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Mar 262012
 

The story is written all over your face

Making faces while telling stories is an absolutely essential skill to master as a storytelling technique.

Let’s set the scene…

A great storytelling technique to master: facial gestures and masks

It’s holiday time and the family are camping in the forest, enjoying nature, the outdoors and the fresh air.

As night draws in, the kids wrap themselves in their coats and gather round, closer to the snapping and crackling camp fire; marshmallows speared on the ends of freshly cut sticks from the afternoon’s walk.

Your children gather close, feeling the camaraderie of each other’s presence as they huddle together in anticipation for that timeless camping classic: the ghost story.

As the breeze makes the trees around them shush gently, a hush falls over them and your eyes twinkle as you gaze intently at each of them in turn, setting the mood for the tale.

Your face is a picture of danger, drama and suspense.

You draw a breath, and begin…

 In this chapter on facial expression in storytelling

  • Facing the truth – How and why using facial expressions, gestures and masks are important for our children regardless of them being included in story time.
  • Watching and learning – The importance of facial expression as a way of teaching emotional intelligence.
  • A picture paints a thousand words – How ours and our children’s faces show precisely the emotion behind it and how you can master this to bring a story to life.
  • Toning it down – A cautionary reminder that while we’re aiming to bring our stories to life, sometimes not being real is the just as important. Also a side note on storytelling with children with autism
  • Eye Contact – As a storytelling technique to engage and draw in your audience, eye contact is essential and surprisingly easy to master.

Introduction

Paul Ekman's books are seminary in learning about facial expressions

Paul Ekman’s books and “Facial Action Coding System” (FACS) are well worth finding out more about if you’re interested in bodylanguage and learning to read people (children and adults) more easily.

It is a widely held that the most important and common, and strongest, nonverbal communication is through your facial expressions.

In the art of storytelling, facial expressions are a most crucial companion to how you use your voice.

Lucky they are an innate characteristic of human expression as we speak. So, in this chapter we will explore:

  • Children’s perceptions of facial expressions and why it is so important to use them.
  • Emotional Intelligence – teaching your child to identify emotions from facial expression.
  • Social referencing and how to use it – how your child learns from your facial expressions.
  • Using your face to tell the story and maintain the flow of your story
  • How becoming a caricature of yourself will improve your story and your child’s sense of security.
  • Eye contact – the effects of neglecting this important means of facial expression.

Information at face value

The importance of facial gestures, expressions and masks as storytelling techniques

You’ve just found out you are going to become a parent…

You – you – are going to become a parent!

A waterfall of emotions flood you; excitement, fear and everything in between.

Your partner’s eyes are fixed firmly on you, scouring your face for your reaction, gleaning everything they can from your eyes, your mouth – your expression.

There are tears glistening in your eyes.

Your partner is wondering – are they happy tears or sad tears?

You smile.

Facing the truth

Our emotions are naturally drawn out on our faces and thus are the most important form of non-verbal communication.

Often, words cannot even do justice to the complexity and strength of the feelings you can express with your face.

Facial expressions are such a giveaway to a person’s emotions that sometimes we even try to hide our true feelings by restraining our facial expressions

Without facial expressions, a story becomes a flat, limp narration instead of a magical and engaging tale.

You will look just plain bored and disinterested.

Apart from perhaps feeling a perceived unwillingness to spend time with them, your child will be concentrating on you telling the story, instead of being ‘in’ the story in their imagination.

They will be aware that a story is being told to them – seemingly begrudgingly – instead of being transported off in their imagination, out of their bedroom and into the magical land you are describing.

If your face shows no wonderment, you can’t expect to convince your child that it is wonderful.

Read about the specifics of facial expression and gesture in storytelling

The following are all sections in this chapter. Keep a close eye on your email inbox and read each one in turn and practice the storytelling homework. You’ll never realise just how much goes into a the telling of a story. We have linked in the first section on why facial expression is important in stories and children’s growth for your interest.

  • Facing the truth – How and why using facial expressions are important for our children’s growth.
  • Holding it up – Understanding mirroring and social referencing and their role in storytelling.
  • Watching and learning – Teach emotional intelligence through facial expression in your stories.
  • A picture paints a thousand words – Use your face to paint a picture richer than words in your children’s stories.
  • Toning it down – Finding the balance between story and reality and storytelling with autistic kids.
  • Eye Contact – Master this storytelling technique and you’ll have your audience in the palm of your hand.
Feb 292012
 

Using your voice to it’s full potential

In terms of storytelling techniques, how to use your voice is possibly the first thing people think of when talking about how to tell stories and tales.

