Curriculum Connections

Archetypes in stories relate directly to our own lives, so when we hear a story we can often see parts of ourselves in that story. However, because we are separate from the characters, we are able to stand back and see ourselves more clearly. One of the uses of stories that stems from this, is as a vehicle for children and adults to process conflict in their lives. The power of story is its ability to engage us and at the same time allow us the freedom to view our experiences from a distance.

The questions below provide a few ways to approach the use of stories in the classroom. They are to be used specifically with the story of B’Elephant and B’Whale. Some of these questions can be used for various age groups and modified as you wish.

B’Whale and B’Elephant

B’Rabby the trickster outsmarts his friends in a tug-of-war.
From “Once upon a time” Stories of the Bahamas

Howard Gardner, in his book Frames of Mind , re-defined intelligence recognizing that there was not only one level of intelligence but a number of areas of intelligence, and that students depend on some intelligences more than others. Below I have listed the seven intelligences defined by Gardner, their general descriptions, and how they can relate to storytelling.

Some of the questions to ask students are:

*How do you feel about the animals bragging to each other?
*Do you have friends who brag to each other?
*How did it make you feel? How do you feel about the way B’Rabby dealt with his friends? *Are there other ways you can think of to teach them a lesson?
*Do you think that B’Whale and B’Elephant should be taught a lesson?
*What are the value systems in this story? What are the conflicts and how are they resolved?
*What type of conflicts do you have in your life? What things ‘tug’ at you and how do you deal with those tugs? How do these conflicts affect you and do they made a difference in how you relate to the people around you?
*This story is from a specific culture,The Bahamas. How does the culture of the country affect the decisions B’Rabby makes about resolving his feelings?
There are more questions you can ask to generate discussion using this story.
Please feel free to add your thoughts about uses of the story.

Stories generally come from a specific country. B’Whale and B’Elephant is a story from The Bahamas,with its roots in Africa. Here are a few questions that can be asked when using this story.

*What is an island?
*Where are The Bahamas?
*What language do the people of The Bahamas speak?
*What other countries are near The Bahamas?
*This story has three animals in it, an Elephant, a Whale and a Rabbit. Do all three of these animals live in The Bahamas? If not which one doesn’t?
*If Elephants don’t live in The Bahamas how did the elephant come to be in this story?
*What are the names of the ocean and the sea in The Bahamas?
*Can you find another story from another country that has a similiar theme?
*How did the African people come to the Caribbean?
*Who lived in the Caribbean before the African and Europeans came to this part of the world?
These are some of the questions you can ask while using this story.


There are many ways to integrate language studies while using storytelling in the classroom. Through the use of story you can create many exercises for students. I will list a few things and you can add to them. Some stories use words that may be unusual to children and this is a good way to teach new vocabulary. In my storytelling I use call and response, for example I use a traditional Bahamian call “Bunday” and when I say that I instruct the audience to repeat the word “Bunday”. This is very effective since it focuses the audience in the story and keeps them involved.

Try using the call and response and also creating a different call and response. Many cultures use the call and response. For example in Haiti the call is “crick” and the response is “crack”. In Latino stories the call is “Barril” and the response is “Agua”. See if you can find some from other cultures.

* Have students re-write the story in their own words. For young students they can write out the sequence of the story.
* List the conflicts in the story and write an original story using the conflicts and resolution from the folktale.
* Find a story with the same theme from another culture.
* Re-tell the story in your own works.
* Encourage students to speak loudly and clearly.
* Use the story to encourage discussion about the values in the story.
In the story B’Whale and B’Elephant there is ocean and land. Using the story you can talk about water as a unit.
*Name the oceans of the world
*What is water?
*How much of the earth is covered in water?
*At what temperature does water freeze?
*At what temperature does water boil?
*How much of our body weight is water?
*What types of trees grow in the Caribbean?
*Why can’t palm trees grow in the Northeast?
*What makes trees grow?

