Newsletter 6



1001 Stories for Adult Learning

Sheherazade Pilots: introducing storytelling for inclusion.
November 2013


Sheherazade is a Grundtvig Multilateral Project that wants to introduce storytelling and the use of storytelling techniques as an educational strategy and a pedagogical tool in formal and non-formal adult learning. The project focuses on the linguistic, interactive, performing, social and cultural aspects of stories and storytelling and will help adult learners gain communication skills, develop imagination and creativity, improve intercultural understanding and build competences for inclusion.

In this newsletter you can read the articles on the pilot projects organised by some of the Sheherazade partners.


Sheherazade puts the “Crick Craic” into Lifeskills in Co. Meath


Meath Partnership recently hosted Mary McEvoy as our special guest at a storytelling workshop in Oldcastle as part of the Lifeskills through Stories training programme. This training was devised for Sheherazade and delivered as part of the work of the Social Inclusion Team in Meath. Focusing on the tradition of storytelling in Ireland, this pilot training programme was a celebration of folklore and a unique experiment in how storytelling can be used in an adult-education setting for social inclusion purposes.


Oldcastle was chosen as the location of the pilot training as there was a strong desire amongst local residents to do more to promote social cohesion and improve intercultural dialogue between resident communities in this rural Irish town. Comprising locals, newcomers and the affectionately titled “blow-ins”; this community had already embarked on a number of informal events to encourage inclusion namely a Culture Night, where residents came together to share their traditional dishes and stories at a local community centre and a ‘Grab’n’Gab’ event, where a local market was staged encouraging residents to come along and barter their goods and engage in community conversations. Building upon these two events, the opportunity to participate in the Sheherazade pilot was an obvious next step and gladly welcomed by the community.


Lifeskills through Stories aimed to encourage the development of essential life skills, through creative methods, necessary for people to reach their full potential whilst developing self-confidence and promoting cultural awareness. The training took place each Wednesday over a six week period with experienced trainer Dil Wickremasinghe and storyteller Mary McEvoy encouraging confidence, creativity, imagination, dialogue and personal growth amongst participants. Twelve people participated in the training drawn from migrant, unemployed and disadvantaged backgrounds. There was an initial curiosity and hesitance amongst participants about storytelling and many were shy and nervous about being centre stage. To begin each session, Mary started with a short story and then introduced interactive ice-breakers and story circles putting leaners at ease and building trust within the group.



Working in small groups of 2 to 3 people, Mary introduced a variety of storytelling exercises that encouraged participants to tell personal stories about their name, place of birth, childhood memories, personal achievements. The purpose of these exercises was to build confidence, encourage public speaking and to help participants recognize the value of their life choices to date and share achievements with the group.

Spurred on by the energetic and fun atmosphere that Mary and group facilitator Dil were able to create with the group, participants were soon eager to create and share their own stories – telling traditional stories, personal stories and creating new stories together.


Lifeskills through Stories was an opportunity for people to explore alternatives in their lives, to do things in a new way and to make solid plans to reach their goals.  Introducing storytelling in this training environment enhanced the attractiveness of and access to adult learning for many who have not been on the inside of a “classroom” for some considerable time. Storytelling is regarded as a very honest and informal way of teaching and was positively received by all those in attendance. The evaluation of the training pilot was extremely positive, with many people enjoying this method stating that it was difficult to believe that they were actually at a training programme because it was so engaging, interactive and a “break from the norm of PowerPoint and presentations”.


The Sheherazade project has given trainers and residents in Meath the unique opportunity to re-engage with the traditional of storytelling for which Ireland is well-known. Since the completion of the pilot training, storytelling is now being used by local tutors as part of their mainstream training delivery working with marginalized adults in non-formal training settings. At our national training day scheduled on 10th October 2013, Meath Partnership will build on the success of this pilot, by hosting a targeted workshop for local VET tutors and trainers who work with early school leavers, jobseekers, migrants, persons with disabilities and lone parents.


Jennifer Land, Meath Partnership


Personal stories – the pilot of Norway

In Norway the focus of the pilot project was how to use personal stories in inclusion. Peggy J. Miller writes in the article: “Stories have histories" about how the personal stories are connected in a social and cultural context. She leans against Bakthin saying that a story cannot be interpreted on the basis of a complete mechanical template but should be reflected based on the potential meaning that occurs each time it is being told. A personal story is a story in which the narrator recalls an incident that happened in his or her life, and in addition the teller is also the protagonist in the story. (Miller 2009[1], p. 69). When one tells a personal story in a here and now situation the storyteller creates a connection with other personal stories and she makes a personal contribution to sustaining and invigorating the collective cultural / historical practice of such storytelling. (Miller 2009, p. 71).


In our pilot project we collaborated with Batteriet/Kirkens bymisjon. Kirkens bymisjon is an organization that meets people in different ways through outreach activities in drugs - and prostitute etc. We conducted two types of workshops with two different groups. One group consisted of women from various cultures who took part in a one day course (5 hours). The second group was a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and cultures. With this group we met once a week over 5 weeks and we ended with a storytelling cafe where participants could tell stories they had worked with during the course. Methodologically, we focused on an aesthetic practice. Participants should find and share stories with each other, but they would also gain insight into how to work with a story to make it more holistic.

