National Storytelling Week, which takes place between Saturday 31st of January through to Saturday 7th of February 2015, is an annual event hosted by the Society for Storytelling. It is in its fifteenth consecutive year of running and has found its place amongst private clubs, libraries and schools. So, how can people in teaching jobs bring this skill into the classroom and help promote the benefits of storytelling within their lessons? We shall take a look at how storytelling could enhance the learning experience in schools.
The oldest form of education.
Storytelling is one of the most enduring forms of teaching and is perhaps the oldest form of education in history. Stories have always been used throughout the ages to promote cultural awareness, spread historical and religious concepts, and pass down these ideas across generations. They also help form logical connections in our minds, since our reality is based on the concepts that are delivered in stories. Humans often perceive life through narrative forms. By presenting students with an abundance of miscellaneous facts and figures without any sort of connection between them, they are often difficult to recall. However, through the use of storytelling, teachers can often make their materials far easier to grasp and understand.
Stories are something that builds emotional connections in addition to logical ones. By utilising this inherent feature of storytelling, teachers will undoubtedly help their students develop more positive views of the learning process. Research dating back to the 1980s confirms this as well. The US Department of Education (1986) has claimed that students with even low motivation levels are more inclined to actively participate during classroom time when materials are being presented through storytelling. However, teachers must first present their story, then clarify the teaching concept they are aiming to get across. Doing this has been proven to be a more effective practice than a more traditional classroom approach.
When delivered as a true storytelling experience, teachers provide themselves with an unrivalled opportunity to build rapport with their students. This is particularly useful at the beginning of the school year when both students and teachers are unknown to one another. However, the crux in this is that it must be a “storytelling” experience as opposed to a “story reading” experience. Teachers must get rid of whatever physical materials they are using (and sometimes hiding behind) in order to make a more emotionally fuelled connection with their students. Without the barrier of a book or other objects in their way, teachers are free to use body language and gestures as a means of conveying their message more clearly.
Engaging reluctant learners.
There is a greater sense of authenticity when it comes to using storytelling in the classroom. Teachers will not find themselves burdened by their materials should they choose to present it in a way that is likely to engage their student body, particularly their reluctant learners. Because storytelling helps promote imagination and creativity, students are free to develop their own connections with the material being made and find their own logical connections: the ones that work for them on a more personal level, rather than the ones teachers wish to instil in them. This technique can be quite motivating because it draws the student body together into a shared experience, but what is being shared does not necessarily have to be the same for everyone.
Reduce problematic activity.
When storytelling is properly used, teachers will have their attention firmly focused on the classroom in front of them. Troublesome students often act behind a teacher's direct observation, so when attention is placed firmly in front of them, teachers can greatly reduce the number of problematic activities happening within their classroom. It can be an effective classroom management tool when teachers are presented with a particularly troublesome group. However, it should by no means form the only classroom management technique that teachers are using. Teachers should seek to discover exactly why the group is acting in such a way because it may not have much to do with motivation, but rather that the material is not being presented in a way that students can understand. Once teachers have diagnosed this issue, then they can freely implement various techniques in order to help manage a classroom more effectively throughout the term.