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From: “Constance Vidor”
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2017 19:00:13 -0400

Lynn,

I am a school librarian and I tell stories at assemblies in my school several times a year. I have found that I have to “market” myself and compete to get that precious assembly time, even though I am free!

You asked about open ended discussion, so I’ll respond to that.

An approach that has worked well for me is to include open ended discussions within the storytelling. Frankly I would prefer and feel it is a more authentic and magical experience for audiences to experience a story without the interruption of pausing for discussions—but I am finding that my community is more responsive to programs that include a lot of “active involvement” in the form of discussion and students talking. (I think listening is “active!!!!”)

Here is how I do it: I ask teachers to group students in pairs or trios (“buddy groups” and sit with their buddies in the assembly.) It is nice if you can arrange for each buddy group to contain a mix of ages. I have combined 5th and 6th graders with 2nd graders and 1st graders with 4th graders. But you could have any kind of combination.

I tell the story, pausing at certain intervals and asking students to turn to their buddies and discuss possible responses to a question that I pose. “What advice do you think the queen gave to her son?” “How do you think the hero answered this riddle?” and so on. Then I give a few buddy groups an opportunity to share their response with the entire group.

My students really enjoy this and I have heard some wonderful insights from them during the “share” parts of the programs. This approach can be adapted for many kinds of stories and can encourage critical thinking and ethical reflection. For example, you could ask, “Do you think that was a WISE (or KIND or FAIR) choice and why?”

I was inspired to explore this approach by Csenge Zalka, who describes a way to incorporate question-discussion-sharing in one of the stories in her book Tales of Superhuman Powers.

If you decide to try this, let us know how it worked for you. Best of luck!

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