Roland B. Vendeland

Warmth, wisdom, and wit.

Roland B. Vendeland

Painless Lessons Through Storytelling

An attorney who does his own television commercials recently told me that his most important educational experience was his participation on his college debate team. From debate, he gained the confidence needed to appear in court and on television.

Sidney Harris, a syndicated newspaper columnist, has often found himself writing articles about interesting tidbits that he discovered while searching for totally different information.

These examples illustrate how one process often leads to the acquisition of another beneficial skill. Similarly, I discovered that, while teaching storytelling techniques to children and adults, the process of learning stories for retelling enabled these individuals to acquire other skills.

These skills include:

In addition, the skills acquired from storytelling can also be beneficial during a job-search campaign and in the workplace. Storytelling can help individuals:

These are my recommended steps for one to become a storyteller and incidentally, to acquire the listed transferable skills. Select stories that are available in book form, on videotape, and on audiocassette. You will need to find stories that are available on all three formats. If you cannot find a version of a story on audiocassette, you can use the videotape and simply turn away from the television screen for this portion of the exercise.

  1. Select a story to retell.
  2. Listen to the entire audiotape of the story.
  3. Write the story in phrases without reference to the book or tape.
  4. Read the same story from the book.
  5. Fill in "missing" phrases without reference to the book or tape.
  6. Retell the story to classmates using phrases.
  7. Revise the story until it "makes sense."
  8. Reduce your phrases to ten phrases.
  9. Retell story using the ten phrases.
  10. Reduce ten phrases to ten terms.
  11. Retell the story using the ten terms.
  12. Have classmates critique your story content.
  13. Retell the story without use of notes.
  14. Watch the video of the story.
  15. Discuss significant discrepancies between your story and the video version.

Sample Exercise
Here is an example ofphrase reduction for the story The World Gets Wisdom:

Reduction #1

  1. Sky god gave spider all wisdom in the world.
  2. Spider decided to keep wisdom for self.
  3. Placed wisdom in clay pot.
  4. Tied pot around neck.
  5. Climbed silk cotton tree to hide pot.
  6. Slid down tree.
  7. Climbed back up tree.
  8. Slopped sown tree a second time.
  9. Attempted to climb tree again.
  10. Son Kuma suggested he place the pot on his back.
  11. Spider became angry.
  12. Spider broke pot.
  13. Wisdom spread.
  14. People fathered wisdom.
  15. Plenty for you and plenty for me.

Reduction #2

  1. Sky god gave spider all wisdom in world.
  2. Spider hoarded wisdom in clay pot.
  3. Tied pot around neck.
  4. Climbed silk cotton tree to hide pot.
  5. Son Kuma called out to put pot on back.
  6. Spider became angry.
  7. Spider broke pot.
  8. Wisdom spread.
  9. People gathered wisdom.
  10. Plenty for you and plenty for me.

Reduction #3

  1. Sky god
  2. Spider hoarded
  3. Neck
  4. Tree
  5. Kuma
  6. Angry
  7. Broke pot
  8. Spread
  9. Gathered
  10. Plenty

Now that you have the story content down pat, practice a distinctive style (phrasing, emphasis, and humor) and delivery (voice modulation, eye contact, and gestures).

Repeat the process with a dozen stories. You are now a storyteller. You are also a better listener, an improved reader, and a more relaxed presenter.