In connection with the EU project Tales, the master student Ingeborg and I are trying out the concept of ”storytelling circle” or ”storycircle” and today we had our first trial. This took place in a upper secondary school, in «construction and building» – do you not see that we have a challenge? Yes, that’s right. It was very challenging, yet we managed to some extent to try it out. The purpose was to tell from Norse mythology and in between should there were exercises that hopefully would make them tell. We planned that I should tell a long story with breaks, it was soon clearly that this I could forget. They dropped out of the story already in the beginning.
The day started with a meeting with a substitute teacher and a kind of warning against the students we were going to work with. The students have high absenteeism and many had this program as third choice, ie a non-motivated group. Furthermore, several had writing – and reading difficulties.
When we arrived the room, a large ”construction room”, the room was already made ready with 30 chairs in a circle. Eventually the students came, some swearing when they saw the circle and discovered that they were not going to do what they were used to. But they sat down, they moved the chairs, I corrected this and said that the chairs should stand where they stood and this was more or less OK for the students. All the students were boys aged 16, with a few older. Me as a storyteller had to ”be on it” all the time to make sure that noone got room to think about anything but what we were doing.
Here is the scheme that we managed to implement:
- Presentation – this went smoothly.
- Telling of the ”ting” in the medival time and the character Hrolf Gange and telling the creation myth in Norse mythology. Here they fell off, this was completely beyond many people’s frame of reference.
After that I forgot completely the retelling and went straight to their presentation.
- They gave their name and added an unimportant information about themselves. All said something and we got info such as: «I am a foreigner» or «I’m bored» or on what kind of clothes they wore.
- Heiti: They should replace their name with a statement that said something about them like ”I am the one who tell stories.” Everyone said something, but one started with «I’m the one who goes to school»; and most repeated this.
- the story of the name: it looked like they could tell something about their own name, this was done in pairs.
- Dilemma story: Instead of continuing the Norse tale, I chose a dilemma story. Some could argue for a particular choice that should be made at the end of the story.
- Changes in the circle: Everyone was told to switch places, so they did. On the one hand we can say that it’s great that they actually did what was required, but be aware that most exercises always had an ”attachement” of comments from students.
- A key was passed around and everyone said something about where this key led: Like a loft filled with weapons or a garage with a car or an empty room.
- The key and two objects were placed on the floor and now the students should create a relationship between objects. One student had a hint of a story about his grandfather who took part in a war in Syria, while another told a story that was related to the dilemma story mentioned earlier. A third told a story about a girl who got drunk.
10 additional items were placed on the floor and they were asked to select a an object related to their own lives. This they told a partner. Then they should imagine the object in 10 years. Most items were in their short stories thrown.
- Here they were asked to imagine how and when they were about 10 years. And tell this to a partner. One boy said he was a soldier in Afghanistan. Another that he had his own firm in Gambia.
Actually we wanted to run the whole programme in one, but was told that it was essential that they took a break. This was placed here. A boy was standing back to look at the objects and asked where they came from. Several of the items belonged to my grandmother.
12 after the break, I told one ghost story and it was perhaps the highlight in the programme. There was no sound coming from the students.
- I put on the floor patches that were structured into a skeleton of a story. I asked the students to enter the circle and put it together to a structure. First, they were hesitant, but one entered and suddenly there were several who became involved.
- Now the students should create a more comprehensive narrative of the structure and here one young man stood up and placed himself in the middle of the circle and told a long story. He placed weapons and murder at the end of the story, he was a skilled storyteller, something I gave feedback. on But I also said that I personally was not too fond of guns and getting shot in a story. The student was to some extent agree, but he felt that the story needed it. Another student gave a moral to the story: One should rely on their own choices and not listen to everyone else’s opinions.
- Now it was not time for more and I finished with a dilemma story.
After the circle we asked if there were any volunteers who could stay and be interviewed by Ingeborg as a focus group. We got a group of 6 students and they had positive feedback on the program. One said that he felt it was easier to say something in the form we had than in a regular classroom program. We received both acclaim and several came up and pressed our hands after we were finished.