"Children make you want to start life over."
Storytelling is a rich traditional method of sharing knowledge and cultural values. It is a common and revered practice that African cultures have utilized for many generations and one that we can enjoy, learn from, and use effectively ourselves. Storytelling is especially useful in education programs and for encouraging behavioral change. It is an animation method enjoyed by people of all ages.
ELEMENTS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN DEVELOPING YOUR OWN STORY
A good story has a clear and focused objective, one that listeners would have no trouble identifying as the main point by the end of its telling.
Use only one or two main characters that the audience will remember and identify with. Their actions in the story relate directly to the healthful and harmful behaviors that form the objective of the story. (To avoid possible embarrassment, be careful not to use real names or model characters too closely to actual people in the village).
Take time to learn the unique storytelling style of your area. For instance, sometimes a specific phrase is used to start or end a story. Without it you may be ineffectual. Use names, locations, foods and activities that are recognizable to your specific area. Integrating local proverbs into your story is always appreciated and can be extremely effective in getting your point across. Be sure that you are using the proverbs correctly.
Avoid using judgmental words in describing your characters or their behavior. You don't want to say something like, "That foolish man put a mud pack on his guinea worm sore." Simply describe the behavior and let the listener come to her/his own conclusions.
Consider these two possibilities: First, present two characters behaving differently (i.e. one drinking straight from the pond, the other filtering water). Encourage listeners to discuss the behaviors; which is better and why? Second, lead up to a point where your character must make a decision about conflicting messages she or he has received in the course of the story. Listeners could suggest possible resolutions while justifying their choices, promoting more audience participation, and reinforcing existing knowledge of the subject.
A good story will flow with some logical sequence. You might begin by setting the stage, establishing the problem or main point, introducing main characters, etc. The middle section of the story contains the action where characters face the problem/main point. By the end of the story a decision may have been made, a problem solved, or a solution proposed. In any case, the main point of the story should be clear to the listeners.
The storyteller should never conclude by telling the audience exactly what they should have learned from the story. Encourage listeners to think about the story and come to their own conclusions. Questions at the end help listeners focus on main points and reinforce what they have just learned.
ADAPTING THE STORY:
In some cases, a story can be acted out or performed by community members. This is a good way to test their understanding and acceptance of the main points and at the same time reinforce the learning of those points.
"People create stories create people; or rather stories create people create stories."
Some possible scenarios:
• Immediately after the reading and discussion of the story, simply ask for volunteers to play out the story. This would be very spontaneous and impromptu on their part but could be fun and effective.
• If you have some time after the reading and discussion of the story, ask for volunteers to play it out, give them some time to prepare (maybe 15 minutes) and then have them come back to present to the group.
• If you are a regular visitor to this village, you could ask for volunteers from the community to play the roles and schedule the presentation for your next visit (within a few days would be best). Or you could suggest that the participants come up with their own stories, which they can present at your next visit (This is often done when working with school children).
This lesson requires preparation time for the Trainees. If you don't have a solid block of time to invest in one day, the preparation and presentation of stories (Steps 4 & 5) could be given as a homework assignment for the next day. (Of course, the subject proposed here is guinea worm, but you can easily design the stories to fit the needs of your particular sector.)
• To provide Trainees an opportunity to develop skills as storytellers.
• To provide Trainees with accurate information about the life cycle, transmission, prevention, and treatment of guinea worm disease.
• Trainees will have developed and presented a story to be used as an animation technique.
• Trainees will be able to describe the life cycle, transmission, and prevention of guinea worm.
1. Begin by reviewing basic knowledge concerning guinea worm disease. (Trainees should have read the fact sheet on guinea worm by now.) Pose questions that solicit general information about guinea worm disease. ( e.g., How do you know when someone has guinea worm? What traditional beliefs about guinea worm have you heard about? Can someone briefly de scribe the transmission cycle?)
2. Ask the Trainees to sit back and listen to a story about one particular village that has guinea worm. (Read the sample story.) Ask the Trainees if they learned anything from listening. Did it reinforce knowledge they already had? Did they enjoy hearing a story? Do they think storytelling is an effective method of getting a point across?
3. Ask Trainees to describe a good story. What elements are necessary? List the elements they cite on flip chart paper. Complete their responses with those listed on the handout "Tell Me a Story" included in this lesson plan. If possible, make copies of the handout for all participants.
4. Form three or four groups of Trainees to work together developing a story to be used as an educational session. Each group should have a main point assigned to them (e.g., guinea worm life cycle, transmission, prevention, treatment). Instruct Trainees to develop two or three discussion questions related to their story. Remind Trainees to make their stories culturally appropriate.
Be sure to allow enough time for small groups to work together. It some times takes a while to get the story going. Providing too little time can be frustrating and will not produce useful material.
5. Have each small group presents its story and discussion questions to the large group. Individual presentations should not exceed 15 minutes. So licit feedback from the large group on the effectiveness of each story. Revisions could be made where necessary and copies of stories could be distributed to Trainees for use in the field. (Once at post, Trainees could read the stories to their families or counterparts to get suggestions on how to integrate appropriate cultural details before presenting to the village population.)