Connecting With Story
Storytelling programs for all audiences and venues
Sheila uses her knowledge, her passion, her compassion and her extraordinary performance skills to craft and deliver storytelling programs that engage and entertain audiences nationally and internationally. Individualized programs can be developed to meet you specific needs.
“Sheila’s stories helped us understand what the journey to freedom felt like for people as individuals—their pain and struggles. It was a very powerful session” – Kiran Singh, Director, International Storytelling Center
Author and Storyteller, Sheila Arnold from Hampton, VA, presents a program using her book, The “Weeping Willow” or “Why the Leaves Change their Colors”, to encourage literacy, enhance imagination and writing and discuss folktales. As a storyteller, Sheila TELLS her original folktale and why and how the story was written. This is followed by a discussion of “pourquoi” (How? or Why?”) stories, and families or students then participate in creating their own “pourquoi” story. A fun and engaging program. Note: Sheila is also the author of a historical fiction book featuring Biblical characters, David’s Mighty Men: Benaiah, and can do an author visit about historical fiction and character presentations if desired.
18th-century: Ol’ Bess speaks at a Gathering
Ol’ Bess, a tavern slave from 18th-century Williamsburg, Virginia, comes in her period clothes and invites folks to a slave-gathering. She shares the tales of humor, lessons and dreams from her time period. She also shares about her life – joys, sorrows and hopes. Songs are included in this interactive program. If time is available and students are grade 4 and above, there is a Q&A session at end of the presentation. Some titles: “Simon & Susannah”, “Devil Coined a Phrase” (compiled by Zora Neale Hurston), “Combustible Woman” (from Virginia Gazette)
African Stories: Motherland comes Home
All stories come from Africa and have a moral or theme. Often the stories encourage active participation and are great for every age. As time permits, there is a highlight on one of the African countries, i.e. language, land composition, flag, and a song or two is taught. Some titles: “Why the Frogs Hands are Flat”, “Anansi and his Seven Sons” and “The Dog and the Lion”
African-American: Keeping Heritage Alive
Stories written, told or passed down through the African-American culture, with an emphasis on reading and writing. The stories cover a wide spectrum of time and include original pieces as well as time-tested ones. Songs and some history are also a part of the presentation. This presentation is excellent for all ages. Some titles: “Why de Jump de Broom” (original), “In the Morning” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Jack and the Skull”, “Simon & Susannah”, stories from Virginia Hamilton’s “Herstory” and “The People Could Fly”
Around the World…IN STORIES
Vietnam. Malawi. Germany. Okinawa. West Virginia. California. Rhode Island. Mississippi. Ms. Sheila has traveled to various parts of the world and around the country and everywhere she goes she gathers stories. Stories from the area and stories about the people, the culture and interesting places to visit will be shared with students. There will also be at least one story told from two different cultures and students will be asked to look at why those differences are made. This is great to kick off a geography unit and specific areas can be looked out. Grab your books, jump on board and let’s go around the world…IN STORIES.
Dr. Seuss & Creativity
Dr. Seuss was the master of using the imagination with short, succinct words. Through a variety of Dr. Seuss books and memorized pieces, young people have the chance to experience and re-experience Dr. Seuss’ creativity. For older students, there are wonderful additional participative activities using the imagination, writing and creative and play acting skills. Relive Dr. Seuss in a whole new way. Great for pre-school through high school!
General Storytelling: Tales for Everyone
A combination of stories, songs, interactive games and poetry from all of the above. A strong focus on reading and being creative. Lots of life lessons and laughter involved. Also, stories of relevancy to the geographic area, the school or cultures are made as much as possible. Stories appropriate for every age.
“Giants, Grand Adventures and Great Ideas” Storytelling Program
This storytelling program for all age groups takes us to BIG places to meet BIG people, some of whom had BIG ideas. Come along with Ms. Sheila, as she tells stories, sings songs and plays interactive games with children, teens and adults. Ms. Sheila also encourages students to look at books of folklore, the wonders of the world and inventors.
“Hallowed Ground” Storytelling & Song Program (for churches and libraries)
Hallowed Ground – to render sacred; to consecrate. In the African-American culture, there are places that are sacred: from slave quarters where they were forced to family homes sometimes scarred by prejudice and ignorance; from bridges of the trampled to churches of the bombed. This program uses stories – humorous, historical and inspirational – to encourage the audience to take a moment and consecrate the places that are sacred. Also, attendees will be strengthened to make their mark, and through peace and reconciliation, make every place we walk hallowed ground.
“Locks Opened Series” Storytelling Presentations
“Waterways to Freedom”
This program is historical storytelling at its best. Through story and song Master Storyteller, Sheila Arnold, shares about local waterways that were part of the Underground Railroad. Most of the stories are from an 1870s book written by William Still, a Conductor for the Underground Railroad and Secretary of the Philadelphia Abolitionist Society. His book shares the stories of over 500 people who ran from slavery, including some who used the locks, canals and waterways to escape. Discover these stories that will make you begin your own search into local history and help you understand what the desire for freedom can make a person overcome. A one hour program, that is continually changing because new information is being found. For all ages.
