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Sandy Journal

Storyteller engages Bell View students, inspires them to write, tell stories themselves

May 27, 2020 12:52PM ● By Julie Slama

Professional storyteller Donald Davis tells students his stories and encourages them to tell their own. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“Have you ever been on a ride you wish you hadn’t been on? Have you ever done a science project on your little brother? Anyone do anything you thought your momma didn’t know about to later find out she did?”

Arms shot up, hands waving; students wanting to tell their stories.

“Everyone has a story,” said professional storyteller Donald Davis, who has been part of Timpanogos Storytelling Festival since its inception 31 years ago. “So, when your teacher asks you to write a story, you can’t say ‘I don’t know what to write about.’”

As part of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, Davis travels to area elementary schools, sharing his own stories, and inspiring youngsters to write and tell theirs.

“I want them to discover they have stories—stories they can write about and tell. It’s the best thing, when little kids realize they have stories,” he said. “Everything works through story—how we learn history, how we remember and solve math, who we are, who our family is—and from there, kids learn to communicate.”

Davis began the visit with a teacher workshop where he encouraged teachers to share stories that may remind their students of something similar, they may have experienced. He also said when students write it down, it helps their written communication. He said from there, students can build their memory to tell the story.

Bell View Achievement Coach Rebekah Ames said modeling storytelling is a good way to get students interested in writing and sharing their stories.

“He encouraged teachers to have students both tell their stories in writing and verbally—that storytelling can be part of the curriculum,” she said. “Parents, too, can model storytelling.”

School Psychologist Danielle Rigby said that it can be as simple as when parents share about what happened to them at work so their kids may also follow that lead and open up about what happened to them instead of just asking ‘What happened at school?’”

“It doesn’t have to be a story,” she said. “It can start just sitting there at the dinner table, sharing.”

The process was modeled by Davis as he told students several stories of his childhood. Then he posed questions after—to which, students wanted to share about a similar experience.

For example, in one story, he shared that his dad got his brother and himself a swing set, only his dad didn’t get set up immediately. At the end of the story, he asked, “Anyone have a dad who almost never gets the project done?”

As students nodded and raised their hands to tell about their dads, Davis told them to picture it in their head, remember it and write it down to tell about it later. Then, they could share it with each other.

Ames said through his stories, Davis motivated students.

“The students are so engaged, listening to his stories. They’re just mesmerized and now, they are wanting to tell theirs,” she said.

Principal Chanci Loran said that his message is appreciated.

“I love that he told them that everyone has a story to tell, to experience; and the opportunity to be a storyteller, be the author of their own story,” she said. “It encourages our students to expand and use their vocabulary, to write, to think, to be creative in another way.”