HANDRAILS ~ INTRODUCTION
With 'handrails', the emphasis is on the content of a story - but typically involves telling the story from a different or unlikely perspective. Sometimes fresh perspectives provide amazing insights, sometimes they detract from the story and provide too big a challenge for the story-teller.
It may be important to be very clear at this stage whether the priority is playing around with techniques (i.e. warm-ups) or helping people to tell their story. If the different perspective adds something of value - so much the better. If learners get tired of techniques or resent the offer of 'crutches' - then great.
The chances are that you end up with a wonderful story-telling session because the learners have something to prove. You end up with the kind of high quality session that you were aiming for - it has just arrived sooner than expected!
Draw a map of the story and use it as a visual aid when telling the story. This is described in Playback as a group activity, but it can also be and individual activity.
Draw a strip cartoon of the story and use it as a visual aid when telling the story. This is described in Playback as an individual activity, but it can also be a group activity.
Trace the ups and downs of your story as a freehand graph and talk through it (one of the variations in 'Playback')
THIRD PERSON NARRATOR
Tell your story in the third person - a kind of neutral, invisible observer reporting on what you yourself were doing, thinking and feeling.
THIRD PERSON NARRATOR 'WITH ATTITUDE'
As above but the nature or identity of the third person narrator is either chosen by the narrator herself or is chosen by the group, or is pulled out of a hat. The narrator may rise to the challenge, but should be free to decline it and ask for an alternative persona.
Tell your story in the present tense.
Tell your story as if it is a letter to someone you'd like to write to, or as if you are addressing a different audience (which also gives scope for the audience to take on roles).
Write down headings for the separate bits of your story before telling it.
STORY WITHOUT WORDS
Tell your story without speaking or writing. Mime is the likely medium. The narrator is less on the spot if she can involve others in the mime (very brief briefings allowed). If this is too challenging then action replay is an alternative.
Collect, arrange and then use natural and/or artificial objects to help you tell your story.
MOBILE TV PRESENTER
If the objects are too big or difficult to move, then move the 'audience' to the objects, and tell the story while on the move. It may be useful to remind learners of TV programmes where presenters have carefully choreographed scripts and movements as they tell their story on the move - aided by visual aids/prompts where they pause for a while to touch or point to (or even run away from) their chosen story-telling aid.
As for 'Found Objects' but using drawings, photographs, paintings etc.
MCFAIL'S MYSTERY MONITOR
Tell your story into a tape recorder. Listen to the tape. Record your comments about the story. Make brief notes and report back to the group on what you learned from this exercise. A fuller description of this introspective exercise can be found in Priestley and McGuire's 'Social Skills and Personal Problem Solving: A Handbook of Methods (1978) Tavistock Publications Ltd. UK
'You all have stories to tell. So have I. I will tell my story and I would like you to note down five similarities and five differences between your story and mine.'
The story you tell can be similar to theirs or absurdly different, or it may be a fable with a message that you think has some relevance, or it may be a randomly selected story (with learners knowing it is random). Stories are then initially shared by going through the lists of similarities and differences. The original story may be one of the learner's stories, or the process can be started in pairs with listeners noting down similarities and differences. Roles are reversed and then notes are shared.
Most value will come from 'likes' (connections) rather than 'unlikes' (no connection) - but 'unlikes' may give rise to insights and they can lighten what can be otherwise unnecessarily heavy.
Why use this technique?
See SAME AND DIFFERENT for a variation of this exercise.
- Making links between experiences is a core reviewing skill.
- The more 'unlike' the stories are, the more profound the similarities are likely to be (although this is not guaranteed!).
- Everyone needs to listen carefully to each other's stories - but it is a special kind of listening i.e. for 'resonances', 'connections' or 'similarities'.
- Expressions of empathy may arise, such as: 'Your story is similar to mine in these ways'.
- If apparent similarities are challenged, this will lead to clarifications of both stories involved.
- There may be some interesting discoveries. One of these might well be that learners who felt they had a unique experience that no-one else would understand find that everyone can 'connect' with their story - and that although the original experiences were not 'shared' at the same time and place, they are now 'shared' experiences in the sense that each learner will have found many points of contact (as many as five times the total number of listeners!). Aside: This is a more literal meaning of the word 'share' which has come to mean 'impart' in trainer-speak (the kind of one-way sharing that tends to challenge concentration spans!).