"No, it'll not do just to read the old tale out of a book. You've got to tell'em to make'em go right." (Richard Chase, Grandfather Tales)



INLS 558-001: Principles and Techniques of Storytelling (3 credits)
School of Information and Library Science

Manning Hall, Room 307

Thursdays, 6:00-8:45pm




Dr. Brian Sturm

Office: 215-A Manning Hall

Phone: 919-962-2460; Email: sturm AT ils.unc.edu; Web: http://ils.unc.edu/~sturm

Office Hours: By email or by appointment

Online Communication:  We will use Sakai for any online communication we need for this course.





This course is for graduate students or upper level undergraduates with an interest in learning to perform oral narratives, particularly Information and Library Science students interested in youth services or school librarianship.  The purpose is to help students gain performance and communication skills through active engagement in combining storytelling theory and skills.  It is an emotionally challenging class (to create evocative performances requires a deep emotional vulnerability and a willingness to risk) as well as an intellectually stimulating one.











  1. Students will come to understand the values of storytelling for different age groups: children in primary school and elementary school, young adults, and adults.
  2. Students will explore the potential of storytelling for special audiences.
  3. Students will gain an understanding of the historical development of storytelling and the various types of storytelling around the world.
  4. Students will compare various models of the storytelling process.
  5. Students will gain insight into the administration of storytelling events: planning, promotion, and evaluation.
  6. Students will gain a perception of the power of storytelling to move or engross an audience.


  1. Students will gain a thorough grounding in the practice of storytelling through classroom practice and performances and at least one public performance. A repertoire of at least three stories will be expected by the end of the session.
  2. Students will explore the possibilities of various props and media for storytelling.
  3. Students will experiment in class with various exercises that will facilitate their understanding of the different aspects of storytelling performance.





August 22nd

Theory: Introduction to storytelling and the class. Expectations, assignments, grading, online area. Definitions, kinds, and values of storytelling. Historical overview. Research resources.

Readings: Have a look at The Storyteller’s Sourcebook – SILS Ref: GR74.6 .M3 2001

Practice (focus): Small group reading aloud and group story creation (imagination)


August 29th  

Theory: Storytelling: trance, paradox, and the psychodynamics of enchantment.

Readings: first read Stallings The Web of Silence; then read Sturm The Enchanted Imagination; and then read Sturm Power of “I” article and Caring for Stories article (on Sakai)

Practice:  Storytelling games


September 5th

Theory: Finding and selecting an age-appropriate story. We’ll also discuss storytelling language, beginnings and endings, and child development.

Readings: ShedlockThe Art of the Story-Teller, pages 43-98, also available at Project Guttenberg; read Folktale Openings, Folktale Closings, and Child Development and YA Development.

Practice (focus): Storytelling card games. 


September 12th

Theory: Preparing and presenting a story

Readings: Sturm Process of Sharing Stories with Young People article (on Sakai); ShedlockThe Art of the Story-Teller, pages 31-42, also available at Project Guttenberg; Sturm Eye Contact and the Veil of Story article (on Sakai)

Practice (focus): "Theater of the Face" (eye contact, facial expression, and storytelling games)


September 19th  

Storytelling Session #1 (Preschool): stories not to exceed 7 minutes

Cue Card #1


September 26th 

Theory: Media in storytelling, props, flannel boards, etc.

Readings: Using Drums in Children’s Stories, Storytelling and Puppets

Practice (focus): "Theater of the Body" (body language, gesture, posture, mime, and storytelling games)


October 3rd 

Theory: Storytelling for Special Audiences (physically and emotionally challenged, YA, elderly)

Readings: Blankenship article; Chinen article; Setterington article (on Sakai).

Practice (focus): “The Art of Emotion” (analysis and portrayal of emotions)


October 4th-6th – National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee


October 10th

Theory: Administering storytelling programs (design and evaluation) – guest storyteller, Michael Nager

Readings: Look at the entire Storytelling Magazine issue for September/October 2004 (Volume 16, issue 5) which is dedicated to Producing Storytelling Events; The Purpose of Character Voices

Practice (focus): "The Art of Imitation" (character voices, dialect, and sound effects)


October 17th 

FALL BREAK – no class


October 24th 

Storytelling Session #2 (Elementary/YA) stories not to exceed 10 minutes

Cue Card #2


October 31st 

HALLOWEEN – no class


November 1st – 2nd – North Carolina Storytelling Guild and Transylvania Public Library Brevard Storytelling Festival (Brevard, NC)


November 7th

Theory:  Creating stories from Personal Experiences

Readings: Tips for Telling Effective Personal Stories, and the entire issue of Storytelling Magazine from May/June 2004 (Volume 16, issue 3) which is dedicated to crafting personal and history stories.  Also, have a listen to some of the stories told at The Moth in New York City and watch the Call of Stories from BYU.

