A Good Storyteller

The Rose Tattoo Wisdom Keepers Tales2go Audio Books

Standards and Objective

Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 6 Language standards 1 and 3 for specific expectations.)

Tales2go Titles

  • The Rose Tattoo (within Wisdom Keepers) by Kevin Cordi


This is a story about storytelling. The listener is not sure, at the outset, whether or not the story is true.  The listener is drawn in by his tone, a sense of danger, and a connection with the storyteller established by the contrast between those around him (a prisoner in jail who gives tattoos) and the apparent innocence of the farmer telling the tale.  Have students think about whether or not the person telling the story was a voluntary participant in this tale or if he’s under duress or peer pressure when he gets the tattoo. Also, do they think that the storyteller made up the story or not? Note: there is one reference to bleeding and cutting skin during the tattooing process.  If there is a student who is sensitive to this, teachers should use their discretion.

Play: The Rose Tattoo

Ask the class if this sounds like a real story to them.  Cite arguments on either side for or against their opinion.  Does the back-story (being bored and feeling like he needs to escape) add credibility?  Do his turns of phrase, such as “long before it was the fashion to do so,” support the argument that this is a farmer who had been to jail?  Does the way he imitates his cell-mate’s voice seem realistic? Do you think he actually married the woman at the end of the story? Why or why not?  Don’t accept answers that are not supported by a reason for coming to that conclusion.  Support students in explaining clues in the way the characters in the story spoke that brought them to their conclusion, so they can demonstrate critical thinking.

After some discussion, ask students to come up with three things about themselves, including two facts and one lie. Remind students to be discreet (not to gossip about others or their family members) but to share something that may surprise others or throw them off.

As a teacher, you may want to demonstrate using an example such as:
I was born in _________________. (A true statement)
I have had _______ pets in my life. (A lie)
I am afraid of _______________. (Another true statement)

Whichever student figures out which of the statements is false gets to take the next turn.  Allow a moment for student’s to process their thoughts before there are “on deck.”

Summary: Discuss what it is about the way information is delivered that gives a storyteller credibility. What strategies do we employ when we try to convince people something is true? How do we “give it away,” when we are joking or tricking someone.  Students who were good at guessing which statements were untrue should share how they knew.  Had they applied background knowledge (i.e., I have been to your house and I know you don’t have 5 dogs) or do they habitually listen to details told in stories?

Extensions and Variations

Students who are shy or who are concerned about fitting in may need some suggested topics, such as how many cousins you have, a place you have traveled that would surprise someone, a favorite or least favorite food, or a unique talent like riding a unicycle or experimenting with recipes in the kitchen.

Fun Fact:
The storyteller, Kevin Cordi, really does teach classes in how to effectively engage audiences in storyteller activities. If you have a story for children or adults you’d like to share, check out: The Story Box Project, a global writing community he has created. Maybe some of the student would like to use their truths and lies as the background of a tale of their own.

About the Common Core

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) lay out very specific listening requirements, by grade, as part of a dedicated strand for speaking and listening skills. The standards specify the use of ‘other media’ within the standards, e.g., “CCSS.ELA-Literacy 3.2 Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.”
Listening is placed on equal footing with reading, writing and speaking. And for those tempted to just pair audio with visual text, that approach is common and valid with emerging readers, but not what the standards intend.
The CCSS also requires students to comprehend texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through school. Audio books can act as an important scaffold that allows students to read above their actual reading level.
Learn more at www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy.