digital storytelling,  education,  instruction,  timeless,  tips

Running a personal storytelling workshop with a large group

This article is about running a storytelling workshop with a large group.

Canadian digital storyteller Kent Manning contacted Barrie Stephenson and I recently with a question: “I’m conducting a digital storytelling session next month for a group of 26 educators. I value the story circle part of the process as this is the way I was taught by the folks at CDS. Would you have any suggestions for conducting story circle time with such a large group? Would you have individuals share their stories with the large group? Small group sharing perhaps?”

Here’s what I suggest:

26 is a big group. You could either split it into three and hold three storycircles or here’s a suggestion that may help.

1. Pair people up and ask each to talk for two minutes about ‘the most remarkable day of my life’. Their partner takes notes and will relate their partner’s story in the next step.

2. Bring neighboring pairs together into six or seven groups of four. The tell each other’s stories of their big day to this small group.

3. Bring neighboring quads together into three groups of eight or so people for the Love/Hate game.

4. If you want one preparatory activity with all 26 together, Gilly Adams’s Match Game is the one I suggest.

5. Back to the three groups of eight will be the best way to develop the stories each participant intends to tell.

For other Story Circle activity ideas, see also this page with seven articles about helping people to capture their story in a digital storytelling workshop.


digital storytelling photo
Photo by Elijah

Kent got back in touch afterwards to say:

“I employed a couple of the strategies you mentioned at my DS session in New York City. The group was a close knit bunch and all had very good working relationships so small group interaction as you suggest below worked the best. And then we gathered as a larger group to talk about our stories.

The teachers came prepared to the workshop with story ideas and photos, so we used the morning as a writers workshop and most folks had a working draft by noon. It was at this point we started our conversations and story circles in depth.”

If you’ve worked with larger groups and have tips or experiences to share, feel free to use Comments.

Written and first published by Gareth Morlais on 5 May 2013.


  • @KentManning


    Thanks for this post! Now others will benefit from your suggestions.

    There is something to be said for activities that break down any barriers folks may have. Once barriers are down and stories start flowing, the possibilities are many. Participants in some cases choose a completely different topic during the session or modify their writing along the way based on how comfortable they feel in the group and whether they feel okay with sharing rather personal stories.

    Again, thanks for the support and all the best at #ds8. My plan is to join in on the fun at #ds9.


    • Gareth Morlais

      I think you’re right Kent. Mutual trust is needed for the sharing of personal true stories. I also like the way people often come to a workshop with a firm idea of the story they’re going to tell and then end up telling a completely different one, because of something that happened in the story circle.

%d bloggers like this: