This unit is a continuation of a unit done last year for the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute. Last year’s unit dealt with finding a connection between African and Black American folktales, and collecting tales.
For this unit I collected stories at large and worked on developing methods for analysis, synthesis, evaluation,and application to the stories collected. Students need to be made aware of the value of the oral tradition and the purpose it has served for Black people historically and currently.
Keeping the culture alive and preserving the folk system of a group is an important reason for folk stories.
Black Americans have an oral tradition which is a historical and social phenomenon. The oral tradition of the African societies and the necessity for oral traditions as a result of the slave system has helped the Black culture survive.
Dialect is an important aspect of a folk system. The presence of a dialect is one of the elements that confirms and maintains the folk system. It is important, when collecting folk stories, to keep this dialect intact.
The problem of maintaining the dialect can be enormous when attempting to collect folk stories. When people are first asked to tell stories their initial response is usually disbelief. People tend not to believe that: 1. the request is straightforward 2. the stories should remain in the form that they are normally told with the dialect and with the language that would normally be used and 3. the type of story that is told could be appreciated by any group other than their own, and that the story is inappropriate for others.
Inquiry creates the possibility of contaminating the story. Therefore, while collecting these stories it is necessary to make people believe what they have to offer is valuable for what they say and for how they say it because each storyteller is preserving the culture, and to change any part for the sake of making it more “acceptable” spoils the story.
The idea of the orality of Black people needs to be stressed to the storytellers as well as to the students. The orality of Black people mirrors socioeconomic conditions, place, and experience.
For this unit folk stories from several sources have been collected. Urban, rural, young and old people were asked for stories. For classroom use it was necessary to have some examples from a variety of sources, and to include stories told by young people so that the students can see how they and their peers are able to fit into the scheme of the oral tradition.
Once the student realizes their importance to the continuation of the oral system, they can perhaps begin to empathize with people who are older or live in a different place.
The stories contributed by the young people were done in the form of raps, the talking rhythms that young people listen to today. These raps are sometimes memorized by young people and sometimes they are ad libbed. This ad libbing and memorization are important aspects of the larger matrix of the black folk tradition because as the stories are told and retold they are changed and made slightly different by the storytellers.
The stories collected have some of the same general ideas that are part of the raps. They are memorized, and altered as told or they are made up from another known story.
Each storyteller, like each rapper, makes the story his own in the telling of the story. The use of these two kinds of oralities is very important for the use of this unit in the classroom. One has the possibilities of teaching historical lessons from the past, and the other teaches some of the folk culture of today.
There are several classroom goals and activities that can be achieved and used in conjunction with the stories collected and the stories to be collected.
Although stories were collected at large for use in the classroom, that does not satisfy the need for a method of exploring what is collected for use in the classroom.
The stories need to be used for practical purposes as well as for academic purposes. The student as well as the teacher need to feel that they are in a process of developing and integrating the classroom with the real world, particularly to the student’s world. These stories can provide this, however, that does not necessarily happen without some structure, and an outline and method for investigation.
The student as well as the teacher need assistance in determining what to do with the folk stories after they have read and collected some of them. The stories should be used, applied to different situations, evaluated, and closely examined for the purposes of combining the student’s school life with real life.
Methods for examining the folk stories collected and read was developed which included several activities to help students learn how to make inquiries and how to apply them to both a school situation and to life situations. These methods include synthesis, analysis, application and evaluation of the stories collected as well as the stories read in class.
An example of how to use a story following the methods prescribed is also included.