By- Angela Padrón
Storytelling is a powerful method of communication. It offers people the opportunity to connect to, relate to, or see the world from someone else’s perspective. Stories provoke our emotions. They can make us laugh, cry, feel afraid, get angry, think, and dream. Following a character on a journey of exploration, empathizing with the character’s problem, yearning for a solution, and reveling in the outcome helps to shape our mental state.
There are ways to bring storytelling into the classroom at any age level. Here are some suggestions:
#1- Share your own experiences with students: When students are having a hard time grasping a concept or are dealing with something emotional, share a story about your past and experiences as a young student. This allows the students to feel that you understand what they’re going through and perhaps find some inspiration and answers to their own problems.
#2- Introduce a new topic through a story: Telling a story is a great icebreaker and a way to introduce a concept. It allows the student to relate better to the content and gets them interested before learning. It could also allow you to activate prior knowledge, which also assists students in learning new content.
#3- Use a story to present a concept: Presenting a story can allow students to retain information in a more creative, memorable way. It can even provoke their interest in learning a new concept.
#4- Develop and strengthen listening skills: When stories are presented in a fun and creative way, teachers can grab students’ attention, which is not easy to do these days with all of the distractions from social media, television, and other stimuli. Telling a story will help students focus on one thing and really let the information sink in.
#5- Motivate students: A good storyteller can get students more engaged and motivated, especially by using movement, having the audience repeat particular lines, getting members from the audience to participate in the story, providing music, and having visuals to help tell the story.
#6- Teach grammar and vocabulary through storytelling: Telling stories in different parts of speech and at differing levels of difficulty can help students practice and develop their skills. A story can be told in the past, present, or future tense; use older styles of language; have the characters use advanced or simple vocabulary; incorporate synonyms and antonyms; and use strong active verbs and highly descriptive adjectives to describe settings or actions in the story. Teachers can focus in on one of these areas and ask students to be aware of any they hear while the story is being read.
#7- Conduct interactive storytelling: Stories are best told when they portray the characters’ voices and actions. Teachers should model good inflection and fluency and move around, using hand gestures and facial expressions while telling the story. Sound effects work great, too and will definitely help keep students engaged.
#8- Read many different types of stories: Don’t just focus on one type of story. Vary your options with world folktales, fables, myths, and legends that provide context to history and various cultures. This will allow students to experience stories in different formats and help them appreciate the writing and messages behind the stories.
#9- Allow students to be the storytellers: Why not take a break and allow students to read stories aloud to the class? They could even act out a story. If you’ve modeled effective ways to read and portray a story, they will follow in your footsteps!
#10- Have student write a new version or different ending: After reading a story, have students write the story from another character’s point of view or come up with a continuation of the story. Better yet, leave students in suspense by leaving off the ending — and then have them write their own. You’ll be surprised at the different versions you receive!
#11- Use wordless books: Storytelling doesn’t need words. Sometimes stories can be told just through pictures or illustrations. Show students a sequence of pictures or drawings depicting a particular event or experience in a character’s life. Then have students write the text that would go with each picture. This is especially helpful for students who have difficulty writing but are able to tell a story orally. Teachers can transcribe the story as the student speaks, then have the student practice reading and spelling his or her own words.
#12- Use props and manipulatives: Many stories, especially at the elementary level, work best when visuals accompany the words. Visuals help engage students, allowing them to focus so they can hear proper grammar and develop vocabulary. Teachers can use cut-out character and setting pieces on a felt or magnetic board, pictures or illustrations, puppets, or props when telling the story. You can even have students come up and move the pieces for you as you read for maximum engagement.
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