English Flexible Friday 6th January
Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie speaks of the danger of a single story. If we only read stories about people like us, how can we hope to understand people who are different? And if we only read stories about people who are different, how can we hope to understand ourselves? We must, Adichie says, read a range of stories if we want to make sense of ourselves, and our world.
The World Stories Flexible Friday was born of this idea.
When we read stories from other cultures, we have no choice but to look at other people’s worlds through other people’s eyes. This can help us to see that, as human beings, nothing human is alien to us.
This is something we try to explore during the English department’s Flexible Friday.
At the start of the day, students consider which stories from other cultures they are aware of, as well as considering why it is important to read a range of stories.
They then look at folk tales and the idea of the oral tradition, with each class focusing on a specific folk tale from one of a variety of countries, including Vietnam, Angola and pre-colonial North America. Through their particular tale, the students explore the importance of not just the story itself, but of the way the story is told, and they work together to produce a memorable performance of their folk tale for the rest of the year group.
The day concludes with the performances in the hall. For these, students are encouraged to avoid straightforward drama and instead to combine it with traditional oral storytelling and other forms of performance, including music, mime and dance. This leads to some enormously creative ideas, with students weaving elements such as video editing, gymnastics, visual art and even origami into their performances.
Overall, the World Stories Flexible Friday is a reflective, active and enjoyable day for students and teachers alike.