Teaching Language as a Way of Knowing, I wanted to introduce to my students what a powerful tool language is. In keeping with that, I also wanted to bring out how powerless you feel when you don’t have control over a language. So I played some stuff that I learned at the Storytelling workshop I attended recently.
The first round was the One-Word-Story-Game. In a group, each participant is allowed to contribute just one word at a time. It’s particularly frustrating when you know you can’t contribute something meaningful. For instance, suppose you’re third in the group. The first person says ‘Once’. The second person says ‘upon’. How much choice do you have? I wanted students to experience this powerlessness that comes with limited language. So, I made a group of six play it. I asked them to create all of four sentences to make a story. The theme was magic.
“… lived …”
Long, long pause.
“… in …”
“… Magician’s …”
Long pause. Endless pause.
Pause. Finally, the student passed.
“… was …”
I made them stop and reflect on why it was so difficult.
Then, the next group got the One-Phrase-Story-Game.
“Once upon a time,”
“-there lived a boy.”
“The boy …”
“… played basketball.”
“He found a pair of magic shoes.”
“So he started playing football instead!”
Four sentences to a story, with the theme ‘magic’. How delightful it was!