“I think storytelling is all about children. We human beings love to hear stories being told – and it first happens when you’re a kid.” ~ David Chase
This month, kindergarten children at my school participated in a special program called The Firefly Project offered by Theatre Direct in Toronto. They were shown many ways to enjoy the experience of storytelling and learned a variety of techniques for expressing themselves through the use of their voices and creative movement. They also had the opportunity to invent, tell and role play their own stories, in addition to having them recorded and written down. Truly this was a wonderful time for children to use their imaginations and to discover the magic of storytelling and the power they possess to create and bring to life stories of their own.
In my classroom, we have enjoyed exploring storytelling using picture books based on traditional folk tales. The first is The Enormous Potato, retold by Aubrey Davis. This is one of my favourites because in addition to being an engaging story that allows children to join in telling and dramatizing it, it introduces children to basic concepts about books, such as the characters, and the order of events (sometimes called the story map). When I read the story to my class, I invited different children up to pretend to be the farmer, the wife, the daughter, the dog, the cat and the mouse. We all held on to each other while trying to uproot the child in the starring role – the potato! Afterwards, many of the children drew pictures to represent what they could remember about what happened in the story – what came first, what happened next, and how the story ended – and these were displayed so children could admire each other’s work.
Another story we have enjoyed is Too Much Noise by Ann McGovern. This story is great because there is lots of repetition, which allows children to learn the story, and they can join in by imitating all of the sound effects such as the bed that creaks, the floor that squeaks, the kettle that hisses and a variety of animals. They really enjoy mooing, barking, meowing, braying and crowing! Using images I found on-line, I created a number of felt board pieces so that children could look at the book and retell the story independently using these colourful props. I have really enjoyed listening in as the children re-tell the story and help each other to remember what happened and which sounds to make.
Storytelling makes such an important contribution to children’s learning and personal development. It builds imagination and allows children to visualize. It encourages listening in children and builds their appreciation of language. It teaches them new and interesting words. It can aid them in building writing skills. It helps them enjoy books and to learn important things about the parts and the structure of stories (e.g., characters, setting, plot, crisis and resolution). It gives them confidence as they practise retelling stories themselves. Storytelling invites children to discover different cultures and traditions and to share their own. It encourages children to collaborate and to experience joy together. Storytelling simply makes people more human, and to quote Isak Dinesen, “to be a person is to have a story to tell.”