Links for Learning
1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers
This months Links for Learners will support high school
- ReligionScriptures, especially the Gospels; Christian
- Social Studiesoral history; history of cultures and
- Geographywriting skills; storytelling; drama
- 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
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 Months 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.
Search for meaning
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 godsthese 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
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 catharsisthe 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, firesthe 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.
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
- Access site to a number of online news publications
The Associated Press
The Miami Herald
The Close Up Foundation
– Washington, D.C.-based organization