Our Workshops

Rakonto offers two workshops: "Telling Your Story" for students and "Creativity in the Classroom" for teachers. Thanks to our sustainable funding program, we can offer these at no cost to schools.

Learn more about hosting a workshop

Our Workshop Philosophy

Our learning objective in these workshops is to raise the confidence and competence of learners in applying the classroom to their real-world endeavors.

We collapse the space in the classroom, getting the teacher out of the front, and allowing more space for exploration. The teacher, then, is recast as a facilitator, helping children question effectively and negotiate with their peers to solve problems. The effect is to place attention of the process of creating in an open-ended and social space itself, helping students form an awareness that can be called upon in the process of solving real problems in their communities.

Further, teaching the principles of storytelling through an open-ended and highly-social process and encouraging the students to express their own original views on the world in an artistic medium helps students realize the value and power of their own vision and expression to create positive change. Students are encouraged to consider the challenges faced by their community and emboldened in their abilities to both imagine and realize a better world.

About Telling Your Story

In Telling Your Story, students learn the power and art of storytelling, helping students realize their potential as weavers of their own life scripts and that of their communities. To guide this process, we borrow from Stanford D.School’s Design Thinking methodology. Design Thinking is an a creative and analytical approach to problem solving that encourages collaboration, a culture of prototyping, a bias towards action, mindfulness of one’s process, and a focus on human values. It also follows an oscillating structure, switching between divergent and convergent modes of thinking. This harnesses both sides of the brain and minimizes switching costs, helping students unleash their maximum creativity.

Workshops are split into five modules:
  • The Power of Story
  • Storytelling Theory
  • Brainstorming
  • Prototyping
  • Presentation
The Power of Story

This introduction is the first of the two modules organized as interactive lectures, studded with class exercises like the “6-Word Story” that produce understanding to be reinforced by the facilitator. Here we begin to define the parameters of the later creative challenge, and collaboratively define the tools and principles that the students will employ.

In the introduction, the big lesson for students is that stories told by us and about us frame how we and others see the world. In doing so, they can produce immense social change and can help us find meaning and fulfillment in a world of noise. The facilitator emphasizes how stories are packaged experiences, which are democratic, meaning that everybody has them, and nobody can monopolize them, and then highlights an inspiring leader in their community (Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi), and how that figure has used storytelling to communicate their vision and inspire others.

Storytelling Theory

What makes a good story, and what makes a bad story? The students are served examples in multimedia – snippets of stories, videos, audio stories, and through various exercised, perform independent analyses. Then, with the help of their peers, students begin to deduce a body of principles for effective storytelling.

Brainstorming

Having defined our scope and goals, we move on to a divergent mode: brainstorming. Students circle around in groups coming up with various storytelling ideas, taking turns considering the dimensions of plots, arcs, characters, conflicts, etc. and collecting their creations on boards and post-its. The point is to turn off the critical part of the brain that says “no,” allowing students to generate ideas at high quantities and of any quality. Gradually, this process flips on itself. Students sift through the fodder they’ve produced for the good stuff, mix and match, and gradually refine their focus as they define their stories out of the mess.

Prototyping

Continuing this convergence, next comes prototyping. A prototype is a cheap, low-fidelity artifact that allows someone to communicate an idea quickly, before things get resource-consumptive and complicated. They allow students to receive feedback from their peers – what’s working, what’s not working – and then iterate on their creations accordingly before moving on. For prototypes, we bust out the markers, cards, and scissors, and students leave this stage with a functional storyboard, a visually-defined signpost structure that they can “read” off of to their peers. These storyboards are an opportunity to practice effective feedback giving and to consider their stories from many angles.

Presentation

Finally, once students are happy, they find their own space and begin translating their storyboards into full-fledged stories. This process is surprisingly fun and easy. By now, they know their stories in and out, can recite its hook, know its characters intimately, and are ready to present its moral. They also have built an intuition for the kind of details they need to include to frame these details effectively.

We wrap up with a celebratory story presentation, in which each students takes her or his turn reading the story to the class as their peers listen.

About the “Creativity in the Classroom” Workshop

Teachers have expressed to us two challenges in shifting to this pedagogical style in their classrooms. The first is related to know-how. Teachers may be unsure about which tactics are tried and true, especially within an environment that favors little experimentation. Moreover, enabling creativity means bringing uncertainty into the classroom, a process that can be unsettling for teachers, who may not yet feel comfortable as facilitators to an open-ended space. The second is related to the rest of the institution. The educational institution in developing countries can be notoriously rigid. Many actors seek to preserve it as it is. Teachers often struggle to make the case justifying a shift in pedagogy, and could use help legitimating their cause.

This workshop is designed to help teachers approach these challenges with the purpose of making their classroom dynamic and more open-ended. We use the same storytelling exercises as with their students as a case study, serving as an example of a different pedagogical style. Then, we guide the teachers, already receptive to this attitude, through a series of principles, tools, and strategies that support this different methodology. This gears them for managing effectively a more egalitarian and expressive classroom. As a final deliverable, rather than a storybook, teachers are tasked with incorporating principles that underlie the above workshop into their existing lesson plans. We help them integrate interactive and collaborative activities, ideation/brainstorming processes, and storytelling itself. This is often run on an off day from the main student workshop.