Freedom – what we all desire, but if you had to leave something or someone behind, could you do it for the hope of a word called “freedom”? Through story, song and audience interaction Master Storyteller Sheila Arnold, looks at the fugitive slaves from the Underground Railroad and shares what they left behind – family, clothes, name, even life. There are surprises that were left behind as well, and this presentation brings humor along with thought-provoking moments. This program is historical storytelling at its best. A one hour program that begins with the audience’s thoughts and leads to stories that will stay in your mind long after the presentation has ended. For all ages.
This program is historical storytelling at its best. Through story and song Master Storyteller Sheila Arnold shares the most extraordinary and death-defying escapes for freedom by the fugitive slaves, many recorded because of their connection with the Underground Railroad. Ms. Sheila, as she is often called, accents these stories with audience participation. This one hour program will have you on the edge of your seat, and wondering, “What would I do for freedom?”.
“ Law & Order: Resistance”
In 1850 the world changed all because of one law. In that year, families and communities feared for their livelihoods, their families and their communities. How could one law cause such fear and terror in some, and yet ecstasy and gratitude in others? This historic storytelling program starts with stories, songs and some history foundation, but then turns into a court case worthy of a television show. Come and be in the jury (or a lawyer) and actively learn how one law can change a life. A one hour program appropriate for all ages, but particularly engaging for ages 10 and above. No legal experience required! 😊
The stories of the Underground Railroad are filled with those who made daring escapes and conducted courageous escapes in order to reach freedom. However, daring, courage, knowledge and luck, didn’t always lead people to “the promised land”; some who dared were caught and their fates varied widely. Hear some of the stories of those who were caught riding the Underground Railroad. This one hour program is a multimedia presentation including ballads, props, dance, song, stories, video and audience participation. Some of the multimedia may be limited dependent on venue. Appropriate for adults and teens.
“Children at the Border”
The Underground Railroad of the 1800’s did not just help free adults. Many a child came with, and without, parents, often through the same perils and sometimes in “plain sight”. Using the overarching theme of slave children’s games, Master Storyteller Sheila Arnold engages the audience in play as well as the serious business of getting freedom. Enjoy the songs, the stories, the games and the heart of this historic storytelling one hour presentation, which is appropriate for every age.
Sanctuary – a place of refuge or safety. We all need places of refuge; places where we can safely rest our mind and body, places where we know we have someone who hears our voice, places where we stop fighting. There are people who need more than just a moment, they need a “sanctuary” to keep them safe from those willing to bring them harm, to give them a home when theirs has been taken away and to be an added voice of support to their cause. Throughout history the United States has given sanctuary including during the Underground Railroad. Join Master Storyteller Sheila Arnold as her stories and songs remind us that we should be a people lighting the way to a refuge of freedom. One hour presentation appropriate for all ages.
Morality Tales: Character Education 101
Take a step back in time and meet Anansi, Aesop, Brer Rabbit, The Grimms Brothers, various fairy tales and personal family stories. Using older stories from a variety of cultures and time periods, timeless lessons are taught. Students are encouraged to find the morals and lessons themselves and also to look for their personal life lessons. Great for 4th grade through middle school, in particular, although the stories are for all ages.
Ole Skool Classics
Some stories are classics: “Cinderella”, “Red Riding Hood,” and “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” to name a few. However, since the first writings of these classic stories, they have changed, and in many cases, changed considerably. This program shares some of the “classics” – using the earliest versions, and sometimes the very newest. Take a trip way back before everything was “happily ever after” and a trip forward into the 21st-century. Most appropriate for 3rd grade and above, and is particularly fun and engaging for middle and high schoolers.
“The Opposite of Bully: Upstanders”
This program can be adjusted for any grade, but is especially appropriate for 3rd – 5th graders. It’s an one hour program that uses folktales, historical stories, songs and an activity to talk about the opposite of the word “bullying”: encouraging, protecting, reassuring, accepting, etc. This program also encourages students to become “Upstanders”, standing up for others who are being bullied, and being a friend. 45 minutes – 1 hour in length.
Pre-School Storytelling Programs – Varied
General: Introduction to Reading Literacy
“Hats” – Occupations Around Us
“Kings and Queens” – Fun Stories of Royalty
“My Piano” – Music and Instruments
“Playing the Game” – Olympics; Being a Good Sport
“That’s Shocking: Electricity” – electricity taught briefly along with electricity safety and colors
“Wish I Was a Horse” Animals Pre-School Storytelling Program
Slightly Scary Tales and Sometimes Slightly More
Need to scary ‘em just a little? Is it Halloween? A slumber party? Pretending you are camping or camping for real? Or just want to show the genre of horror and slightly grisly? Well, this is the program. These slightly scary tales will send chills up the spine, but then provide laughter, not bad dreams. Hear some of the tested old tales and try a few new. Some titles: “Aunt Kat” (original); “The Golden Arm” (traditional); “Corneilus” (original)
“Under Our Feet” Storytelling Program
What is under our feet? And how do we get down there? And could there be things that would surprise us or worlds we haven’t even seen yet? Walk with Ms. Sheila as she takes us to a journey to the world in and under the dirt through stories, songs and an activity or two. Also, she will encourage participants to be more aware of our environment and giving back as much is taken out.
“We Own the Night”: Storytelling & Poetry Program for Teens (MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL ONLY)
Using the words from LeRoi Jones’ poem, “We Own the Night”, as a starting point, teens will take a walk through the world of poetry, song and short story of the 1960’s, and other times where people stood for their rights. They will hear stories of empowerment both fictional – folktale and original – and true. In the end, teens will be encouraged to take their turn “to own the night” through justice, unity and peace.
“What Manner of Character…?” Storytelling Program
This interactive program for PK – 8th grades, encourages students by providing examples of respect, appreciation and consideration toward others. Hear Mrs. Sheila’s stories about playing games, winning and losing, and thinking about how others feel about our actions. Your children will grow strength of character and discover what it takes to have manners. This program is adapted for grade levels attending the program. This program is a great addition with other school bullying prevention programs.
“WriteOn and WriteUp”: Writing/Storytelling Workshop for Students
This writing and storytelling workshop is for small groups, i.e., maximum 75 students. Students will focus on the following: Warm Up Writing, every day writing (including free and directed writing), moving senses to story writing, creative Writing (prompts, hints and games), and personal writing. Students will also learn more about storytelling, and will incorporate storytelling with creating and developing the story in the writing process. Finally, students will be given assistance to find their writing and storytelling “voice.”
“Words of Excitement”: A Storytelling Program for Parents
This program encourages family stories, daily story/communication time with children, fears people having in telling stories and how to overcome them, the use of picture books, poems and songs and the importance of literacy and communication between parents, guardians, grandparents and the children around them. This is a hands-on interactive workshop, which gives practical, easy-to-implement ideas to all persons involved with youth and children. Youth and children who attend will enjoy the activities and stories. Note: This program is offered free to schools who have a storytelling program earlier in the day.
Monologues are followed by an inspirational presentation between 20 – 45 minutes
Little One: “Showing Thanks to Jesus”
Little One is the sister of Martha and Lazarus and lives in the town of Bethany. She briefly talks about the abuse she faced while living at home. She then discusses her need for affection and her solution to finding affection and the effects that has on her sister. Things take a turn when Jesus comes to Bethany and tells her to “Come home.” She shares her transformed life and how she was able to show thanks to Jesus in her own small, special and yet memorable way. 15 minutes.
Ania: “Spreading the Good News”
Ania is the Samaritan Woman talked about in the gospel of John. She shares with us her first impressions of the “Jewish” man – Jesus. Her presentation is filled with humor and seriousness as she lays out before the audience her doubts about this man who promises her water to drink and her hopes that he might be more than just a peddler. In the end, her hopes seem to be realized and what does she do? Wait and see! 7 minutes.
Mary: “From Bitter Heart to Restored Amazement”
Mary is the mother of Jesus. She talks while looking at Jesus on the cross. She reflects on Jesus’ young days and the ponderings in her heart. She talks about Jesus’ love for his family and the normal life he had as young adult. She then shares about the first days of Jesus’ ministry and the first miracle. However, life was not the same for her and Jesus after his ministry started. She didn’t agree with everything he was saying and in the process feels as if she loses her son, Jesus, her other children, and finally, her faith in God’s promises. In the end, it is a simple gift that a mother gives a child that brings her faith back. 14 minutes.
Deborah: “Being a Light: Purpose in the Kingdom of Heaven”
Deborah represents the “many women” who followed Jesus, but their names are not mentioned. We are not all stars, and the same is true for the great number of disciples, both men and women, that follow Jesus. Deborah tells about her and her family’s reaction to one of Jesus’ sermons, and how those words changed her family’s life and direction. She also gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ special relationship with children and what she has learned from the heart of children. 12 minutes.
Procula: “Jesus – Who is this Man?”
Claudia Procula is the wife of Pilate, Jesus’ final condemner. This powerful presentation asks the questions that for generations have been asked: “Who is this Jesus?” “Will his words last longer than other dead philosophers?” “What does his life mean to me?” She shares with us how her husband dealt with his decision about Jesus and sneaks us a peek into the chamber where the Jewish synagogue rulers gathered to condemn Jesus to Pilate. Finally, she shares with us the dream that prompts the words of advice to her husband. Can her questions be answered at the foot of the cross? 9 minutes.
Hadassah: “Falling Away, Repentance and Forgiveness”
Hadassah is the wife of Jairus, whose daughter was raised from the dead by Jesus. She quickly becomes a zealous disciple of the Master. However, when she returns home, she finds herself under persecution from family and friends. Learn through her own words, and sometimes through a scene with 2 other women, about Hadassah’s great rise and fall as a disciple. Will she turn her life back to Jesus? 13 minutes.