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Quantitative Studies

History in the Schools - Twin City Tale Spinners

by Dr. Michael Lockett

Keywords: elementary school, middle school, social studies, language arts, fine arts


The Twin City Tale Spinners worked during 2006 and 2007 to improve the telling of historical stories in local schools in McLean County, Illinois. A grant was written by Dr. John Kirk, retired professor emeritus of the Illinois State University Theater Department, to the DEW Foundation to pay the costs of starting a new program to make history come alive in the McLean County schools. The DEW Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, funded the grant for $10,000 for the purpose of bringing stories about county history into local schools in McLean County, Illinois.

The funds allowed the Tale Spinners to research people and significant events from McLean County History and create stories, tell the stories in classrooms and teach students how to tell historical stories. Members were paid a small stipend for each written story that had been approved by the Tale Spinner Board and shared in one or more schools. The completed stories were compiled into a collection that all members had access to and that were shared with local teachers upon request. Copies of authentic documentation such as pictures, articles, books, etc. were compiled into small units that could accompany the stories.

The funds also paid the Tale Spinners a modest stipend for providing classroom programs during which they shared information through stories about the people and significant events from McLean County History that they had researched. In addition to telling stories, it was a goal to try to teach students how to tell historical stories. Professional storytellers guided the students as they searched through artifacts and tries to create their own stories to share with the rest of the class. One story-teller, "Old Ike," related stories of early settlers in the first person as if he had been there. Others told of the traditions and sometimes the myths of area history that had developed over the last 200 years.

Storytellers John Kirk, Vivian Carter and Dr. Mike Lockett (known in McLean County as The Normal Storyteller) were the three tellers who gathered true stories and prepared them to be shared with students in grade levels three through eight. The tellers partnered with the local historical society in order to work together to do the historical research and to find ways to take the stories into the schools. All lessons by the three were aligned with State Learning Goals for Social Science, Language Arts and for Fine Arts. The general themes for the stories centered around Tales of Early Settlers, Pioneers and Native Americans, Local Women Pioneers and Political Leaders, People, Places and Things in the History of Central Illinois.

The end result allowed the storytellers to give programs for students in the classroom. By combining PowerPoint presentations that showed photos of historical figures, stories about the people and events and authentic artifacts for children to handle, the storytellers were able to give the children a better feel for real-life history. Letters of evaluation from the principals of the seventeen different schools served showed that the program was well received.

Contact Info:
Dr. Mike Lockett, The Normal Storyteller
1401 Heritage Road West
Normal, IL 61761
(309) 454-2300

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