Former high school teacher turned storyteller Octavia Sexton recently spent three days at Wilkey Elementary, bringing arts & humanities into the classroom with a slant toward developing communications skills through storytelling and drama.
The high-energy Sexton has been telling stories professionally since 1987 and according to her website averages more than 200 engagements each year, primarily in the southeast. As she weaves her colorful sagas, she also uses them to help others learn how to unleash their own inner storyteller.
Sexton worked specifically with third graders, helping them explore elements and types of drama through body language and facial expressions, voice, language and, of course, imagination.
Teacher Daniel Priddy was impressed with her embrace of regional dialect, while also stressing the importance of Standard English. Another key element he and the other third grade teachers liked was her continual emphasis on how drama and storytelling related to presentation skills.
During each session, she prompted students that “it takes practice to be successful communicator,” and encouraged them to start now.
Students shared their newly-learned talents with upper grades in a closing performance that demonstrated several dramatic elements including improvisation, body and voice imagination, pantomime, and use of props and costumes to enhance the telling. Teachers got in on the act with an amusing improvisation of the “three-headed storyteller” routine of their own.
Sexton’s visit was funded by VSA Kentucky, a non-profit organization that provides opportunities in the arts for children and adults with disabilities. VSAKY brings approved teaching artists into the classroom and schools for projects use dance, drama, music, storytelling or visual arts to coordinate with lessons. The organization defines arts education, community arts programming, and professional development as vital elements of its service to Kentucky.