Stories Come to Life Literacy Residency at Neal Middle School

As we walked from classroom to classroom in the 6th grade hall of Neal Middle School, it was as though we were entering completely different worlds.  While artists John Bemis, Anita Woodley, and Willa Brigham all had the same goal of making stories come to life through the art of storytelling, each artist manifested this differently and had their own style of interacting with the students.

John Bemis, our 2013 Piedmont Laureate, captured the students’ attention with a fun story that literally came to life, as he had the students act out the story of John Henry-complete with props, a song, and marvelous acting.

Anita Woodley related to the students by creating a very laid-back atmosphere where the students felt comfortable sharing their thoughts.  She helped those students who felt as though they didn’t have an interesting story to tell, and encouraged them to believe that they all people who led exciting lives and certainly had a story with sharing.

Willa Brigham used her passion for quilting to relate to the way all the parts of a story can be sewn together to create a cohesive work. She told anecdotes of her grandma’s sweet potato pie that were bursting with flavors, images, and details.

All three artists engaged the students, who looked as though they were going to burst out of their seats to be the villain in the story of John Henry, or to recall those yummy details in Willa’s sweet potato pie.

Now the students at Neal will be working on their own projects with the artists over the next couple days and I look forward to seeing how they take in all of the techniques they’ve been learning to tell their own compelling narratives.

Willa demonstrates how a story is woven together from all different elements, just like a quilt.
Willa demonstrates how a story is woven together from all different elements, just like a quilt.
Students eagerly recall the details in Willa's sweet potato pie.
Students eagerly recall the details in Willa’s sweet potato pie.
Anita talks about the elements necessary to create a compelling personal story.
Anita talks about the elements necessary to create a compelling personal story.
Students act out John Henry skit, making the story come to life!
Students act out John Henry skit, making the story come to life!
John Bemis sharing his stories with the 6th grade students at Neal Middle School.
John Bemis sharing his stories with the 6th grade students at Neal Middle School.
Anita and several students discuss topics for their personal narratives.
Anita and several students discuss topics for their personal narratives.