Storytelling plays a crucial role in solving problems arising during classroom transactions. The process of storytelling can help children learn, create knowledge, and experiment with a given concept. It will also help broaden their textbook knowledge and understand, act, practice, and connect their learning to reality and build their competencies.
Storytelling is the art of narrating a tale from memory rather than reading from a book. It promotes vocabulary and language, creativity, innovation, listening, presentation, and oratory skills. Storytelling also helps build concentration among students. And last but not the least, using stories to teach makes teaching a joyful learning experience that lasts a lifetime.
Although storytelling is an effective way of delivering any subject knowledge to children, it entirely depends on the narrator who is telling the story. Storytelling without passion, physical action, intonation, and voice modulation, becomes boring and fails to fulfill the desired objective.
In this article, I would like to share my experience of using storytelling in the classroom.
The language class
I was facilitating an English language class for the students of class one. The main objective of the session was to teach children to write their names in English. I wrote each of their names on the ground in front of them and asked them to write the same on a piece of paper. I spread these on the ground. I then told the children a story. “You all went to the forest to collect fruits and flowers. Urvashi collected mushrooms, Rithik collected mangoes, and Rajkumar collected tamarind. But, there is an issue now. Junaid forgot to bring everyone’s identity cards to the forest. Suddenly you are stopped by the forest guards who ask for your identity. They say you cannot leave the forest with the items you collected without showing your id cards. Now how will you come out from there?” The children were perplexed. I used this opportunity and told the children to collect the pieces of papers with their names from the ground to show to the forest guards and to my surprise all the children were able to do so. In the end, I pasted their names on the wall and asked them to identify their names. All the children were able to identify and write their names in English.
In another class, we were learning to write sentences using the words “I want”. I started the class with a story of a monkey. “Once upon a time a monkey finds a magic wand. Using this wand, the monkey could fulfill all his desires. The monkey sees different animals and wishes to become like them. From the giraffe, he decides he wants a long neck. He sees the elephant and wants his long trunk. From the zebra, he wants her stripes. All his wishes are granted. He then sees his face in the water, cries at what he has become and wants to turn back into a monkey again. Using the magic wand, he becomes his original self and throws the magic wand into the water.”
After this story, I asked the children what they wanted. I wrote out what they wanted in sentences on the blackboard and then asked the students to identify which sentence belonged to whom. The children managed to point out to the correct sentences. This was an excellent activity for vocabulary development.
Storytelling in EVS
Storytelling can be used in environmental education as well. I had to introduce the presence of air in the environment to class four students. I used the storytelling method and this is how it went. “There was a student of class four, whose name was Pawan. He was very intelligent and brave. He could answer all questions within a few minutes. One day he was strolling in the forest and a giant saw him. He tried frightening Pawan, but Pawan did not get scared. The giant asked Pawan, “Aren’t you scared of me?” Pawan replied “No! Because I know you won’t harm me as I have done nothing to you.” The giant was happy with Pawan’s answer. Then the giant said, “Let us examine our talents, and if you win then I will let you go; if you lose, you have to stay with me all your life.” The giant then said, “See I can expand my body as well as shrink it as per my wish. So, there is no place I cannot enter.” Now it was Pawan’s turn. Pawan picked up his water bottle, finished the water in it. He took a piece of paper, rolled it into a ball and kept it on the mouth of the bottle. He held the bottle horizontally and asked the giant to blow the paper ball into the bottle. He told the giant, “If you push the piece of paper into the bottle by blowing it then I will stay with you my entire life.” The giant laughed and blew, but the paper ball came out of the bottle mouth instead of going in. The giant was surprised and asked “How did you do it?” Starting my EVS lesson with the above story I started the lesson on air. I noticed the children were very attentive that day.
In another class, I had to teach them the sources of water. The story was about a small village in the middle of the forest. One summer, the water in the village pond dried up completely. The head of the village called all the villagers for an emergency meeting. As they were mostly farmers, the villagers believed that water also came out of a seed. But where could they get the seed? Mala, a wise young lady of their village said, “If you permit me then I will go to collect the water seed.” As Mala was one of the bravest and wisest girls in their village, all the villagers agreed. She walked for many days in search of the water seed. On the way, Mala saw a river, so she walked alongside the river to reach its origin at the mountain. She climbed up and at the top she found a big piece of ice which she believed was the seed of water. She collected that big piece of ice and came back to her village. All the villagers appreciated Mala. The villagers decided to worship the seed; they covered it with a piece of cloth and prepared to worship. The next day they saw that there was no water seed, only the piece of cloth remained. The villagers thought that the water seed had gone inside the earth as it had wet the ground and they started digging; after some time fresh water gushed out.
After this story, the students and I had a discussion on the sources of water. The story had piqued their interest and the students had a lot of theories and ideas on water and its sources.
Storytelling in mathematics
The storytelling method can be used very effectively in mathematics as well. To introduce the number system and place value, I had used this story.
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a tribe. They were hard working and happy people. They were grateful for the dark rich soil in which they grew their crops, they were grateful for the rains that nourished their fields, but most of all they were grateful for their sheep. The sheep were the source of warm coats, carpets for the chilly floors of their homes, tasty meat for dinner, and fresh milk for breakfast. Needless to say, the sheep were very important to them. Purvi and Aryan were the chief shepherds of their tribe. They were responsible for watching over the sheep. Every morning they woke up before the sun rose and let the sheep out of their pens and into the pastures. The sheep explored the hills and the meadows, grazed on the green grass, breathed the crisp air, and satisfied their thirst with the fresh cold water of mountain-fed streams and came back home before it got dark. Their most important job was to make sure that all the sheep had returned, for if any sheep were left out, they might fall prey to the wild animals that prowled the hills and meadows at night. But here was the problem. They could not count. No one in their tribe could count.
What would you do? Is it possible, without counting, to make sure that all the sheep returned? Here I introduced the number system to the children.
Storytelling in bi-lingual education:
Stories are an effective tool to teach second languages as well. Keeping the first language as the base, we can introduce words from the second language when telling a story. For instance, if hindi is the first language and you are trying to introduce English to the children, the storytelling can be something like this, “एक forest मैं एक big lion था. एक दिन lion forest मैं जा रहा था, अचानक एक rat उसके सामने आया”.
The technique of storytelling attracts children’s attention and garners higher concentration. This technique provokes prediction and expectation of events. This consequently leads to deeper comprehension, enjoyment, and happiness. Storytelling changes the classroom environment from a dry and boring one to a warm environment with utmost student concentration, participation, and production.
The author is currently associated with Azim Premji Foundation and is working towards strengthening public education in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Since 2014 he is working in the domain of Teacher Professional Development for elementary teachers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org