The story weavers

Manaswini Sridhar

As parents and as educators, we teach our children to speak and then to write. Once they have grasped the fundamentals of both, we urge them to develop these skills further by reading more books, by talking more, or by writing more. For most children (and also for adults who are learning a new language), this is monotonous and dreary. The child is not only advised to pore over dictionaries and the Thesaurus in order to improve sentence structure and vocabulary, but also become an expert at the art of self editing in order to have an error-free product. We almost never think of making the exercise fun or interesting maybe because the puritan in us says, “It is something that everyone has to master; so what’s the big deal?”

https://cooperativegames.com/cooperative-storytelling/ explains the art of storytelling in class in which children narrate familiar stories, with each child restricting himself/herself to only one sentence. The task here is to be aware not only of the tense that the story begins with, but also the tense that the previous narrator has used. The last child has to ensure that the story ends with his/her sentence. If some children have left out a few details of the story, the others have to make certain that the story does not end before it reaches the last child; therefore, they add details that are not really there in the original story. This helps in developing the child’s originality, which is so essential for language improvement.

The next version of the storytelling mentioned in the above website is where the story is developed in such a way that each narrator in turn gives the plot a positive twist by using the word fortunately, and then alternately a negative twist by using the word unfortunately. It is indeed an extremely useful technique in developing language skills and also daring the child to be creative. A simple story could be along the following lines:
Father had promised to take us to the beach. Fortunately, it was sunny, so we knew he wouldn’t break his promise. Unfortunately, mother said that she had a headache and wouldn’t be able to accompany us. Fortunately, father found her medication and told her to take it and accompany us so that we wouldn’t be disappointed. Unfortunately, grandmother rang up at the wrong time and father talked to her for ages. Fortunately, mother, who seemed better now, urged him to complete the conversation so that we could go out, while pointing out to him that he needed to keep his promise. Unfortunately, father then remembered a promise that she had recently not fulfilled. Fortunately, the dog started barking so much that father felt going out would do everyone a lot of good. Unfortunately, we forgot to take the sunscreen lotion with us and got really burnt during the long ride in the car. Fortunately, the weather on the beach was pleasant, and we could swim in the cool water and also play in the sand. Unfortunately, all too soon we had to leave. Fortunately, mother suggested we have a pizza before heading back home. Unfortunately, all the pizza joints were jam-packed, and so we had to settle for a small udupi restaurant instead. Fortunately, the food was so yummy that we all gulped it down like we hadn’t eaten for days. Unfortunately … and so it can continue.

The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at manaswinisridhar@gmail.com.

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