A Storytelling Festival

Reading/Language Arts/Social Studies

This activity encourages students to explore the native cultures of the Americas, to learn some aspects of oral storytelling, and to share their knowledge with others.

What You Need

  • Examples of legends or folktales from the cultures of peoples native to the Americas

What to Do

  1. Introduce students to legends and folktales of native American cultures by reading one to the class. If possible, choose a story that explains some aspect of the culture, such as the origin of a custom, or of the environment, like the existence of a mountain range.

  2. Explain that many of these stories were created by storytellers, who passed them on to others orally, not in writing. Only later were they written down. Tell students that they are going to become oral storytellers themselves. They will chose a story to learn and then present the story as part of a storytelling festival.

  3. Divide students into storytelling teams or, if you prefer, have them form their own groups. Give students time to do research and to choose a story. Tell students that their story should say something important about the culture from which it comes. Remind students that their stories will be performed and that they might want to choose a story that lends itself to a dramatic reading or presentation. (Note: You might want to review the groups' choices.)

  4. The group should study the story and make a plan for how they would like to perform, or "tell," it. For example, students may want to assign different parts of the story to each group member or have one group member act out a part or play an instrument, etc. The group should know the beginning, middle, and end of its story.

  5. Encourage students to be creative about their presentations. Some students may want to add music and props, some may be able to incorporate costumes or rhythmic movements.

  6. Allow enough rehearsal time for each group. Hold the first performances in the classroom. Then discuss with students how to share the storytelling with other classes, or with family and community members.

Teaching Options

  • Tape the presentations and make them available in the school library. You might also share the tape with a class in another community that is studying the same, or a related, theme.

  • If student enthusiasm stays high, suggest that students share their stories with the community by presenting it at a local nursing home, hospital, or the like.

  • Encourage students to think of a landform or custom in their region and to write a "folktale" about it.

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