The Value of Storytelling in Education Compiled on December 1, 2005 by Kate Dudding www.katedudding.com
The value of storytelling in education has been documented in many recently published articles. Below is a summary of some of those findings. More information about each article is listed in the Appendix.
See Storytelling -- It's News: Education for more articles on storytelling and education.
(A) Teaching Storytelling: A Position Statement from the Committee on Storytelling of the National Council of Teachers of English
(B) Skytellers: The Myths, The Magic, and the Mysteries of the Universe
(C) Imaginative Children Better in Math
(D) Three Days Later, Soldiers Find Town in Ruins
(E) Storied Theory
(F) Israeli-developed Coexistence Education Project Awarded International Prize
(G) Two Red Birds: Blackfeet Teachers' Work Displayed at the Smithsonian
(H) Storytelling Project Aims to Help New York City High School Students Deal With Racial Issues
(I) Once Upon a Time We Told Our Children Stories
· Michael Morpurgo, the Children’s Laureate of the UK, writes: When you think of the extraordinary talent among our children’s writers, storytellers and illustrators, it is not surprising that so many children turn to books and become readers after an encounter with such talent.
(K) PBS Kids(R) Joins Pacific Air Force Command to Promote Literacy
· "Share a Story" inspires adults to help children develop language and literacy skills through simple everyday activities including storytelling, singing, reading, rhyming, acting and talking.
(A) Teaching Storytelling: A Position Statement from the Committee on Storytelling of the National Council of Teachers of English http://www.ncte.org/about/over/positions/category/curr/107637.htm
“Why Include Storytelling in School?
Students who search their memories for details about an event as they are telling it orally will later find those details easier to capture in writing. Writing theorists value the rehearsal, or prewriting, stage of composing. Sitting in a circle and swapping personal or fictional tales is one of the best ways to help writers rehearse.
Listeners encounter both familiar and new language patterns through story. They learn new words or new contexts for already familiar words. Those who regularly hear stories, subconsciously acquire familiarity with narrative patterns and begin to predict upcoming events. Both beginning and experienced readers call on their understanding of patterns as they tackle unfamiliar texts. Then they re-create those patterns in both oral and written compositions. Learners who regularly tell stories become aware of how an audience affects a telling, and they carry that awareness into their writing.
Both tellers and listeners find a reflection of themselves in stories. Through the language of symbol, children and adults can act out through a story the fears and understandings not so easily expressed in everyday talk. Story characters represent the best and worst in humans. By exploring story territory orally, we explore ourselves—whether it be through ancient myths and folktales, literary short stories, modern picture books, or poems. Teachers who value a personal understanding of their students can learn much by noting what story a child chooses to tell and how that story is uniquely composed in the telling. Through this same process, teachers can learn a great deal about themselves.
Story is the best vehicle for passing on factual information. Historical figures and events linger in children's minds when communicated by way of a narrative. The ways of other cultures, both ancient and living, acquire honor in story. The facts about how plants and animals develop, how numbers work, or how government policy influences history—any topic, for that matter—can be incorporated into story form and made more memorable if the listener takes the story to heart.
Children at any level of schooling who do not feel as competent as their peers in reading or writing are often masterful at storytelling. The comfort zone of the oral tale can be the path by which they reach the written one. Tellers who become very familiar with even one tale by retelling it often, learn that literature carries new meaning with each new encounter. Students working in pairs or in small storytelling groups learn to negotiate the meaning of a tale.”
(B) Skytellers: The Myths, The Magic, and the Mysteries of the Universe
A DVD and resource guide were created for schools with portable planetariums. First the students hear a Native American story about a constellation, then they hear the scientific explanation. This combination, of story first and then science, has been shown statistically to improve the students’ attitude about science. The data will be published once Margaret Meyers of East Tennessee State University finished her master’s thesis.
(C) Imaginative Children Better in Math The Winnipeg Sun , August 1, 2004
Math and storytelling may seem like very different abilities, but a new study by University of Waterloo scientist Daniela O'Neill suggests that preschool children's early storytelling abilities are predictive of their mathematical ability two years later. The study has just been published in the June 2004 issue of the journal First Language.
O'Neill looked at several aspects of children's storytelling ability. Two years later, the children were brought back to the laboratory and were given a number of tests of academic achievement that included a test of mathematical achievement. What O'Neill found was that those children who scored highly on the mathematics test had also scored highly on certain measures of their storytelling ability two years earlier.
