Teaching Storytelling for the Classroom – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Teaching Storytelling for the Classroom

As the featured storyteller and keynote guest at the Texas Summer Storytelling Conference, Professor of Education Charlie Temple shared ways he and his colleagues have used storytelling in critical thinking and civic education projects around the world for the past 20 years.

The conference is the annual meeting of the Tejas Storytelling Association, a non-profit dedicated to fostering an appreciation of storytelling as oral tradition, performing art and educational tool.

Temple, who joined the HWS faculty in 1982, is a storyteller, folk musician, and children’s author. With Canadian literacy organization CODE, Temple helps produce indigenous children’s literature in Liberia, Tanzania and Sierra Leone. Through support from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, he has worked to promote critical thinking in schools in Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, and many countries in Africa. He has presented at previous Tejas Storytelling Association events and the National Storytelling Network’s annual conference, among others.

In his keynote address this summer, “Bridging Our Differences, Embracing Our Diversity,” Temple “wanted to show how to follow a story with a rich discussion to bridge differences,” he explains. “People use storytelling a lot of ways – as a management technique, in social movements, in education. When I do literacy and civic education work overseas, I’ve told stories and followed them with opportunities for the audience to voice their views and debate them politely with others. There’s nothing new about that – storytelling has always been used to provoke discussions that build community. But in the modern storytelling movement in the U.S., with its emphasis on storytelling as a performing art, the discussions are too often missing.”

In the two workshop sessions, Temple showcased teaching techniques for structuring these post-story debates, using a guidebook with literacy and storytelling tools he and his colleagues have developed over the past two decades.

“The audience at this conference was professional storytellers, religious workers, social workers, peace builders and teachers-including one who teaches in a 12-step high school for teenage addicts,” Temple says. “The response to the workshops was terrific. It’s important to have validation from people out in the working world, since I’m teaching a storytelling course on the HWS campus, where students will eventually go out and lead labor unions, work on behalf of women’s rights, join the ministry, do social work, teach and volunteer for the Peace Corps.”

Temple is co-founder and co-chair of the Board of Directors for Critical Thinking International, Inc. He received his B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina, and his M.Ed. in curriculum studies and his Ph.D. in reading education from the University of Virginia. Prior to joining HWS, he also taught at the University of Houston-Victoria.