Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Storytelling as a Teaching Tool

Have you ever used storytelling as an instructional tool in your classroom?

I used it in a very limited way before last year.  One year ago at this time my son started attending PreK at a Waldorf School.  His teacher really encouraged me to use storytelling with him to redirect his behavior and guide his will.  There was no blaming or shaming, just stories.

I secretly thought this never going to work.  At bedtime I started telling little stories about forest animals whose lives resembled his life experiences.  He listened.  He was very quiet.  He was clearly absorbing this right down into his little five year old heart.  {Sometimes he would ask if this story was really about him!}

I was astonished by the impact.

Fast forward to last week in my classroom.  We had a thief.  It made my heart heavy.  It wasn't the first time, but it was obvious that it wasn't just a lost treasure.  It had been taken.

The next day I got out two little finger puppets.  A mouse and a gnome.  The short version is the mouse has a package of cheese. . . stops to play at park. . . the cheese is taken. . . the mouse is walking home with a heavy heart. . . the wise old gnome speaks wise words with hard truths and cautions against accusing.

My class is completely quiet and engaged.  An aid for one of my students said it was great that there was no accusing so that everyone could keep listening without putting defenses up.

I wish I could say that the thief returned the items.  It hasn't happened.  But everyone has strategies around protecting their possessions without turning this into a blame game.  I was stunned to see the impact on a room full of children was just the same as one little boy.

I will continue to use stories as a teaching tool.  I'm thinking of ways to include them in the academic content of the classroom.  The oral tradition of teaching is thousands of years old and still used around the world.

I'm wondering if you use stories at all to teach?  How?  When?

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