Children have an innate love for stories. Fulfilling this need requires meticulous planning in a class curriculum. Preparing myself for storytelling class would require me to visit our school library and choose books as they are plenty – fairy tales, fables, behavioral stories, folk tales, and so on. After picking the books I head back to class ready to read a story to eager children.
Reading a book is always enjoyed by the little ones as they get to see colorful pictures that are appealing. Sometimes even a classic would be thoroughly enjoyed by the little ones huddled in front of me. Everyone would want a front-row seat as close to me as possible just to get a peek at the pictures in the book. Pictures provide an immediate vision of characters. They help to keep the children’s’ attention and instantly respond to characters. To conduct an uninterrupted class it becomes necessary to lay down some ground rules before I begin –
- Short ones in front and tall ones at the back.
- Students wait to be shown pictures after the reading.
- Raising your hand if you wish to share anything with the class.
Students would abide by the rules reluctantly just to listen to their favorite story and some would also try to sneak to my sides to get a glimpse of the pictures in the book. Sometimes a short story would take a long time to finish as students would be eager to share their thoughts and experiences as the story progressed. All in all, a very warm and endearing sight to see a teacher reading to a small group of students around her.
Virtual storytelling,‘Oh dear! I had butterflies in my stomach. I had to make careful plans to make it as interesting as before especially now when the need for this is a lot more. I realized that it may be an essential tool in helping students stay connected to us. As I started my research I realized I had more options than I had in a physical classroom. I could choose both online books to read as well as read-along story videos. On a virtual platform, I could reach out to more students than in a physical classroom. Not to forget the many parents and grandparents who were enjoying the stories reliving their childhood along with the children.
Ground rules were different on a virtual platform. There was no sneaking to peek at the pictures in the book. See the power of pictures!! Screen share and ‘voila’ all the children got to see the pictures at the same time as I read the books. No more “Can you show us the picture ma’am.” Children also get an opportunity to speak after the story. We have been left surprised by the students’ comments and understanding of the stories and morals.
I included stories to help students cope with the present situation of staying indoors. Post-story session students came up with numerous suggestions on how they could keep themselves entertained and busy as they continued to stay indoors. In a story on recycling waste, some of the students showed how they made things from waste and gave varied ideas.
Taking students into a different world was something I achieved through stories. I can never forget the amazement the students expressed when we explored the deep oceans with the story ‘ A house for a hermit crab’ by Eric Carle. I remember the day one of the students could not stop laughing after a funny story.
Storytelling helps in making students curious, build their imagination, and develop communication skills. It helps students understand their culture and other cultures and experience different worlds through their imaginations. In the current scenario, a storytelling session has played a crucial role in keeping the students mentally healthy. They feel connected to school which is their second home and also to their peers which is vital in reassuring our students that all of us together are facing the same challenges.
Storytelling can help increase students’ willingness to communicate their thoughts and feelings. To help students become confident speakers ‘story weaving’ was introduced. It was great fun to listen to the stories the children wove around images shown to them. The stories were very short at first and became longer as they got familiar with the activity.
There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that there is no limit to a child’s imagination. I had to come up with another way of encouraging students to use their imaginations and creativity. Through storytelling, students could be helped improve their memory skills and retell a plot using words that help in building vocabulary. Storytelling enhances listening skills in the students which are vital in their learning process.
The idea of the activity – recreating a story the way they would like to end. It was amazing to hear so many different endings to the story ‘The thirsty crow’. The enthusiastic participation of students was worth watching in the ‘story relay’. The story took different twists and turns as one child carried the story from the previous one. There was no end to their story until a buzzer was sounded. Students enjoyed as much as everyone else listening to them narrate the stories.
Virtual storytelling has widened my horizon to explore and make storytelling more enjoyable than before. Using technology to my advantage has made me a better teacher. No matter what situation I confront, I know I can find a solution.
Asma Tabassum Ahmed
Pre primary ( Montessori)