ERIC Identifier: ED299574
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: Aiex, Nola Kortner
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading and Communication Skills Bloomington IN.
Storytelling: Its Wide-Ranging Impact in the Classroom. ERIC
Digest Number 9. IDEN: *Story Telling by Children; ERIC Digests
Storytelling is a creative art form that has entertained and informed across
centuries and cultures (Fisher, 1985), and its instructional potential continues
to serve teachers. Storytelling, or oral literature, has many of its roots in
the attempt to explain life or the mysteries of the world and the universe--to
try to make sense out of things (Tway, 1985). In doing so, the characters and
themes in the stories have become cultural and often cross-cultural archetypes
of historic and continuing importance (Lasser, 1979). Even in today's
technological world, we have not changed to such a degree that the archetypes
presented in traditional oral literature are no longer applicable (Livo and
Rosen (1986) enumerates several factors about the universality of narrative
that merit consideration: 1) human beings dream and speak to themselves in
narrative (inner narrative speech), 2) a basic form of narrative is not only
telling but also retelling, and 3) narrative is oral in the sense that an
individual can engage with it fully without encountering it in written form.
Storytelling, probably the oldest form of narrative in the world, is not the
same as reading aloud, because in storytelling, the interaction between teller
and listener is immediate, personal, active, and direct. Preece (1987) discusses
14 narrative forms which children use routinely and regularly.
STORYTELLING IN THE CLASSROOM
In 1984, the Commission on
Literature of the National Council of Teachers of English applauded an emerging
trend in schools and communities which emphasizes storytelling as literature
(Suhor, 1984). Numerous articles and papers entered in the ERIC database between
1985 and 1988 have discussed the benefits of storytelling in developing language
abilities, appreciation of literature, critical thinking and comprehension, and
understanding of community and self.
In discussing how storytelling involves the control of language for
narrative, for example, Wyatt, et al. (1986) describe the application of
storytelling in teaching children to write as though they were doing so for
media. Alparaque (1988) notes another important benefit related to the
development of the appreciation of literature--the power of storytelling to bind
attention and to bridge real and imaginary worlds.
George and Schaer (1986) investigated the effects of three mediums for
presenting literature to children and discovered that storytelling and
dramatization were significantly more effective in facilitating recall of prose
content than was television. These findings indicated that storytelling is a
viable method for stimulating children's imaginations, ultimately leading to a
higher cognitive level in student responses. Reinehr (1987) discussed ways to
use mythic literature to teach children about themselves and to help them write
their own stories and legends. For very young children, the sequencing of events
or the shaping of stories may be difficult, as children tend to ramble. However,
sharing stories can give youngsters more of a "sense of story"--an awareness
that can help them in both reading and writing. In reading, for example, a sense
of story can help children to predict and know what to expect, and to read with
more awareness of cause and effect, sequence, and other story factors related to
comprehension (Kempter, 1986; Trabasso and Van Den Broek, 1985). In writing,
children learn to apply such structures while telling their own stories and
giving shape to their experiences. (Tway, 1985)
Perhaps storytelling's greatest value for a teacher is its effectiveness in
fostering a relaxed and intimate atmosphere in the classroom. Scott (1985), an
experienced Australian teacher/ storyteller, explains how this practical and
general objective can relate to the other benefits from using storytelling: It
can 1) introduce children to a range of story experiences; 2) provide young
students with models of story patterns, themes, characters, and incidents to
help them in their own writing, oral language, and thinking; 3) nurture and
encourage a sense of humor in children; 4) help put children's own words in
perspective; 5) increase knowledge and understanding of other places, races, and
beliefs; 6) introduce new ideas and be used to question established concepts
without threat to the individual; 7) lead to discussions that are far ranging
and often more satisfying than those arising from formal lessons; and 8) serve
as the most painless way of teaching children to listen, to concentrate, and to
follow the thread and logic of an argument.
SOME AIDS FOR EFFECTIVE STORYTELLING
To build children's
storytelling skills, Plourde (1985) recommends activities that focus on role
playing, generating character, helping students find an appropriate voice, and
developing the ability to make logical conclusions. Plourde elaborates on a
dozen techniques appropriate for children in kindergarten through grade 6. One,
for example, has the teacher or one child relate the beginning of a familiar
fairy tale and another child make up an entirely new ending.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (1984)
offers several suggestions for making low-cost crafts materials that facilitate
storytelling. Among them is the construction of a simple mini-cinema
illustrating sequential events of a story. These stages of the story may then be
presented with a flexible strip of drawings operated by pulling a string.
Gross and Batchelder (1986) present exercises for older elementary and middle
school students designed to improve group dynamics and create a learning
environment for storytelling. One technique involves using a circle to practice
games inspired by modern dance education and native American rituals. These
exercises help older students who are apt to be self conscious to become more
confident, willing to participate, and supportive of the storytelling process.
Music--classical or popular, recorded or live--can also be used to set the
scene for storytelling, as can puppets and other simple props. (Sidorsky, 1985)
But effective storytelling is a versatile strategy that stirs the imagination
and enables children to visualize with few or no visual aids at all.