This study suggests that building strong storytelling skills early in the preschool years may be helpful in preparing children for learning mathematics when they enter school.
"Almost all children experience the world of storytelling before they begin their journey into the world of mathematical thinking, and there's an intriguing possibility that providing children with experience with storytelling may later enhance their ability to tackle problems in the mathematical arena."
Pioneering developmental psychologist Jerome Bruner has written:
"stories are the way we understand the world around us, so it's possible that storytelling is a very fundamental form of human thinking"
(D) Three Days Later, Soldiers Find Town in Ruins The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia) , December 30, 2004
They knew to run on Simeulue, a palm-fringed island closest to the epicentre of Sunday's devastating earthquake/tsunami.
"Our ancestors have a saying - if there is an earthquake run for your life," Darmili, the mayor of the island, said yesterday. "Thousands of our people were killed by a tsunami in 1907 and we have many earthquakes here."
Only five of 70,000 villagers on Simeulue were killed, all of them in the earthquake that struck at 7.55am last Sunday. Nobody perished in the five-metre-high walls of water that followed because they believed in that saying.
(E) Storied Theory American Scientist (USA) , July-August 2005
Science and stories are not only compatible, they're inseparable, as shown by Einstein's classic 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect.
A young man of 25, Einstein had mastered the old stories. In this paper he combined the ways others looked at the world, and trusting analogy as much as mathematics, made something new. Science is an inspired account of the struggle by human beings to understand the world, changing it in the process. How could this be anything but a story?
(F) Israeli-developed Coexistence Education Project Awarded International Prize Israel 21C - A Focus Beyond the Conflict (Cupertino, CA) , June 5, 2005
Last week, the project Learning Each Other's Narrative was awarded the prestigious the inaugural Victor J. Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East, of the Institute of International Education.
The organization, "commends your commitment to overcoming the barriers that divide the Middle East," IIE president Allan E. Goodman said in a letter to Bar-On and Adwan, adding that their project "has demonstrated success in bringing people together across religious, cultural, ethnic, and political divides."
In order for people with years of painful and violent interaction to coexist peacefully, they don't necessarily have to like or agree with each other, but they must understand their point of view and their view of the history between them. This can happen when they really listen to each other's personal stories.
"The idea is not that you have to agree with the other narrative, but you have to listen to it, to respect it and try to understand it," Israeli Professor Dan Bar-On, one of this project's directors. "You can't de-legitimize it -- if you want to live with the other side, you have to learn to live with their narrative."
Bar-On, the Chair of the Department of Behavioral Science at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, has harnessed this idea into this ambitious educational curriculum development project which he co-directs with his Palestinian partner, Sami Adwan, an education professor at Bethlehem University.
What is much more gratifying than prizes, Bar-On says, is the fact that the curriculum materials that have resulted from the project have been harnessed for Jewish-Arab dialogue work overseas.
"What we absolutely didn't expect is that the booklet has been translated into Spanish, and Italian, and French. In France, 20,000 copies have been sold. It is being used as a tool in European classrooms with both Jews and Muslims in them. It is the beginning of a process that we think is original and worthwhile."
(G) Two Red Birds: Blackfeet Teachers' Work Displayed at the Smithsonian
Glacier Reporter (Cut Bank, MT) , June 2, 2005
When children in Head Start classes on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation chime, "There were two red birds, Sitting on a hill / One named Jack, The other named Jill," the youngsters giggle and clap to the nonsensical nursery rhyme. Their version is unique: The children recite in Blackfeet.
The Smithsonian honors Blackfeet Head Start educators Julia Schildt, Carol Bird and Ethyl Grant by displaying their Blackfeet language and cultural curriculum material in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.
"Representatives from Head Start in D.C. visited Browning last year," said Bird. "They asked for a copy of our curriculum to display in the Smithsonian's new Indian museum. Two binders are now installed in the resource center and categorized with the Smithsonian library."
Bird and Grant asked storyteller and cultural teacher Cecile Doore to teach Blackfeet language.
"During quiet time, the bilingual teacher told Na'pi stories, lessons or fairytales," Bird said. "The children really learned to listen. She told the Na'pi stories in English and added words in Blackfeet, words like 'dog' or 'blackbird.'"
The Na'pi stories are meant to teach things like respect, values, honor and politeness, said Grant.
"When an elder gives you a Na'pi story, you listen," said Grant, noting that Na'pi, or Old Man is a main character in Blackfeet legends. "If you are misbehaving at a powwow, an elder might pull you aside and tell you a Na'pi story. When you leave, you know that you now must behave or Na'pi will get you."
