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Mary Hamilton

Mary Hamilton

Arts Education Artist
  • Folk Arts; Storytelling


    Storytelling is Mary Hamilton’s passion. Enthusiastic teachers are her heroes. Through Arts Education Residencies Mary enjoys the process of working side-by-side with her heroes while sharing her passion to benefit their students. Mary’s storytelling residencies begin with the teacher’s goals for including storytelling in the curriculum. Mary believes all classrooms can be storied classrooms, and she loves working with teachers who dare to explore that possibility. Her past work with teachers and their students includes: using storytelling to build early literacy with preschoolers and kindergarteners, integrating storytelling techniques with the writing process in both the prewriting and peer review for revision stages, using storytelling as a way of learning or documenting learning in content areas, and strengthening oral communication skills through the art of telling stories.

    Since 1983, Mary has told stories in schools from Florida to Alaska. She has taught numerous workshops on storytelling including the “Storying Your Classroom” master class at the 2008 National Storytelling Conference and “Traditional Literature and the Common Core” at the 2014 National Storytelling Conference. The Kentucky School Media Association presented Mary with the 1999-2000 Jesse Stuart Award for her work in storytelling in Kentucky’s schools. In 2009, the National Storytelling Network presented Mary with a Circle of Excellence ORACLE Award, given to under 100 storytellers nationwide since 1996. In 2012, the University Press of Kentucky published “Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies,” 26 tales written as close a possible to how Mary tells them, each followed with a commentary about the storytelling art. Kentucky Folktales won a 2013 Storytelling World Winner Award and an Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award. Mary also serves as a SWAT (Specialists with Arts Tactics) Consultant for the Kentucky Arts Council on the topics of Arts Integration and Formative Assessment.

    Mary looks forward to hearing your dreams for your students. You can also learn more about her and her work at

    Potential Residency Project

    You’ll see examples of more of Mary’s residencies by visiting the residency page of her website:​

    Here are a few examples of past residency projects:

    Kindergarten and Early Literacy

    A 10-day project with preschoolers or kindergartners which includes:

    1. Telling them folktales to develop listening and imagination skills.
    2. Leading them in informal reenactments of the folktale.
    3. Student informal dramatizations of the student-authored tales to use listening skills and, most importantly, to help establish for students the connection between the stories they dictate, the “marks” written on the paper, and the actions of the actors on the “stage.” This project uses storytelling for literacy development – a very appropriate preschool activity.

    Telling to Write & Using Peer to Peer Artistic Response Process

    Ten-day projects with fourth and sixth graders that involve using telling to develop and revise personal narratives (fourth) and memoirs (sixth).

    1. Informal oral storytelling is used to develop the students’ stories.
    2. Rough drafts are written in my absence.
    3. Through modeling and artist-led practice, students learn how to effectively respond and question one another about “the work” to help classmates discover what really mattered to the writer - the heart of their story - and identify ways to improve it.
    4. In small groups, students use the modeled artistic response process (which includes oral discussions, supportive artistic critique and documentation of the critique sessions) to provide peer critiques of each other’s written drafts to arrive at possible revisions for writers’ rough drafts.

    Variations of this project for younger grades have incorporated informal story mapping, lots of “storytalk,” and have culminated in dictated or written rough drafts. These projects involve integrating the art of storytelling as an ongoing partner in the writing process.

    Retelling Folktales - Multiple five-, ten-, and twenty-day projects with many age levels focusing on student retelling of folktales

    Depending upon the length of the project and the goals of the teachers, my involvement varies from in-depth exploration of a single story over multiple meetings with a class (each student could certainly retell it after!) to projects in which each student in the class learns a different story to tell. Teacher involvement in my absence must be high to accomplish this goal. Steps include story selection, story learning without memorizing the words, and story presentation along with modeling of effective story coaching so students and teacher can help one another when I am gone. These projects involve students in an in-depth exploration and practice of the art of storytelling.​

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