Why Storytelling in the Classroom Matters
Why Do We Tell Stories?Whether in caves or in cities, storytelling remains the most innate and important form of communication. All of us tell stories. The story of your day, the story of your life, workplace gossip, the horrors on the news. Our brains are hard-wired to think and express in terms of a beginning, middle and end. It's how we understand the world.
Storytelling is the oldest form of teaching. It bonded the early human communities, giving children the answers to the biggest questions of creation, life, and the afterlife. Stories define us, shape us, control us, and make us. Not every human culture in the world is literate, but every single culture tells stories.
The Many Benefits to StorytellingWhen you tell your first story, there is a magical moment. The children sit enthralled, mouths open, eyes wide. If that isn't enough reason, then consider that storytelling:
- Inspires purposeful talking, and not just about the story -- there are many games you can play.
- Raises the enthusiasm for reading texts to find stories, reread them, etc.
- Initiates writing because children will quickly want to write stories and tell them.
- Enhances the community in the room.
- Improves listening skills.
- Really engages the boys who love the acting.
- Is enjoyed by children from kindergarten to the end of elementary school.
- Gives a motivating reason for English-language learners to speak and write English.
So How Do You Become a Storyteller?I recommend the following:
- Read as many different world folktales, fables, myths, and legends as you can.
- Watch professional storytellers and take notes about how they do it. Every storyteller is different, and you can learn something from them all.
- Build your confidence by reading your students picture books or chapter books with an interesting voice. Stop to ask questions. Make the book reading interactive. It will help you create a shared event with a story.
- Pick stories with small numbers of characters and repeating events, as these are easiest to remember. Having said that, pick any story you like -- no, that you love! If it captivates you, it will captivate the younger ones, too.
- Write the stories down in a notebook. Writing helps you remember a story, and it models the same to the children.
- When you start "telling" your story, it's OK to have the book nearby and to take a look at it if you forget a part. Don't be too hard on yourself. You are a student again.
- Get yourself a "prop box" made of old bits of linen, and fill it with hats from charity shops and random objects that children can use imaginatively. I got a lot of my materials from recycling centers.
So What's Next?
"Analysing stories is usually territory claimed by writers, critics, and university scholars. But recently, evolutionary psychologists have begun to look at the human propensity for storytelling from a scientific perspective."
Teachers, please listen to CBC radio broadcast, IDEAS: Vestigial Tale, Part 1, Part 2.
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