Practice (focus): “My Life in Story” (personal narrative story exercises; "Space" (staging, acoustics, microphones); “Putting It All Together” (the face, the body, the voice, and the emotions)


November 14th

Storytelling Session #3 (Adult) stories not to exceed 15 minutes (those not telling bring potluck)

Cue Card #3


November 24th – Fourth annual Storytelling Under the Stars from 5:00-6:00pm in the Morehead Planetarium



November 21st 

 Storytelling Session #3 (Adult) stories not to exceed 15 minutes (those not telling bring potluck)

Cue Card #3


November 29th  



December 5thTwenty-first annual Winter Stories at 5:00pm in the Wilson Library






Storytelling session 1 for Preschool



Cue Card 1 - Preschool



Storytelling session 2 for Elementary/YA



Cue Card 2 – Elementary/YA



Storytelling session 3 for Adult



Cue Card 3 - Adult



Live Performance and Evaluation



Class Participation (see attendance policy below)







In-class Storytelling Performances (3)

Performance evaluation is a tricky process, as each performer has a unique style.  In order to tailor my evaluation to each of you, your storytelling performances will be video recorded, and we will meet one-on-one in my office to evaluate each performance.  You will need to schedule a time to meet after each of your storytelling sessions (allow one hour).  Our evaluation will cover story selection, vocal qualities, presentation style, timing, whether you achieved your “emotions” and “risks” for the story, and the various performance techniques we discuss in class.  We will use this rubric to help us assess your stories.

Cue Cards (3)

Please see the cue card template, accessible from the “Cue Card” links above.  The cue card is your evidence of background research into your story.  Spend considerable effort on this endeavor, as the more you study your story, the more you’ll know its power, and the better performance you will give.  Use this template to guide your thinking, and fill in the blank areas with your thoughts on your chosen story.  My evaluation will include depth and extent of research, and thoughtfulness of your insights into the various aspects of your story.

Live Performance and Evaluation (1)

You are expected to perform at least one of your chosen stories to an audience outside the classroom that would be appropriate for that story (i.e., a school classroom, a church group, etc.).  The purpose is to expose you to the true performance setting, in which the classroom vanishes and you encounter an audience for whom the story is targeted.  I want you to work in small groups for this (I’d prefer you not telling solo).  You will need to figure out your action plan (where to tell, with whom, how to sequence your stories, how to advertise if necessary), conduct your performance, and then evaluate it thoughtfully.  Use what you learn about story selection, preparation, and presentation along with how to administer a storytelling event in designing and presenting this public session.

Class Participation and Involvement

I will come to class prepared, and I expect you to do likewise: 1) you have read and considered the assigned readings; 2) you have prepared for the practice session (if necessary); and 3) you are willing to put your best efforts into practicing in class, and you are willing to leave your ego at the door of the classroom.  This class functions on trust.  We must build an environment of trust amongst ourselves so that we feel comfortable showing emotions, being vulnerable, and taking risks, for it is only through these three things that storytelling comes alive for the listeners.




Grading for your assignments will follow the H, P, L, F scale for graduate students, A, B, C, D, F for undergraduates.  Performances are notoriously difficult to grade, as they are works of self-expression (i.e, art); however, I feel comfortable with the following interpretation for assigning grades to your endeavors.
1. I assume that you are all motivated students (you would not be at Carolina if you weren’t); therefore, my expectations are high from the outset.  I know that some of you will have past performance experience, some will have natural talent, and some will have neither, so part of my job as professor is to judge you individually (in addition to comparing you to your peers in class).  Therefore, I DO grade on effort, on risks you push yourself to take, on your willingness to try new things, etc.  While you may never give an Oscar-winning performance, I expect you to push yourself to improve throughout the semester in whatever ways we discuss in class and individually, and if you do so, you will do well in this course.
2. If your work is thoughtful and competent, and shows effort and care, it will receive a P.
If your work synthesizes ideas, draws in work from outside of class as well as ideas we’ve covered in class, or shows risk-taking that markedly improves your performance ability, it will receive an H.
If your work shows a lack of effort, care, or thought (whether writing or performing) it will receive either an L or an F.
3. There are three ways of grading performances: 1) how you do in relation to your present ability, 2) how you do in comparison to a theoretical “best” performance, and 3) how you do in comparison with your peer students.  I will use primarily the first two of these in discussing/evaluating your work with you.  I will also ask each of you to comment upon your classmates’ first two performances so that if my view is biased unfairly, the class helps mitigate that bias.







Class participation is vital to your learning in this course, so I expect you to attend class each week.  While I understand that life can get in the way of your education, this class needs your participation and input each week, so that you can build on prior knowledge, help you classmates learn and grow, and contribute to a sense of trust and inter-personal reliance that is essential to the success of the class.  If you miss two classes, you should consider dropping the course, and if you miss three classes, you will fail the course.