The participants came from different practices and cultures, language areas and experiences. We used stories so that they (or we) could both constitute themself as individuals and a common cultural context. We stressed both the telling and the listening as important factors in storytelling. Practical exercises concerning these topics were used. When people participate in cultural practices, they not only re-create those practices, they also re-create themselves as certain kinds of persons (Miller 2009 p. 77). The reason for working on personal stories was connected to our aims with the pilot where we looked on how participants can trust their own contribution into a community.

The project was documented through filming and additionally we used both oral and written feedback and self-observation.  One of our questions was:  What do you get out of attending such a storytelling course? We got answers like: “I'm going out of my comfort zone and grow on it. I have met several nice people. Taking with me the feedback (take breaks, talk quietly).” On a question about what from the workshop they would continue to use, one participant wrote: «I should at least take with me what I learned about it how to describe a story and use emotions in the story. Previously, my stories only had action.” Another participant answered: “I have learned about what a story must contain. Some points like actions, descriptions and feelings that give a better picture of what I am telling about.” We have not yet fully analyzed the outcome of the pilots, but we experienced and discovered a tendency where personal stories bring joy and laughter to a community.

Heidi Dahlsveen & Hilde Madso Jacobsen, Oslo & Akershus University College


The Fishmonger and his love for Soetkin

CVO Leuven-Landen is an Adult Education Provider offering language courses and Dutch courses for foreigners. As one of our teachers is a storyteller as well we were very excited to find out more about storytelling techniques and tools to help our students learn the language. We decided to develop the pilot “The Fishmonger and his Love for Soetkin” in a B1 level of Dutch. Learners would have enough knowledge to understand the rather specific vocabulary of the story. In the meantime the exercises we provided are an excellent way to rehearse the lexical structures learners already learned in previous lessons. As any other public school we are bound to a defined curriculum. Therefor storyteller Joke Van Himbeeck choose a story she could easily integrate in the module’s curriculum. Courses are split into units lasting 3,5 hours. One unit was completely dedicated to the pilot, followed by a walk lasting 1,5 hours. As much as we are convinced storytelling motivates the learners to express themselves in the language they’re learning, we had to limit the amount of time we could spend on the pilot for practical reasons.

During the first encounter the storyteller uses a city map to mark the different locations present in the story.  After this introduction she tells the story, set in medieval Leuven (16th century). Arnout and Soetkin work for Hein de Zeilmaker (the sail manufacturer. They work in his fish stall at the market. Arnout is in love with Soetkin. He works hard and saves all his money to buy her a ring. With a lot of effort, he is able to give her a ring only princesses can afford. But Soetkin doesn’t see the value of the ring and throws the valuable object into the Dijle (the river that runs through Leuven). She tells him she doesn’t want to marry him because she doesn’t want to remain a fishmonger for the rest of her life. She keeps dreaming of the ‘prince on the white horse’.  After what happened, they just keep working together in the stall. Arnout still loves her, but keeps this love to himself. Years go by and Soetkin has not yet found her real love. She still works in the fish stall with Arnout, and actually, they have become quite close. One day, Soetkin is filleting a nice trout when in the fish’s belly she finds a wonderful ring… the ring that she threw away years ago. Soetkin wants to give it back to Arnout, but Arnout insists she keeps it. Finally, Soetkin sees and esteems the value of the ring that is also a sign of the value of Arnout’s love for her. They marry and live long and happily ever after.

The story is followed by a number of exercises, such as what do the main characters  look like, jobs mentioned in the story, exercises with sentences on prepositions. They include grammar, vocabulary and idioms and are meant to familiarize the learners with the story, the characters and the vocabulary. Then they are ready for an activity on storytelling. The storyteller divides the group in pairs and asks them to reduce the story to 7 lines, then to 3 lines and finally to 1 line. Pairs share with the group. The groups then have different tasks, such as name 5 actions, 3 descriptions, 3 objects and 3 emotions present in the story. Or they have to sell the ring and make an adequate description, draft a search warrant for Arnout, turn the story into a gossip, etc...

The last activity is a preparation of the storytelling walk. The storyteller gives a memory to each student connected to the scene they will tell later on. They have to reflect on this memory and tell it to another student.  Every group gets a scene from story. Now the students have to interweave their story with the scene of the story they were given.

The next lesson the storyteller and the learners go for a story walk. They visit the places where Arnout and Soetkin once were and every group tells their part of the story . They also tell their own story that now has become intertwined in the original story.

Both the lessons were a success. Learners like to participate, were interested in local history and were able to express themselves. It felt like a way of informal learning. Teachers involved in this project share the enthusiasm of the learners and hope to continue the project.

Dorinda Dekeyser, CVO Leuven-Landen


Project partners:

Landcommanderij Alden Biesen, BE, coordinator.
Fabula, storyteller association, SE
Oslo & Akershus University college, NO
CVO Landen-Leuven, BE
Brunnenpassage, AT
Meath Partnership, IE
Superact, UK
ELAN Interculturel, FR
Sofia University, BG

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Sheherazade is a Grundtvig Multilateral Project.


"This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein."