“Stories make us human”

– Jonathan Gottschall

“Human live in landscapes of make-believe. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country”. Jonathan Gottschall, writer of “The Storytelling Animal”, argues that stories help us navigates life’s complex social problems – just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior?

Recently, House of Knowledge (HoK) invited Ursula Holden Gill, a famous British actress, storyteller and educator, to hold an exclusive storytelling workshop for students and teachers of the elementary school. The storytelling workshop included the exploration of music, scene imitation, voices, body language, games, role play, interaction and many other forms. Introducing alternative forms of storytelling to children helps to develop their creative minds and inspires their exploration into exotic cultures.

Ursula Holden Gill held two storytelling workshops to cater for the different age groups of elementary school students. For the students of the lower grades, she combined the theme of Halloween to advance the storyline. Ursula used interesting songs to interact with the children, and transformed her voice and body language to imitate and describe the scenes in the story, allowing the children to totally immerse in her stories. Having inspired their creative minds, Ursula was able to guide the children to expand the content and plot of the story for themselves. As the workshop drew to a close accompanied by the melodious sounds of the ukulele, the children reluctantly bid farewell to her.

For the students of the senior grades, Ursula focused on to allowing the students to understand the feelings of the characters in the story through drama, role play, voice, body language and other forms. She welcomed the children with a traditional Indian Shruti Box. She wore customized tap shoes to show the inner world of the characters in the story. Ursula used vivid body language and interactive games to enrich the students’ vocabulary while asking them to formulate probing questions to expand their thinking. In addition, she also introduced the children to her hometown and it’s cultures, expanding the students’ global vision.

Ursula also conducted a workshop for our teachers in the elementary school, focusing on storytelling skills and enthusiastically shared with the teachers about how to attract students’ attention without books as well as the structural characteristics of storytelling. Teachers benefited a lot from Ursula’s expertise.

Ursula demonstrated her rich performance experience, vivid body language, inspiring singing, beautiful dancing and music with national characteristics to open a wonderful storytelling journey for students and teachers. Her humorous and dramatic storytelling style was very popular among teachers and students:

“There were different stories, they were inventive and fun. I really enjoyed the game where we had to guess the animals and the story about biscuits. Ursula was a good story teller” — Yu Bao, Grade 4 student

“I think she is good actually. Her faces that she makes are very funny. I love the story about the creator and the fluffy ball one and I loved the chocolate biscuit story” — Zhuang Zhuang Han, Grade 3 student

“I liked the part when the baby said: I want my milk. His voice was very funny. I liked it when mama read the book” — Candy Guo, Grade 1 student

“The workshop was definitely a learning experience. It was useful and captivating. I will certainly refer to the ‘bones of a story’” — Carryn Boltman, KG Lead teacher

“The workshop was helpful because it made me think about how to tell a story without reading” — Sarah Green, Grade 2 Lead teacher

  • Ursula Holden Gill
  • Professional storyteller, writer and educator
  • In 2013, released her first collection of songs ‘The Handaiden’s Daughter’
  • Voted Best Newcomer at The British Awards for Storytelxcellence in 2012
  • Won Best Soap Actress at the TV Quick Awards 2006 forole in Emmerdale
  • Tutor of singing, speech, storytelling and drama all over the U.K, Belgium, China, Ireland and South America in recent years