Storytelling in the Classroom

Storytelling is the oldest of education. People around the world have always told as a way of passing down their cultural beliefs, traditions, and history to future generations. Why? Stories are at the core of all that makes us human.

Stories are the way we store information in the brain. If teachers fill their students' brains with miscellaneous facts and data without any connection, the brain becomes like a catchall closet into which items are tossed and hopelessly lost. But stories help us to organize and remember information, and tie content together.

Research backs up the idea that "even students with low motivation and weak academic skills are more likely to listen, read, write, and work hard in the context of storytelling. Any point that is made in a telling or any teaching that is done afterward is likely to be much more effective.

Storying, the process of constructing stories in the mind, is one of the most fundamental ways of making meaning and thus pervades all aspects of learning, regardless of age. Gordon Wells note that your children find it easier to assimilate new ideas when they are presented in the concepts and link them to their lives.

Story Time

Miss Zhou Lingmin, also called Lemon, an experience storyteller, is a teacher in Jordan Language School, Cangshan district in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China, was invited to tell a story to students. She tells stories almost every occasion and liked by the students.

Lemon: "Are you ready, students?"

Students: "Yes, ready! Go...!

Lemon: Good, today we are talking about a book titled "The City Mouse and the Country Mouse"

Students: Wow! Ha ha ha ha today's story will be interesting.

Lemon: Yes! Let's begin. Once a little mouse who lived in the country invited a little Mouse from the city to visit him. When the little City Mouse sat down to dinner he was surprised to find that the Country Mouse had nothing to eat except barley and grain. "Really," he said, "you do not live well at all; you should see how I live! I have all sorts of fine things to eat every day. You must come to visit me and see how nice it is to live in the city."

The little country Mouse was glad to do this, and a while he went to the city to visit his friend.

Students: Oh my..., they shouted, very interesting and what happen in the City, Lemon?

Now, great connection has been created between the storyteller and the listeners.

Students are eager and ready to know what happened in the city. I want us to take note or understand few things that takes place when stories are told.

The Hush

The quality of listening on the part of your students is markedly different when you tell a story directly to them. Stillness descends over the listeners. Technology has not replaced the power of one person telling a story to another. Listeners are often described as "mesmerized," "totally enthralled," or "captivated." There is some evidence that listeners who willingly respond to a very powerful story might actually be in "a light trance state" "the centrifugal force of the spinning story."


Storytelling is interactive. The teller sees the audience's reactions clearly and can adapt the story. If she sees fear in the eyes of younger students, she might tone the story down a bit. On the other hand, if a teller sees that her older students love the scary parts, she can accentuate them.

Creating a Strong Connection

If you put the book away now and then just tell the story, an enduring bond forms between you and your students. Without the book as a barrier, the teller looks directly into the eyes of the audience and is free to use gestures, facial expression, and body movements to enhance the telling and help listeners understand the story better. Storytellers don't hide behind characters the way actors do; they reveal a great deal about themselves by the stories they tell and how they tell them. And while those who read aloud can see the audience only through a layer of words on the page, storytellers are richly rewarded by seeing the wonder and excitement in the faces of the listeners.

Because audience members are actively involved in the process, storytelling becomes a shared experience. Thus it brings a sense of intimacy and community. An extraordinary connection is made between the teller and listener. We are no longer surprised when we later meet a student who had been in one of our large audiences and who says, "Remember me? You told me stories."

Engaging Reluctant Learners

At time storytelling works when reading aloud doesn't. Zhou Lingmin, popularly known as Lemon, says she became a storyteller to survive. She described her experience of teaching a group of extremely troubled ten to fifteen-year-old how to read. She loved to read aloud and thought that was a natural starting place, but she soon found that all the students felt that being read to was demeaning. One day she gathered up the courage to tell a story that she knew by heart. The students were very taken by it, and she later realized one important reason:

"I had told a story rather than read one. My kids hated to read aloud so much that they didn't believe it could be something anybody would really want to do. When I read aloud with an appearance of relish, they automatically assumed I was faking, a practice as despicable to them as it was familiar. But they did like to talk and joke so could accepts my enthusiasm for telling a tale that was, to me at least, genuinely worthwhile."

Storytelling is motivating. Students recognize it be an authentic activity and a skill that is well worth acquiring. We have found this to be true whether students are listening to or telling world tales, works by other authors, or own stories.

Another Kind of Literacy Experience

Teacher need to provide many different kinds of literacy experiences to meet individual needs. Every time we teach storytelling to a classroom of students, the teacher inevitably points out that some of the children who struggle with reading and writing are among the best storytellers in the class. In our early years of teaching storytelling, we were lucky enough to work with the same children three years in a row as third, fourth, and fifth graders. At one of the schools a boy named Eason stood out each year because he was so funny and creative. one day, we told his teacher, "Wow! Isn't Eason extraordinary? Every year he amazes us by the way he tells his story." She replied, "He is incredible! But do you realize that he is severely learning disabled? Although he is quite smart, he struggles in reading and writing." We would never have guessed. This incident made us more acutely aware of the fact that we all learn in different ways. It was through storytelling that Eason was able to demonstrate his language skills.

Creativity and Problem Solving

If students are encourage to choose a folktale and, in keeping with the oral tradition, make it their own in the retelling, they learn to be creative and think on their feet. It is important for teachers not to simply ask student to memorize and transcribe. Students can then build on their adaptive skills by writing and telling their own stories. This creativity inevitably carries over into their other work. Students also learn that they have a unique sensibility and method of presentation and that no two people ever tell a story in the same way. And many learn in ways you never imagined, as storyteller.

Unfortunately, our society is difficult for children to trust the validity of their own images. Everywhere they look they are bombarded with the images of others: on television, at the movies, even in picture books.

Children need to have ample opportunity to exercise their imaginations so that they can begin to see that the pictures in their minds are valid too. Storytelling is unmatched as a tool for stimulating the imagination.


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