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For Ellis, all students have a story

By Lisa Depies

Geneseo Republic Editor

 

When storyteller Brian "Fox" Ellis of Peoria works with students, he envisions himself similar to one of storytelling¹s most famous characters. "I feel like Johnny Appleseed," said Ellis. "When I come to a school for a day, I plant the seeds of storytelling. But when I¹m there for a residence program, I¹m able to water and care for the seeds as they grow."

 

Ellis had an opportunity to nurture the art of storytelling in sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students at Geneseo Middle School Feb. 20 to 23 during an artist in residence program at the school.

 

The storyteller's appearance at the school was made possible by a grant from the Geneseo Endowment for Excellence in Education (GEEE), said middle school English teacher Jeanne Anderson.

 

Every few years, Ellis visits the school to work on storytelling skills with the students, said Anderson. "While he's here, he works with all three grades."

 

With the eighth-graders, Ellis helped students learn how to tell a personal narrative. With seventh-graders, he helped them write their own fables, and the sixth-graders wrote survival stories in conjunction with their classroom study of the Iditarod dog-sled race.

 

"At the middle-school level, students say they're shy and reserved, but once they get into the story, their personalities come out," said Ellis. The middle-school students "are right in the middle of things. They¹re eager to acquire advanced knowledge, and they also have life experience," he said.

A professional storyteller for 26 years, Ellis' experience with the art dates back even further. "I¹ve been telling stories since I was able to talk," he explained. It's that experience Ellis hopes to convey to the students. "I've found they can go far when nudged. I love it when that light bulb just comes on for them."

 

Anderson sees Ellis' visit as a creative spark for students. "Anytime you can bring in someone different, it perks the students up," she said. And the lessons they're learning will have lifelong implications, said Anderson. "Everything we do is pretty much based on storytelling in some state, and I like the idea that everyone has their own story to tell."

 

For more information on Ellis' storytelling, visit his Web site at www.foxtalesint.com.

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