"The children should know who they are and where they came from," Bird said.
(H) Storytelling Project Aims to Help New York City High School Students Deal With Racial Issues AScribe - The Public Interest News Wire (Oakland, CA) , May 5, 2005
An innovative program to help high school students understand and deal effectively with racial issues through stories and storytelling, has received a second grant of $100,000 in support from the Third Millennium Foundation. The Storytelling Project, developed by Barnard College Professor Lee Anne Bell in collaboration with artists, public school teachers, other academics and Barnard students, will be implemented in six classrooms at three schools this coming fall.
The Storytelling Project began when Bell was researching the way that "gatekeepers" - teachers, administrators, and counselors who often play significant roles in shaping the ideas of young people - dealt with questions about race and racism. In interviews, she realized that gatekeepers can either limit or expand opportunities for students depending on the perspectives they (the gatekeepers) hold about racial issues.
Bell said many of these authority figures would use stories to amplify their views about race. She was able to categorize these stories: some were "stock stories" that ended to justify a status quo perspective rooted in color blindness and the belief that social progress has mostly eliminated racism; others were "counter narrative stories" that confirmed the ongoing existence of racism and the need for further action to challenge it.
"The type of story gatekeepers tell often shapes the way they respond to racial problems in their schools and to student concerns about the racial issues," said Bell.
"A story is such powerful vehicle - that is how we transmit culture. We are using all the vehicles of telling stories to address race and racism from arts, visual arts, poetry, music to dance - all conduits that young people are very tuned into, and we are drawing from that excitement," said Bell. "Ultimately, we hope to develop new stories to lead us to a more just society."
(I) Once Upon a Time We Told Our Children Stories The Times (London, UK) , March 3, 2005
Michael Morpurgo, the Children’s Laureate of the UK, writes:
Today, World Book Day, hundreds of my fellow writers, and storytellers, illustrators, librarians, teachers and booksellers, are doing just what I’ve been doing. Indeed, they do it all the year round: this is not a one-day wonder. This kind of sustained effort to bring children to books and books to children is much needed and is, in my view, the most effective way of persuading children to become readers and writers.
It is effective because it is personal and because the children know it is meant. Here is someone in front of them who loves stories, who tells them with such passion that the world of reading, the sheer joy, fun and wonder of it, can be opened up to children who may never have enjoyed books at all. A young life can be changed that way, enriched for ever.
When you think of the extraordinary talent among our children’s writers, storytellers and illustrators, it is not surprising that so many children turn to books and become readers after just such an encounter.
(J) New Storytelling Fellowship for City Council Aberdeen City (Aberdeen, Scotland, UK) , January 26, 2005
The magic and art of storytelling is to be brought to life for City children thanks to the appointment of two dedicated Storytelling Fellows.
With years of experience and vivid imaginations, Margot Henderson and Cathy Low are set to enchant and thrill youngsters across Aberdeen with their exciting tales, which will be combined with their skills in dance, drama, music and poetry.
The Storytelling Fellowship was funded by the Scottish Arts Council's Literature Department, with additional support from Aberdeen City Council.
It will be officially launched at the start of the annual Aberdeen Storytelling Festival next month, and will run to the end of the 2006 festival.
(K) PBS Kids(R) Joins Pacific Air Force Command to Promote Literacy Yahoo News, , September 21, 2004
PBS KIDS® has teamed up with the Services Directorate, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) to support Air Force base educational initiatives by presenting innovative, fun-filled literacy events for children and families stationed in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Japan and South Korea. This is the first time PACAF has worked with a television broadcaster to reach out to families with an educational objective.
The events will feature the wealth of resources and quality programming that PBS KIDS has to offer with the PBS KIDS Share a Story campaign. Laura Bush serves as Honorary National Chair of the campaign. Actor and literacy advocate LeVar Burton is National Chairman. Mr. Burton hosts the PBS Kids program READING RAINBOW, which has won 20 Emmy® Awards for its innovative approach to reading.
"Share a Story" inspires adults to help children develop language and literacy skills through simple everyday activities including storytelling, singing, reading, rhyming, acting and talking.
Researchers and literacy experts continue to support the fact that simply sharing words with children -- whether telling a story, reciting a nursery rhyme or even singing -- helps them learn to read by teaching new concepts, making connections between letters and sounds, exposing kids to vocabulary and helping them learn the structure of language and narrative.