Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Narrative consultant visits students at Luther L. Wright


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Ironwood - We are all storytellers as human beings, according to narrative consultant Jenifer Strauss. And if we can tell a story out loud, we can certainly write it.

"That is what this whole program is about," said Strauss who spent the morning working with children in the second, fourth and fifth grades at the Luther L. Wright K-12 School. "Many fear the writing process. They think they don't have good ideas and they do," she said.

"I let them know that story material is all around. There are stories in songs in books and stories we can make up or retell," said Strauss. "Storytelling is the first language. We learn the structure of language then apply that to writing," she said.

Strauss, who is from Traverse City, has traveled all over the country teaching and telling stories for all ages. She has performed during summer programming at the Historic Ironwood Theatre for many years and works with young authors at Carnegie Library engaging them in reading, writing and storytelling, she said.

To engage the second-graders, Strauss began her session with a song which opens up a certain part of the brain, she said.

"We are usually tapping into the stories of our lives, then it has to be structured so it has meaning," said Strauss. "There were always storytellers in cultures. It was the earliest form of education," she said.

Strauss feels her job is more important now than ever. "The average person spends 49 hours a week looking at a screen," she said. "There's that many hours we're not looking at each other. We're living in digital times." Strauss has noticed too that students are using text abbreviations in their writing.

"Technology is good," she said, "but we'll have a deficit somewhere if it's used too much. Our deficits are in compassion and empathy when we sit across from another human being and listen to their story," she said.

Strauss works with all ages. "Some adults want to leave a legacy for their children, while others are recovering form mental health issues," she said. Her work depends on who hires her and why they brought her in. But she was impressed with the Ironwood students, she said.

"I was impressed with their writing. The teachers are to be commended. They are doing something right" she said. "They were engaged, listened, and followed directions well."

Strauss reminded the children they had their own story to tell.

"And we can change the story if we want. We can change the ending," she said.