In his successful Creative Storytelling, Jack Zipes showed how storytelling is a rich and powerful tool for self-expression and for building children's imaginations. In Speaking Out, this master storyteller goes further, speaking out against rote learning and testing and for the positive force within storytelling and creative drama during the K-12 years.
For the past four years, Jack Zipes has worked with the Neighborhood Bridges Program of the Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis, taking his storytelling techniques into inner-city schools. Speaking Out is in part a record of the transformations storytelling can work on the minds and lives of young people. But it is also a vivid and exhilarating demonstration of a different kind of education - one built from deep inside each child.
Speaking Out is a book for storytellers, educators, parents, and anyone who cares about helping kids find within themselves the keys to imagination.
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A professor of German at the University of Minnesota who’s written many books on the influence of fairy tales, Zipes has long been a critic of "platform story-telling," which generally involves a performer, on a stage, entertaining spell-bound children. Essentially this calls to mind the whole Disney experience, of kids being wowed by a spectacle they whole-heartedly embrace. What Zipes wants instead is a storytelling process in which students take control, creating and performing new tales while revisiting and revising the old ones. The idea is for children to grasp the transformative power—as opposed to the entertainment value—of the craft.
For several years, Zipes has put this philosophy into practice with his Neighborhood Bridges program, now practiced in roughly 10 Minneapolis schools. Both teachers and specialists use a variety of techniques, he writes, to "animate and enable children to become better storytellers of their own lives." The students, for instance, create countertales to traditional stories such as "Hansel and Gretel" and "Little Red Riding Hood." With the latter, kids might consider themes of child abuse and abandonment. They also use fables about animals to create peace tales, myths to explore heroism, and tall tales to examine the adventures of ordinary people.
All of this is deeply engaging, though at times, Zipes’ own ideology threatens to undermine his efforts. Social activist that he is, he sometimes seems less interested in having kids create their own tales than in spinning out metaphors for reform. Still the value of Zipes’ enterprise is undeniable: In a time of near-relentless test prep, getting children to use stories and imagination to look closely at their world seems as refreshing as it does revolutionary.About the Author:
Jack Zipes has published and translated over a dozen volumes on and about stories, fairy tales, and storytelling. Cofounder of the Neighborhood Bridges Project, he is one of the most widely respected scholars of fairy tales and a passionate advocate for storytelling in education. He is Professor of German at the University of Minnesota.
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