With keen listeners | (Pic: Nupur Aggarwal)
With keen listeners | (Pic: Nupur Aggarwal)

How Nupur Aggarwal, the storyteller, 'storifies' lessons to make them so much more fun

Hyderabad-based Nupur Aggarwal has so many stories to tell and she is helping schools train an army of teachers so that they, in turn, can make learning a lot more easier for you. Here's how

Once upon a time, a king and queen of a faraway land had 26 children; a, b, c, d...z. One day, they realized a, e, i, o and u were missing and after a massive search, they were found chilling with their new friend 'an'. The six became such thick buddies that the children agreed to come back to the palace only if 'an' tags along. Listen closely and you'll find an English grammar lesson somewhere in there, a lesson you will never forget after this. This is exactly the task Hyderabad-based Nupur Aggarwal took up about a decade ago and continues to see it through — wrapping up the cold, hard facts that we learn in the classroom in warm and fuzzy stories. 

Nupur is penning an extensive resource book for teachers with very specific telling guide points like where they should modulate their voice and so on

Educational institutions, listen up. At least now that the CBSE has also recognised storytelling as a great learning tool — case in point the Storytelling as Pedagogy course they launched just last month — it's time to let storytelling take over the baton of teaching. It was in April that the certificate training programme on Performance Storytelling that she designed and executed came into power, with the first batch starting in April and the second coming up next month. How cool is that! And let us tell you, she is forever up to such cool things.

Listen to her

Nupur, who has been associated with Bengaluru-based Storywallahs, an organisation that has made telling stories their business, has taken her treasure trove of stories to about 70 schools across India, has trained over 100 teachers and for now, is working with two schools closely, Delhi Public School, Surat and KIIT International, Bhubaneswar. "What we essentially do is storify concepts from the curriculum and then handhold them through the process of consistently using the technique of storytelling in the classroom," describes the 41-year-old. 'Handholding' being the operative word here because this storyteller, who was born and brought up in Kolkata, inducts teachers into storytelling in the first month, then a process of one-on-one mentoring follows the next month which also includes Nupur sitting in one of their classes for observational purposes. Then it’s tell, repeat, review and correct. Basically, she stops at nothing to make sure that stories are a constant in classrooms. 

It was with Pitambar Publishing Company that she, for the first time, visited over 60 schools across India and performed stories for children. This was in 2014

"At no point should we forget that teachers have enough on their plate already and we can't place the responsibility of integrating lessons with stories on their shoulders alone. A little handholding comes in handy in such times," she says thoughtfully. Also, there are different ways of storytelling, one doesn't need to always go down the performance route. Role play among students, draw and tell, and read alouds, which is all about using voice modulation to read stories, are three of the several techniques that teachers can do when performing the story. "In fact, we ask them to share personal anecdotes in the form of stories so that children open up to them," she says.  

At the Puri Festival, Odisha

There are many other schools that have recognised the importance of storytelling and are in talks with the storyteller, who has a PG in Dietetics and Nutrition from Nirmala Niketan, College, Mumbai. What's making the task of these schools easier is that these storytelling training programmes for teachers are as customisable as they get. The number of hours, frequency and how much of their lessons need to be converted into stories (irrespective of the Board), all these decisions are the school's alone. It is Nupur's own children and the need to keep them hooked that helped her see the scope in stories and it is children today who ensure that she keeps at it.

Stories with a lesson
 - House for the hermit crab: When a hermit crab outgrows its shell, it tirelessly searches for another. When it does move, it finds the shell too plain and hence, invites a new friend to stay over every month. But what happens when the crab has outgrown this shell too? He moves into a much bigger shell and very soon, isn't afraid anymore and learns how to make more friends
Lessons learnt: Science of the hermit cab, concepts like change and adaptability
- Russian professors in a restaurant: Russian professors visit an expensive restaurant and start fighting about who should sit at the head of the table. A waiter tells them to keep shifting every time they visit again so that everyone gets a chance and when the first person gets the chance again, the meal is on the hotel. The trick is there are too many profs for the first one's chance to come again
Lessons learnt: Math concepts like permutation and combination, logic and so on

For more on her reach out at nupur@storywallahs.com