"If you want your children to be smart, tell them stories. If you want them to be brilliant, tell them more stories." Albert Einstein
Storytelling is one of the oldest and most powerful ways of sharing ideas. An innately human skill, storytelling allows us to interpret the world around us and gives voice to our imagination. Teaching children through storytelling is an engaging and dynamic way for children to learn many different social and academic skills, some of which are detailed below.
Stories give events a coherent structure, allowing us to shape and take control of the world around us. Organising experiences and ideas into a ‘narrative’ shows children how they can effectively express them to others. Although stories usually have a beginning, a middle and an end (known as a story ‘arc’), as children’s confidence develops, they can learn how to have fun with this basic form – for example, a story can ‘begin’ at the end, or in the middle.
Stories allow children to gain a deeper understanding of human nature and what motivates people. Stories are driven by peoples’ interactions with each other, and through them, children are introduced to lives beyond their own. This not only expands their grasp of cause and effect, importantly, it allows children to see things from the perspectives of others, and therefore to develop empathy. Later, children will also use these skills to develop self-awareness through self-reflection, which is a good basis for exploring important issues such as mental health.
Storytelling allows us to take inspiration from real life, while also drawing freely on our imagination. Imagination is synonymous with creativity, and the notion that we can construct worlds beyond our own, giving voice to characters of our own creation, is extraordinarily powerful. The greatest storytellers have the ability to use their imagination to transcend their own experiences. This is why William Shakespeare was able to set his plays in many different countries around the world, and to write from the perspective of people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Storytelling is often referred to as an ‘art form’. This is because we use many different tools to bring our stories to life, adding colour, texture, emphasis and humour. Whether stories are spoken, read or written, they create the potential to introduce us to language outside our normal, everyday vocabulary. It’s often easier for children to learn the meaning of new words through storytelling, as they experience them in context. Children can also learn about other devices that are used to convey meaning through language, such as grammar, rhythm and metaphor.
Telling a story requires children to think in a way that’s proactive. They must draw upon their imagination and their experiences to create something unique. Learning how to express themselves allows children to self-reflect, and therefore to develop self-awareness and a sense of individuality. A child’s identity is less likely to be defined by their nationality, gender or religious beliefs, and more by the everyday things they like/dislike. Through stories, children can begin to explore a wider spectrum of identification. This is how children find meaning in the world, which is essential for their motivation and happiness.
Stories tap into our natural curiosity as they come out of a basic human desire to know, understand and communicate. Without these desires, there would be no stories. Teaching children through stories is effective because it uses their natural curiosity to engage them in a way that doesn’t feel like traditional learning. It stands to reason that the more children enjoy an activity, the better at it they might become. An appreciation of stories encourages children to read and write for pleasure, which can improve their overall literacy and academic achievement.
There are many simple exercises that teachers can use to get children started with storytelling. For example, children can be given the first line of a story then asked to write the rest, or shown a picture and asked to write a story about it. In most cases, children just need a spark of inspiration to get them started. There are also some great resources available to keep children motivated. Book Creator is an app that lets kids create digital books so that they can share their stories. They can also add content like videos, photos and digital drawings and export their work as PDFs, or as video, which means that they can be published via a platform such as YouTube. This app is a great precursor to more advanced apps like Wattpad, a storytelling platform that connects a global community of 80 million readers and writers.
For more information on the trends that will bring a dynamic interactive edge to the classroom in 2020, read our article here.
At Amaze Umbrella we understand that teachers do a crucial job that’s also extremely demanding. To make life a little easier, we offer a friendly, streamlined and supportive FCSA accredited umbrella service that takes the stress out of getting paid for your teaching work. Speak to a member of our team today on: 0161 464 8993