What exactly is ‘storytelling’? Well, that’s easy, telling stories, of course! Today, you can find so many diverse, fantastic, and sometimes very overwhelming ways to do some great storytelling in the classroom.
What I would like to explore is the traditional, oral way of storytelling, and this has been a part of our human culture and life since we left Africa some 200,000 years ago or more…
Maybe storytelling was the key reason why languages could develop in the first place, as our human minds began to wonder, inquire, and think.
Whether in cities, in schools, or in caves, storytelling has always been the most important and innate form of human communication. We all tell stories.
The horrors and happenings on the news, the story of the day, the story of our lives, gossip on the workplace, it goes on and on, and our brain is hard-wired to listen, think, and express ourselves in terms of beginning, middles, and ends of stories. This is more or less how we see and understand our world.
Storytelling is actually the oldest form of what we see as teaching. Storytelling was bonding the early-day communities, and it gave children a lot of answers to their big questions about creation, life, and the times thereafter. Stories are defining us, shaping us, controlling us, and making us to who we are. Not all human cultures on the planet are literate, but each single human culture is telling stories.
Sure, you already are both. Teachers need to be storytellers for their kids when they’re listening and sitting on their chairs, and all storytellers were functioning as teachers for thousands of years! Most teachers, though, don’t think of themselves as storytellers. Or maybe even further, when they see the occasional storyteller, they think they’re watching some sort of exaggerated theatrical show that more resembles acting. But wait a minute, doesn’t teaching also involve a lot of acting and theatrics???
At this stage, I first should tell you a little bit more about my specific style. I do in no way just rely on ‘speaking the story, and I will not sit still in some sort of chair. I’m talking slowly, in alternating rhythms. When I’m walking around, I’m using my hands also a lot. And, very important, while I’m telling the story, I will invite children in the audience to come and act out the story as it’s being told.
They will be dressing up in funny clothes or hats, or other props, while they follow the story’s instructions and repeating the dialogue I’ saying. I will make frequent stops and restarts and ask the audience to produce some sound effects, to come up with questions, to make suggestions, or to answer questions. What also helps is changing the classroom bulletin board into something entertaining, something that mat tell a story (or stories) of its own. For a post on where to find the best discount school supplies, click here.
When you’re telling your very first story, you will notice that magical moment. The children in your group are sitting enthralled, with their mouths open, and their eyes wide. If you feel that’s enough reason for storytelling, consider that your storytelling:
The last point has been a really powerful one last year. At my school, over 90% of the children are non-native English learners, and there are many kids in my class who hardly spoke any English, and the main reason that they made such fantastic progress in English is that they all wanted to become good storytellers.