THE CLASSROOM TEACHER AS STORYTELLER
For a classroom
teacher who wishes to use storytelling, it is best to begin by choosing a simple
story with only a few characters and an uncomplicated plot. The story should
have action, the plot should be understandable to the listeners, and the events
of the story should have a definite climax that leads to a conclusion the
students will find satisfactory.
Folk and fairy tales are the easiest kinds of stories for beginning
storytellers to communicate (Ramey, 1986; Taub, 1984). In selecting these or any
story, it is important to keep in mind the age of the children in the audience.
Scott (1985) advises the storyteller to be flexible, to expect unexpected
reactions, and to remember that enjoyment the first and chief consideration.
Scott and other researchers (e.g., Ramey, 1986) emphasize that a storyteller
need not be a "performer," but rather a person who has good memory and listening
skills, who sincerely likes the story chosen for telling, and who knows the
story so well that it can be recreated for an audience without any uncertainty
or panic. Storytellers who are too "actorish" usually fascinate the audience,
but at the expense of the story.
The second consideration in effective storytelling should be to encourage
exploration and experimentation with language (Schwartz, 1987). Constructing
meaning through use of language is an implicit goal in storytelling. A language
development focus can recommend retelling. Stories that are told and retold
develop a patina with each new telling. Children's participation in storytelling
provides not only novelty to stimulate the child's curiosity, but also enough
familiarity to allow a child to perceive relationships and to experience success
at using language (Wason-Ellam, 1986).
Alparaque, Idrenn. "Child and storying," 1988. 46pp. [See upcoming Resources in Education for ED number.]
Fisher, Walter R. "The
narrative paradigm: In the beginning," Journal of Communication, 35 (4), Fall 1985, pp. 73-89.
George, Yvetta, and
Schaer, Barbara. "An investigation of imposed-induced imagery methods on kindergarten children's recall of prose content." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Education Research Association, 1986. 48pp. [ED 278 974]
Amelia, and Batchelder, Mary. "Storytelling: A process approach to speaking skills." In Nugent, Susan Monroe (Ed.), Integrating Speaking Skills into the Curriculum, New England Association of Teachers of English 1986. 48pp. [ED 274 002]
and Edwards, Linda. "Children's expression of causality and their construction of narratives," Topics in Language Disorders, 7 (1), December 1986, pp. 11-20.
Lasser, Michael. "Weaving the web of story: Archetype and image as the bearers of the tale," Children's Literature in Education, 10, (1), pp. 4-10.
Livo, Norma J., and Rietz, Sabdra A.
Storytelling: Process and Practice, Littlejohn, Libraries Unlimited, 1986.
CLAS: Classroom Listening and Speaking: K-2. Tucson, Arizona: Communication Skill Builders, 1985. [ED 275 099; not available from EDRS]
Preece, Alison. "The range of narrative forms conversationally produced by young children," Journal of Child Language, 14 (2), June 1987, pp. 353-373.
Ramey, Mel. "Mastering the art of
storytelling takes training and experience," Highway One, 9 (4), Winter 1986, pp. 47-51.
Reinehr, Frances. "Storytelling," Teachers and Writers Magazine, 18 (3), January-February 1987, pp. 1-7.
Rosen, Harold. "The
importance of story," Language Arts, 63 (3), March 1986, pp. 226-237.
Schwartz, Marni. "Connecting to language
through story," Language Arts, 64 (6), October 1987, pp. 603-610.
Scott, Patricia. "Storytelling: A guide to the art," P.E.N. (Primary English Notes) 49, New South Wales, Australia: Primary English Teaching Association, 1985. 9pp. [ED 263 552]
Phyllis. "This way to the axolotls: A visit with Alan Heath in London," Childhood Education, 62 (1), September-October 1985, pp. 30-31.
Suhor, Charles. 1984 Report on Trends and
Issues in English: A Summary of Reports from the NCTE Commissions. 10pp. ED 239 290]
Taub, K. Deborah. "The endearing, enduring folktale," Instructor 94 (4), November-December 1984, pp. 61-70.
Trabasso, Tom, and Van
Den Broek, Paul. "Causal thinking and the representation of narrative events," Journal of Memory and Language, 24 (5), October 1985, pp. 612-630.
Tway, Eileen. Writing Is
Reading: 26 Ways to Connect. Urbana, Illinois: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills; National Council of Teachers of English, 1985. 56pp. [ED 253 877]
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Low-Cost Educational Materials. How to Make, How to Use, How to Adapt. Inventory, Vol. 3. Bangkok, Thailand, 1984. 126pp. [ED 279 306]
Wason-Ellam, Linda. "Storytelling extends literary language," Highway One, 9 (2), Spring 1986, pp. 33-39.
Wyatt, Helen et al. "Writing for the media," PEN (Primary English Notes) 57, Rozelle, Australia: Primary English Teaching Association, 1986. 7pp. [ED 272 890]