories.

When practiced student Tellers carry their stories to younger classrooms, they also form bonds between the age groups. As in our ancestors’ villages, children of different ages get to know one another. A warm community spirit is fostered, and can be further developed by other activities where the older and younger “Buddy” classes work together.

The long-term benefits to students depend on long-term follow-through. I can begin the process, by modelling a variety of storytelling styles and by teaching students (and their teachers) how to go about learning to tell stories. But the benefits of self-esteem and community can only grow from continued practice and the sharing of stories with younger students, which happens after I leave.


Typically, each school selects from two to four classes who will train with me daily during the residency (“Tellers”). Usually 4th or 5th graders are selected, but I have had wonderful results with students as young as 2nd grade. The most important criterion is their teachers’ willingness to continue the project after I leave.

Each Teller class will later pair with a younger class, with whom they will share their stories: their “Buddies.”


  • Monday: Assembly for grades 3-5 (includes Tellers): “A Sampler of Storytelling Styles” 45 minute training with each “Teller” class:
    Review of assembly stories. Over-view of the residency. How to learn stories. 
    Practice a simple tale with partner. How to practice at home.  
  • Tuesday: 45 minute training with each “Teller” class:
    Review of home practice. Learn a second story. 
    Learn “positive coaching” techniques with partners.
    After-school workshop with teachers of the “Teller” and “Buddy” groups (all others welcome): “Storytelling: how to do it, how to teach it.”
    Handouts: summary of methods & follow-through. Resource list.  
  • Wednesday: Assembly for grades K-2, with “Teller” classes attending to observe.
    45 minute training with each “Teller” class:
    Review of assembly stories. Discuss “Buddies’” behavior and story preferences. 
    Practice a third story, with coaching. How to add more sound and motion to stories.  
  • Thursday: 45 minute training with each “Teller” class:
    Review all stories covered so far. Practice self-chosen story, with coaching. Discuss continuing the project: “Village” format, how to find/write more stories, how to practice & coach each other.

REMAINING UNITS each day may be:

  • a mini-assembly for afternoon kindergarten a mini-assembly of stories on a special theme for a particular grade/group additional teacher workshops: curriculum enrichment through storytelling; multicultural education; reading/writing through storytelling; etc.
  • parent/patron “informance” (evening show with residency explanation) parent/patron workshop on Telling Family Stories closing assembly for older students
  • Assemblies (3-5th grade 40-55 min; K-1 30-45 min) demonstrate a variety of storytelling styles, including music, audience participation etc as appropriate.

Parents & patrons are invited to attend all sessions.

HOMEWORK (retell on your own, outside school). An Artist-in-residence can’t assign homework, but I hope we can urge families to support this project by actively encouraging student Tellers, by listening, and even by telling stories of their own! I can provide a master copy of a “letter to parents” for students to take home, explaining our project and the importance of practicing outside of the structured workshop situation.

Materials I send in advance (master copies)

  • Letter to parents of “Teller” students (see above).
  • Outline of lesson plans for “Teller” teachers, including how to continue the project afterwards.
  • Outline for “Buddy” teachers.
  • Handouts for teacher workshop(s), parent workshop.
  • Storytelling resources list.