Teacher Professional Development

Great time, Mary Jo! The evaluations were stellar, with overwhelming “excellent”…
— Danielle Morrow Oxford/
Webster/ Southbridge CPC


After giving workshops for teachers (as well as professional storytellers in their annual New England Storyteller conference, “Sharing the Fire”) over 20 years, Mary Jo has developed a method that fuses her performance experience with putting teachers into the driving seat as storytellers and teachers of language arts.

At workshops, Mary Jo models telling various kinds of stories, with the emphasis on traditional folktales. She builds comfort and a safe, supportive environment for participants, beginning with simple story skill-building tasks, such as describing something in their homes. Over the course of a typical 1 1/2 hour workshop, teachers learn by witnessing and by immediate practice — retelling tales to partners, watching Mary Jo weave music into a story so kids can sing along, chant along when teachers return to the classroom — or parents to their homes.

During the course of these very fun, playful language arts activities, participants learn about folktales, how important they are for literacy, how to infuse them into circle time, or into their teaching.

For example, typically, teachers practice making an origami story, folding paper into a surprise ending, so kids will have tangible visuals as part of their experience. They practice a poem or short story with handplays. Mary Jo makes these tales memorable, so they have fast practical application the very next day for teachers.
All the while they are learning oral language skills that make lessons in other curriculum areas meaningful and relevant.
Adults get on their feet and act out a story with a repetitive pattern they just won’t forget, such as “The Turnip,” a Russian tale. They can tell the story and they can teach their kids the very next day how to play and practice language arts. They learn how to do this with costumes, add refrains or rhythm instruments. And they have a ball, and a lot of laughs, even after their long, long days.

All the while they are learning oral language skills that make lessons in other curriculum areas meaningful and relevant. “Once upon a time” captures students’ attention. For example, watch hard-to-remember historical facts become memorable with the associative power of narrative.

Participants receive great hand-outs on storytelling, learn about current empirical research that convinces how critically important storytelling is, with massive benefits (see Benefits of Storytelling).

Results at an Oxford, Mass. evening went as follows:

How helpful did you find this workshop:


Was the presenter:

Would you take another class with this presenter?

ALL yes or 5, one “YES. Very fun, interesting!” “She was fab! Thank you! Really enjoyed it!”

Contact Mary Jo to describe your p.d. needs.