Author: Kristin Demchuk


"To be a person is to have a story. More than that it is to be a story"[1]
John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
"If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. And here I make a rule—a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last."[2]
John Steinbeck

What is Storytelling?

The National Storytelling Network defines storytelling as:
the art of using language, vocalization, and/or physical movement and gesture to reveal the elements and images of a story to a specific, live audience. A central, unique aspect of storytelling is its reliance on the audience to develop specific visual imagery detail to complete and co-create the story.[3]

An Oral Tradition
The earliest forms of storytelling were oral and were often passed down and retold with each narrator adding their own voice, expressions, gestures and adaptations. Before the invention of the printing press, stories were often committed to memory and many ancient peoples used them as a way of explaining the world and defining their worldview. Check out an online exhibit by the Canadian Museum of Civilization where you can learn about the oral storytelling tradition of the First Peoples of Canada.//

Storytellers: In Research and Practice


Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was a famous writer who explored ideas of storytelling and mythology. This Interview with him discusses the term mythology and explores the central figure of the hero within various mythologies and stories.


Native American Authors the tradition of Native-American/Canadian storytelling does not lie within Western culture's form of authorship. There are many great contemporary writers/authors/storytellers that can be accessed through the Native Wiki
Louise Erdrich is a contemporary author who's novel Love Medicineis a series of short narratives, each told from the perspective of a different character, and moving backwards and forward in time through every decade between the 1930’s and the present day, the book told the stories of several families living near each other on a North Dakota Anishinaabe reservation and is written in the Native Oral Tradition.Thomas King is an Native-Canadian author who weaves native oral storytelling into contemporary narrative. King is a member of the Order of Canada and professor at the University of Guelph. His writings can also be found on the CBC radio program Dead Dog Cafe.N. Scott Momaday is a Native-American Pulitzer Prize winner and distinguished Native-American Literature critic. He has also been featured in a PBS documentary concerning the Battle of the Little Bighorn.James Welch (1940-2003) was an award winning U.S. author and poet who uses Native storytelling techniques to integrate Native history into his novels.

Philosophical and Political

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was a political thinker who weaved storytelling into her practice as a way to illuminate the horrors of
Nazism and Stalinism: "Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it"[4] Her most famous work The Human Condition is a heavily studied philosophical work on the personal and political experiences of her times.
Anne Frank (1929-1945) Famous for her diary written during 2 years of hiding during the holocaust. Anne Frank also wrote many short stories, fairy tales and the beginning of a novel. A great resource is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Official Anne Frank House Website
Utah Phillips (1935-2008) was a folk-singer and storyteller who sung about labor unions. He was a singer of and for the Industrial workers of the world. His stories can be accessed through this online archive The Long Memory//

Radio / Cultural Entertainment

Ira Glass is an American broadcaster who's radio and television broadcast show This American Life has won all the major broadcasting awards for public radio and is one of the most popular podcasts in the country. Each episode has a theme and a variety of stories on that theme, most of them true stories of everyday people, though not always. Some of these episodes would be great for your class. Ira Glass discusses Storytelling and how NOT to do what you have been taught in highschool

The rest of this series can be found here
Part 2 Looking for Stories and Trying Stuff OutPart 3 On Good Taste and DisappointmentPart 4 Common Pitfalls for Beginners
Stuart McLean is one of Canada's most popular storytellers. His broadcast show The Vinyl Cafe can be listened to on CBC radio and podcasts can be downloaded through the website. Jonathan Goldsteincurrently hosts the CBC radio broadcast Wiretap. His show offers the art of storytelling through part conversation, part monologue, part real experience and part imagination. Goldstein has published several books and many articles and has received numerous awards for comedic broadcasting and writing. Podcasts may be downloaded on the website.Tim Robbins the actor has a debut album all about storytelling where he aims to tell his stories written over the past 27 years through music and film. Check out this interview on the BBC NEWStimrobbins.jpgexternal image moz-screenshot.png

Articles / Resources

BBC Storytelling: Benefits and Tips A short article, adapted from a workshop by Paula Stoyle, British Council, Jordan, listing neat bullet points of benefits: What can storytelling offer?, Storytelling and intercultural understanding, Other benefits of using storytelling in the classroom, Commonalities of cultures around the world, Performance techniques.


Taken from a University of Houston Research Group on Educational uses of Digital Storytelling
For greater depth also check out Effective Storytelling a Beginner's Manual

AL Fowler's Blogspot A member of the Storyteller Society of Canada who has a great up to date blog with all sorts of storytelling ideas and antidotes. Ottawa Storytellers' Festival 2010check out their website for more information
Ottawa Storytelling Festival
The Teaching and Learning for Peace Foundation is a non-profit organization which promotes peace-building through storytelling processes. Their website has many published stories which would be great for global learning lessons.The Storytellers of Canada is an organization for maintaining the oral tradition of storytelling in Canada. Their website has a directory listing of local storytellers, events and great teaching resources.

Journals and Magazines

Storytelling, Self,Society. An interdisciplinary Journal of Storytelling Studies. The full journal articles are available by accessing your account through the UOttawa Library e-journals catalogue

Believer A monthly magazine focusing on writers and lengthy interviews. Always well crafted and entertaining, never mainstream.believer

StorytellingCritical and theoretically published articles from the classics of Ray Bradbury to Stanley Kubrik. Available through Literature Online or by accessing your UOttawa Library e-journals catalogue

Oral Tradition Online and open access journal devoted to the comparative studies of worldwide literatures, folklore, anthropology and technology. Make sure to check out the Pathways Project which is an illustration project between oral traditions and the internet. The Moth is a not-for-profit storytelling organization in New York. Tons of resources here and stories available online from well-known authors, comedians, filmakers etc. There is also a radio program, youth outreach program and much more.

http://www.mcsweeneys.netThe RaconteurThis is a really good journal and teaching resource published by the Storytellers of Canada. Easy access to past an recent issues. Free to download.

Lesson Tools

Storytelling Ideas and Lesson Plans Quick and easy ideas and suggestions for activities by Heather Forest.
Creating eBooks with Powerpoint Check out this site on Digital Technology where students and teachers can follow a tutorial to make their own eBook
Collaborative Storytelling with online artwork. Make sure to check out the section for teachers and learn how to create a free class account.//
  1. ^ Kenyon, G. M. & William, L. R. (1997). Restorying our lives: Personal growth through autobiographical
    reflection. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  2. ^
  3. ^ //

    Barry, McWilliams. "The Art of Storytelling." N.p., 2002. Web. 28 Sep 2010. .
  4. ^ //Arendt, Hannah. "Wisdom on Demand." N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sep 2010. .