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The Stories of Us Curriculum

Storytelling x LINC Curriculum - Week 1

Objectives:

  • To begin to seed the idea that we all have stories.
  • To map out key moments in our lives, which will serve as fodder for future story-writing.
  • To provide participants an opportunity to share their journey as they experienced it, instead of assuming a journey based on their country of origin, age, race, gender, etc.

Session Flow:

  • Oral Storytelling Circle (Full group / Small group / In partners)
    • Example Prompt: What is a story of your name?
  • My Life As A River Activity (Individual)
  • My Life As A River Shareback (Full group / Small group / In partners)

Activity Templates

  • See My Life as a River description below

Facilitator Notes

  • During the Oral Storytelling Circle, it is useful to have the teacher share their own story in response to the prompt first, as a way of building trust and modelling vulnerability with the students.
  • This session can be framed as laying a foundation for a house before starting to build up.
  • Given that starting to write one’s story can be an intimidating task, this session is designed to map out all the moments one can expand on, without diving into the task of writing out all the details.
  • The initial sessions can bring up comments from students like “I don’t have a story” and “My story is not interesting”. This is normal. This process is designed to show participants that they have a story worth sharing, rather than telling them. As they begin to remember and write the details of their story, and as they share and receive validation from their peers, they will come to recognize the unique value of their story. This shift might happen in the first session, during the last, or anywhere in between.

Activity: My Life as a River

AIMS

  • To encourage participants to think of their whole life as potential material that can be used in creative writing.
  • To provide a metaphorical space in which participants can explore life events at a safe distance.

METHOD

  1. Hand out 11×17 paper to each participant and ensure that they have access to pens, markers, and post-its to aid them in creating their river.
  2. Introduce the idea of imagining one’s life as a river, spend some time explaining how they might unpack the river as a metaphor:
    Rivers are constantly in motion, they move from one place to another, sometimes they move in a straight line and other times their path is winding. They might come from the mountains, be a small stream or a series of rapids, waterfalls and whirlpools. They might travel through forests or cities, through lakes and under bridges, out into the ocean or maybe even flood.
  3. Encourage participants to draw their river in a way that feels true to their experience of life. Invite them to note and/or draw key life experiences along the river banks. The post-it notes can be used to explain certain key points in a bit more detail. Any other decorations or craft supplies that you have at hand can also be used in whatever way the participants would like.
  4. Before inviting participants to draw their rivers, model what an example river – ideally your own – might look like. Modelling in this way helps participants get a better sense of what they are being asked to do, as well as builds trust by sharing a bit of your own story.  Remember that in sharing both ups and downs, positive and negative moments of your life in the example river, you are giving participants permission to do the same.
  5. Once you’ve modelled the example river, give participants 30 minutes to complete the exercise. Give participants a heads-up before the 30 minute mark so that they are able to ease out of the activity.
  6. Invite participants to share their rivers with the rest of the group. Ask questions about the things you are curious about (though don’t push them to say more than they are comfortable with). Encourage a celebratory atmosphere in which everyone’s experience is valid and worthy of attention. A round of applause can go a long way in validating an individual’s experience and encouraging other participants to share in kind.
  7. Conclude the activity by thanking everyone for their participation and explaining that the rivers they’ve created are a vast resource that can be used in the participants’ story-writing process. The experiences that make up their lives are the most fertile ground for possible writing. They can return to the rivers as a source of material many times and in many different ways.

MATERIALS

  • 11×17 paper for each participants
  • Pens, markers, post-its

FACILITATOR TIPS

  • Let participants know that they can start their river whenever they would like (i.e. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from birth). Given that some participants may not want to revisit past traumas or certain life experiences, this gives them the option to start their river at a more hopeful moment in their lives (e.g. when they arrived in Canada). They can also choose to start their rivers from birth and symbolically represent or skip over the parts of their lives that are/were traumatic.
  • After participants have shared their rivers, you can build on this activity by:
    • asking participants where they would like their rivers to go in the future.
    • asking participants to choose one point in their rivers to write about. Give them five or ten minutes to do a free-write around this experience.
  • This exercise can be adapted and made more specific by introducing a theme (e.g. employment, love, family , etc.) and getting participants to draw rivers that represent that particular aspect of their lives.

Adapted from: https://www.arvon.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Mother-Tongues-Resource-Pack.pdf

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