Unsurprisingly a bit of training on the best and most effective ways to use your voice during a story recital is also one of the easiest ways to really bring the tale to life for your listener(s).

Spending some time on using your voice when reading or telling children's stories

In this Chapter on using your voice when telling or reading stories with your kids

  • How to use the volume and why it is important to use it at the right time.
  • The use of tone and emphasis in storytelling and how you can use both to achieve completely different meanings.
  • Give your characters distinct personalities and separate them clearly by using pitch.
  • You’ll be amazed at how much changing the speed of the tale can add depth and help illustrate an otherwise verbal story.
  • I have a bonus that fits in here as well – Should you or should you not introduce sound effects?

Draw your audience into the story with you

Have a listen to advertisements on the radio or the TV.

Compare the difference in technique between say, the voiceover used to promote luxury beds and the voiceover used to promote sales of electronic gadgets at your nearest dealer.

Advertising companies are only too aware of the importance of the sound of the voice as part of creating the “mood”. The “mood” makes the listener anticipate and accept more readily what is being said.

You will hear a soft, gentle and relaxing voice that wants to soothe you into a tranquil state to sell the luxury bed – the voice in itself is promising you a good night’s sleep. Whereas the voice for the electronic gadgets advert will be loud, excited and high pitched, trying to excite you off your sofa and down to the store.

The way you modulate your voice portrays your emotion and stimulates a reactive emotion in your audience. This reactive emotion is what draws your child into the story. They “feel” the story and remain encapsulated in it, away from reality, charmed and enchanted by the sound of your voice.

Now we will go on to explore how you can modulate your voice to effectively tell stories and stimulate the required emotions. If you follow the tips in this chapter, you can look forward to a future of affectionate evenings, with your child tucked up cosily in beside you, and falling asleep happily after a fantastical story.

Becoming aware of your own abilities and just keeping an eye or ear open for when you’re naturally using these storytelling techniques is the most important step in learning how to tell a story. Read each of the articles on the links below and make sure you follow any homework given to really get the most out of your time.

Storytelling technique focus

So now we’ve introduced the concept, you’ll be keen to be given some homework right? Well, first of all lets set a focus. Read the following section on controlling the volume of your voice in storytelling and follow (and practice) the suggested homework at the bottom.

Feb 292012
 

Sound Effects in storytelling

Storytelling technique is all about getting your audience to connect and become involved in the story and for children, there is only one thing they love more than listening to a good tale: becoming involved in it.

Give them that opportunity by vocalising sound effects in your story and letting your child copy your sounds in the predictable place. So, for example, every time a horse is mentioned, say “Clip, Clop, Clip, Clop” and after a couple of repetitions, your child will naturally join in with you, as they become familiar with the pattern.

Using sound effects during a story is a great technique to bring it to life and engage the audience Continue reading »

Dec 162011
 

How to Memorize Children’s Stories for bedtime storytelling

We’ve all (well at least if you’re a parent I hope you have) read stories to our children before bedtime.

While these quiet moments with our kids are a great way to spend some quiet time together, sometimes the mad dash to find a storybook can take longer than reading the story!

While nothing will replace reading books to children, memorizing stories is a great way to put some spontaneous fun into their bedtime routine.

In addition, having a cache of stories in your memory is a great way to pass the time during long car trips, while stuck in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or any other place or situation which can be boring for young children.

Here, we’ll give you some tips and tricks to memorize stories and be able to recall them at a moment’s notice.

In addition, we’ll give you some ideas for books full of short and easy-to-remember tales that will delight children of all ages.

Continue reading »

May 262011
 

Painting with my daughter gave me a great example of how, as a parent, my best intentions are not always what she needs.

In this case it was the idea that I had that she might like to paint a house on a blank piece of paper. I was thinking to myself that I wouldn’t try and influence or force her to draw any particular kind of house, instead I would let her draw whatever kind of house she liked. Maybe it’d be a rabbit’s house or her granny’s house or maybe something completely different.

What actually happened was quite a surprise and a fantastic learning opportunity for me.

Of course you could argue that “a house” is perhaps a too open question for a child… Maybe asking what Mr Rabbit’s house looks like would have been better (it isn’t – I’ve tried it). Looking at the reams of drawings and paper that are nothing but different coloured swirls where she’s just gone round and round and round where I’ve not had a hand in helping her direct her imagination, I can’t help but compare them to how much more enjoyment she gets and the (relatively) well shaped art work that she and I have done together where I’ve helped her with an outline of what to do (I’ll add a photo of my favourite piece soon).

It seems that while I might like to think that by keeping out and letting her explore the world in her own way would be good, it actually turns out that a bit of gentle guidance is essential. No wonder our kids (nearly) always turn out like their parents…