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Storytelling Brings Literature to Life

by Meghan Kyle '13

Students sit and wait for class to start, when suddenly the door swings open dramatically. In walks the professor wearing complete Shakespearean garb: a full length gown of fine silk, a woven basket filled with pastries, and an Elizabethan accent to tie it all together. “Methinks I feel a story brewin’ deep within me soul. Let me tell you of a fellow who took the greatest toll…”

Adrien Lowery, Ph.D., associate professor of English, believes that storytelling in the classroom helps stimulate the student’s mind to comprehend and dive deeper into the literary world. “Storytelling makes the story come alive. Students hear the characters and can envision their actions, ultimately having a little fun enjoying stories while we are discussing them,” she said.

Lowery first got involved with storytelling ten years ago at the CTMS Summer Solstice Festival. The festival is not only for the enjoyment of performances, but also a teaching festival where participants attend different workshops. She originally went to discover new techniques about music, but got involved with the storytellers. “I started going to story swaps, where you practice in front of an audience. It was awesome and became addictive.”

With this newfound passion, Lowery began to incorporate storytelling into her classes. “We read a story, pull it apart, make connections, and explore the imagery and symbolism. Then my students are like, ‘Oh my gosh! I so didn’t get that the first time on my own.’”

She uses her storytelling expertise to let the character create moments of attention and realization for her listeners. “The student’s attitude in literature shifts to positive. The story is no longer black and white text on a page, but the character’s emotions and motivations are more easily seen and imagined.”

When her students notice a new theme or deeper meaning to a story, they become more in tune and interested in the author’s work. “When I first read the story, the voices of the characters I heard in my head had sounded just like me. Dr. Lowery made the stories and poetry come alive for us,” Gloria Su '13 said of Lowery’s American Literature class.

When teaching, Lowery acts out scenes that are pertinent to understanding the story, but at the same time ensures her students are able to see the layered meanings behind them. When she storytells, it not only fills her with a sense of achievement, but also a sense of satisfaction. “What is exciting for me is at that moment, the reaction was unexpected at that particular part of the story, but when I figured out what they connected with, I got something new out of the story, too.”

We can also use this creative idea of storytelling to connect with a different aspect of APU’s community. “Jesus was the ultimate storyteller and that’s how He ministered,” Lowery said. Storytelling not only helps students better understand the literary works they study, but also connects students to the roots of biblical communication and brings them together by creating fellowship within each story discussed.