The stories of our lives are both the things that happen to us as well as the things that we make happen around us. What life story are you creating for yourself?

storytellingThe school year is full of landmark days that acknowledge important historical moments and people.  These days, like the Dr. King Holiday or International Women’s Day and even months, like Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month offer us valuable opportunities to learn more about our culture and history.

However, there are also important events taking place close to home and related to your particular school that you may want to acknowledge and celebrate with a special event.

Perhaps your school has an important anniversary coming up, a beloved teacher is retiring, or some leaders in your neighborhood are opening a new community center.  Taking the time to create a commemorative local event allows your students to celebrate their community while gaining a deeper connection to the individuals who make it unique. 

Consider using some of the ideas below for using stories as the foundation for creating a commemorative or celebratory event.  This RaceBridges for Schools website is full of stories and lesson plans about using Storytelling in the classroom that will help along the way.

 

These ideas are geared to get you started in planning a commemorative event for your classroom or school. They can can be adapted and enhanced to suit the needs of your class or organization.

(1)  First, identify the date, occasion, community place or person that you will be commemorating.  The idea may come from your students or perhaps you already have something in mind.

(2)  Form small working groups and ask students to brainstorm for ten minutes to list everything they already know about the subject.  Remind your students when brainstorming that everyone’s voice is important and no judgment is allowed.

(3)  When time is up, ask a representative from each group to present the group’s ideas and gather them on the board or on big sheets of paper so everyone can see.

Ask the entire class to add ideas to the big list along the lines of:

  • Feelings that people might have about the subject;
  • The historical importance of this event;
  • Who will be or has already been affected by the event.

 

Next, look at all of the lists together and ask your students the following questions:

  • Which ideas are the most interesting to you?
  • What draws you in and makes you curious?
  • What do you want to know more about?

 

4)  The ideas that generate your students’ curiosity could be the driving ideas for your event.  Now, turn these main points of interest into questions and invitations for stories.

For example, if you are celebrating the school founding, students might decide to focus on how contemporary students still reflect the founding values.  They might compose an invitation for other students like, “Tell me a story about a time when you acted like a leader”.

 

(5)  Or, as another example, if you are examining the impact of the new community center, compose a story invitation for parents and friends like “Tell me a story about an important life lesson you learned from someone in our community”.

Now, with your story invitations to lead the way, your students can begin to tell their own stories or interview others.  They could also use these story invitations as prompts to create drawings, paintings, personal essays, or a series of photographs.

(6)  Goals

Have your students set some goals for a successful event.

Ask them to compose one-sentence statements of what they hope will be accomplished by their event.

… “I hope people will be proud of their school”.

… “I hope I understand the community better”.

… “I want everyone to feel included in our school”.

Students can read these aloud to the class or post them on a bulletin board.

You could also save this step for after you’ve completed the event as collective reflections.  These might be:

… “Yes, we can learn from the past for today.”

… “This (event) (person) needs to be remembered and cherished.”

… “We all have roots”

 

Example of Stories woven around events:

This link http://education.goodmantheatre.org/opensystemsonwbez/ will take you to a project description and audio file of a story-based play commemorating five years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Gulf Coast.  The project was developed through student research and writing in collaboration with a teaching artist at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, Chicago.   This project can serve as an example of the type of performance event you could create with your own students.

 

Read more Ideas for celebrating Special Events in your school or group in next week’s blog-text.

 

Explore the many ideas for nurturing stories and storytelling in your school or class by considering our free Resource The Power of Storytelling : 7 Reasons to Incorporate Stories in Your Classroom