Storytelling and children


The students at “Fortellerkunst”, have this week been to school and told stories for children and I thought I should go through some of the articles and chapters they have on the curriculum that relate to the subject “story and children”.

In the chapter «The role of traditional stories in language teaching and learning,» the author Martha Bean looks at folktales. She begins by telling that the folktales have a universal cross-cultural template, this template you find in many types of stories like having a main character, action sequences, problems to be solved etc. The template also makes it easy to use stories in language teaching, because everyone recognizes a story.

For example, by using traditional narratives from the same cultural background as the language they learn, the students get a shortcut to understand a culture; this culture is also the condition of how the language has evolved. The traditional stories contributes with references to understanding another culture. This is easy to relate to Norwegian folktales, because much of the collection of these folktales had a linguistic justification.

Bean also claims that the motives that are encountered in the traditional stories can serve as metaphors for the students: “Traditional stories, whether featuring animals or people, typically entail a struggle for survival in a challenging situation, not unlike the struggles faced by language learners as they grapple with the new idiom”.

Bean sayss that an important part of using traditional stories in the classroom is that teachers themselves becomes storytellers. Before they tell the story, they can present keywords by the help of pictures, mime, or using the pupils mother tongue. Then the teacher tells the story where the words become active as part of the story’s plot. Bean suggests short stories like Aesop’s fables for this work. After the story is told, students can answer questions related to the story, then try to retell the story themselves. They can also discuss the morale of the story and the context in which the story can be used. Further work may be that they find similar stories from other cultures. Another example which Bean suggest, is to allow students to write the characters direct speeches. The teacher tells the story and the students contribute with the characters’ speeches while telling.

The article “Windows into Children’s Thinking: A Guide to Storytelling and Dramatization” by Cheryl Wright, Chiara Bacigalupa, Tyler Black and Michael Burton emphasizes the social and cognitive outcome of the use of storytelling in kindergarten and school. Not only that, the authors argue that studying children’s stories gives an insight into how children relate themselves to the world. This gives the teachers some keys to how they can facilitate the teaching in the classroom. They say there is “documented additional benefits of storytelling and story dramatizations, such as (1) introducing children to the process and purposes of writing, (2) allowing for the creative expression of ideas and feelings, (3) providing opportunities to build social skills, and (4) allowing children to work through ideas and experiences.” They believe that it does not demand much to use storytelling in learning, and another advantage is that it binds home and school in a good way, because the simple tools can easily be used at home.

The third article speaks about ghost stories. Sylvia Grider in the article “children’s telling of ghost stories”, claims that children tells ghost stories and meet these stories through overnight stays with each other and events like «halloween» parties. Ghost stories are stories that are directly aimed at being told and children’s telling often happens without the involvement of the adults. Ghost stories are a term for a large category of stories that involve everything from monsters to haunted houses. But the stories have stylistic elements and formula that make it recognizable as fictional material. As a oral material, the ghost stories differ from other folklore like the folktales in the way that there are recognizable motifs in the stories, it does not happen in a castle but a backyard. Another element is that the characters in the stories are often diffuse. Ghost stories give children an introduction to the structure and development of a plot. Through telling these stories, the children also gain insight into social functions like listening to each other. And, according to the author, these stories also teach children to distinguish between what is fiction and reality.

These articles shows a glimpse of the benefits of using storytelling with children.