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Links for Learners

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

November 1999

The following Links for Learners resource is offered to those who would like to use St. Anthony Messenger in an educational setting or for further study at home. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind, but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article for further study each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain this resource. Up until December 1998 it was called a teacher's guide or classroom resource. Teachers with access to computer labs should encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use. We encourage you to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know how we can improve this service by sending feedback to StAnthony@franciscanmedia.org.

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.


Links for Learning

1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

 

    • Religion—Scriptures, especially the Gospels; Christian values
    • Social Studies—oral history; history of cultures and communities
    • Geography—writing skills; storytelling; drama
    1. Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs such as:

Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.

Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities or as preparation for parent/teacher meetings.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners.

Oral history

Human values

Evangelization

Gospel parables

Human dignity

Incarnational

 

Legend

Search for meaning

Cathartic experience

     

Storytelling as Art and History

The art of the story is as old as humanity itself. Storytelling passes on tradition, culture, history, values. From the earliest cave drawings to today's sophisticated film and television, women and men have told stories to educate, to entertain, to communicate, to illustrate what is special about their lives. Storytelling at its best celebrates the freedom and dignity of a people.

Ancient cultures carved stories of their world on cave walls. Hunting animals for food, fighting off predators, living in community, dealing with gods—these were activities captured for the future, symbols of their values and beliefs. Some cultures, such as those of the Native Americans, relied on oral history to pass on their values to new generations. Egyptians used paper made from papyrus reeds to write down their stories.

We know little of the individuals who first formed the stories of their people thousands of years ago. With the advent of the written word, and the story's ability to be preserved even after a culture is gone, we began to acknowledge writers as story creators.

In this month's article we read about the Humanitas Prize, a Paulist award for film and television writing that advances human dignity and values. The prize typically goes to scriptwriters, the women and men who write the stories filmmakers rely on. Film and television writers, usually members of the Writers Guild of America, describe themselves as "America's Storytellers."

The Writers Guild of America West publishes a monthly print magazine titled Written By. In a recent issue you'll find "Writing 101: Back to (High) School," an informative history of television shows set in high school. The Written By article is a good example of the research that often goes into writing a compelling story.

The Writers Guild Web site offers a wealth of Web links and resource materials for writers. Some of these links provide teacher guides for classroom activities and student aids for interpreting primary sources in research. You'll find more resources about film and television at the site of the Directors Guild, including interviews with writers and directors of popular films. For lists of noteworthy films you may use in class, see the Film Society site. For families, PAX Television offers quality programming that explores human truth.

Telling a good story is an art. One of the experts in the art of Hollywood story crafting is Robert McKee. His book, Story, is an excellent guide to developing genuine stories that become the scripts for strong, creative films and television shows. His acting coach, Claribel Baird, taught her students to search for emotional truth. After each acting exercise, McKee and his fellow students feared Baird would utter the dreaded words, "I didn't believe you." Emotional truth is perhaps the deepest truth McKee and other writers struggle to bring to the page and from the page to the stage, screen or television.

The Humanitas Prize encourages writers to "…search for meaning, for values such as freedom, love, human dignity, for unity with all our fellow human beings." When we as audience have been moved by a good story, be it book or film or television, we know we have touched truth. From the simplest children's books, such as Goodnight Moon or the Madeleine series, to the powerful adult television dramas like NYPD Blue, truth is evident when a writer explores the meaning of life. Discuss the value of the other Humanitas winners listed at the end of the article.

For an idea of how a screenwriter works and thinks, see Jeffrey Scott's Web site. Scott is an animation writer as well as a columnist for Animation magazine. His credits include writing episodes of Muppet Babies. Scott is also a past winner of the Humanitas Prize.

In discussion, compare several of your favorite movies or television programs. Share a few thoughts on the truth, the value, the meaning of the stories. Then compare several of these truths to those found in a favorite children's book of your own, or one you love reading to your own children. Look for similarities, for common truths, even though the stories are written for different ages.

In ancient Greece, Aristotle wrote that after experiencing a good theatrical drama an audience will leave with a feeling of catharsis, a purging of the mind and emotions. We know this as the laughter, tears, tension, relief we feel as we go through an experience with an actor. Talk about a cathartic experience you may have felt from a recent movie or television program. Some films are simply enjoyable adventure stories. Others certainly are compelling dramas that draw us into their truth as they unfold.

The Gospels as story

Jesus used the story as effectively as contemporary authors to preach his Gospel message. His stories took the form of parables, rich in Hebrew culture and history. What listener could not feel the power of story, the purging of emotions, as Jesus spoke of the woman caught in adultery? "Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone." The cleansing strength of mercy and forgiveness moves us to this day. Or the parable of the prodigal son. Doesn't this story touch the truth of a brother's jealousy, the truth of a father's love?

Jesus' stories were all spoken. Only later, in an effort to retain Jesus' message, did the evangelists write down his stories. The Gospel, with its four different versions written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, survives so that we can all be moved by the truth of Jesus. Try doing a dramatic reading of one of the Gospel parables in your group. Listen to the story as though it were new. Look for the truth, the values, the spirit embedded in the story. Can you find a movie or television story that might explore a similar truth?

We read the Scriptures, and especially the Gospels, every time we celebrate the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is our continual remembering of Jesus. We hear the stories over and over again, because they are our tradition, our history, our truth.

On the PAX Television Web site, look for links to the National Storytelling Festival, and for the Network of Biblical Storytellers. The Network, based at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, has as its mission "… telling sacred stories of the biblical tradition in post-literate, electronic culture." You'll find references to books and audiotapes to help you learn to retell Biblical stories to pass on the message of Jesus.

Our own story

Each of us has a story to tell. Our story is the emotional truth at the core of our being. For most of us, that story is told in a daily drama, a personal unfolding of truth in the way we live, the way we treat others, the way we respect our world. Living the life of Jesus can result in an emotional catharsis—the tears, laughs, fears, joys of living a Christian life.

Some of us tell our story out loud, perhaps by writing fiction or creating family picture albums or community histories on videotape. The nightly television news is full of viewer video clips of tornadoes, hurricanes, fires—the catastrophic events that can change us so dramatically. Our community newspapers all have an opinion page, or a Letters to the Editor section, where we can voice our concerns. Whether in a high school class or an adult discussion group, you may want to try your hand at putting together a simple story exemplifying a truth in your lives. Choose video, for example, and as a group put together a five- or 10-minute video story about something in your lives that will highlight a human value. Explore a need in your community, interview a community elder, spotlight efforts to improve parent/teen communication. The truth is everywhere. Look for the story.

Draft a simple script (one minute of tape time equals about one written page), plan your camera shots and create your story. Not everyone has access to video editing equipment, but if you plan your work carefully, you won't need to edit. Videomaker magazine offers helpful advice for the consumer video enthusiast. When your project is done, you may want to take it to another class, parish or community group to promote further exploring and communication.

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times

Time Magazine

CNN

MSNBC

Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications

The Associated Press

The Chicago Tribune

People magazine

The History Channel

The Miami Herald

The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization

ABC News

Channel One’s online resource

The Vatican




Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.


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