Math presents the opportunity for many fun games through story. Patterns can be looked at in the story and when telling the story the teller can use repeating words and have students recognize sequences.
In B’Whale and B’Elephant have the students think about size and proportion.
Because of the images that are formed in our minds when we hear a story there are many things that can be done in art classes using a story. For this page I also add speaking arts and movement.
Here are some ideas: These will work for different age groups and are not in any age specific grouping.

*Draw the characters in the story.
*Have the children draw the story in the sequence that the story is told in. Maybe this can be done in groups and each child in a group can draw one part of the story.
*Act out the story in a group paying attention to the beginning, middle and end of the story.
*Re-tell the story from the pictures drawn.
*Tell the story through movement using no words.
These are some questions that I ask teachers when giving workshops.
We are all tradition bearers. We all come from somewhere and all have a cultural tradition. Do we bear only our own tradition or do we bear the tradition of others? As we search for more information about stories and look at more folktales we reach out to other cultures for new material. Do we help these cultures by telling their stories in their language, are we honoring their traditions? Do we use their stories and change it for our own use and maybe end up not understanding much about it in the process?
Sometimes telling the stories of other cultures is important so that the people of other cultures can have access to these stories. How do we do them justice?

Here are some questions I ask to think about this issue.
*How do we bring out the flavor of the culture?
*What do we need to know about the culture to have the story work effectively?
*What do we need to do to understand how people think in the culture?
*Why is it important to know this information?
Some of the problems we face in telling stories are understanding attitudes in the culture e.g. the role of children in the culture, how they are treated, how they behave generally, punished, taught etc.

*How holidays are viewed, celebrations, humor, deaths, birth
*Use of language, attitudes, foods
Here are some other questions I feel important to ask when learning a new story.
*How do you feel about this story?
*What do you feel in the most important thing in the story?
*What makes you uncomfortable when you hear or read or tell this story?
*What do you think this story is about?
*Why do you think this story is told?
*What can you do to understand more about the story, culture?
*Is it important to tell this story from the culture? If you decide it is important what do you think will allow you to be most effective in transmitting it?

Some do’s about storytelling

*Do research, find variants of the folktale read anthropological journals
*Ask permission of the teller who you learned the story from.
*Try to talk to someone from the culture dialect and accent
*Explain to the audience something about the story why you tell it Sometimes stories are told to explain attitudes, reveal dark things.
*Find a voice for the story, think of descriptions of the terrain, words from the tradition to give a feeling of the place and the people
*Learn to the pronounce the words so they are comfortable

Some don’ts about storytelling

*Do not re-write the story because you don’t understand it or like it the way it is.
*Don’t memorize the story. Learn it using the images in the story and your own words.
Learning to Tell a Story

1. Read the story and like it. It’s important to feel something for the story in order to give it the energy it deserves. Sometimes you have to read it a few times to get a sense of it, but allow yourself to trust what you feel.

2. In first learning to tell the story, learn the sequence of the story. Children and adults can draw or write down the sequence to help them remember it.
3. Find the conflicts in the story. What actions motivate the characters and cause conflicts? Conflicts within a story help the movement of that story and exploring these conflicts and their resolution helps us understand the story better.

4. Examine the emotions in the story. What do the characters feel or what do we think they feel and why do we think it? This exploration can help in the re-telling. How do we feel about the characters? Do we relate to their actions? How do they mirror our actions and emotions? We often connect to characters through our emotions so understanding the emotions of the story characters will make for more effective storytelling.

5. Try re-telling the story using the information you have gained about it. Think of your own emotions in relationship to the character, for e.g. how do you feel when there is a conflict and it is resolved, how would you solve the conflicts in this story?

6. Find other versions of the story to examine how the story has been changed. Many of the current versions have been re-worked for the “Politically Correct” climate and may have lost the cultural context and flavor of the story. Reading other versions can be helpful in understanding why the story was told originally, and instructive as to how different cultures interpret and change stories to fit their needs.

7. Explore the meaning of the story. Many stories have a moral and obvious ending. However, look at the actions of the characters in the story and use these as a jumping off point for critical thinking. Asking questions about the actions and feelings of the events in the story can lead to dynamic discussion.