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The Power of Storytelling In The Classroom

Published on 23/11/16

It's not everyday you come across a professional storyteller, which is why - when we were presented with the opportunity to feature Clare Steele on our blog, we jumped at the chance. 

Clare trained at the International School of Storytelling at Emerson College, Sussex and off the back of that she founded In Other Words Storytelling. Delivering workshops in schools, Clare spreads the word of storytelling to children from Key Stage 1 to 3. Clare's programmes combine stories, songs and games, encouraging children to explore aspects of theme, narrative and characterisation. 

In our previous blog post "Your School's Brand: The Incredible, Emotional Art of Storytelling" we discussed how a school can utilise storytelling, to their advantage, in their marketing efforts - Clare is going to talk to you about how valuable storytelling can be throughout every child's education when it comes to delivering the curriculum in thought-provoking and engaging ways. 

Storytelling is an ancient art which has for centuries been used as a tool to educate, entertain and inspire. Across all cultures and time, people have gathered together to share stories, and the role of the storyteller was considered a venerable one. Many may wonder what place it has today in our fast paced, multimedia world, where children and adults alike have become accustomed to a constant stream of entertainment and information. Has their sense of wonder at a story well told been lost? I would argue on the contrary, instead it has just been forgotten.

Storytelling in the oral tradition, where children are able to sit, listen and imagine, opens up a whole realm of possibilities. It allows them the space to create their own images, it positively encourages listening skills, supports language development, and is a huge stimulus to creative thinking. Stories are drawn from the vast wealth of mythology and legend, stretching back over centuries and across continents. They provide a window into our past, a link with our ancestors, and the opportunity to understand other cultures and religions.

In telling a story, as distinct from reading a story, the teller engages directly with the children, rather than focusing on the text. This makes the process of listening more active, engaging and personal, as the teller looks at each child, and adapts the story to their level and understanding. The look of wonder on a child's face as an ancient wonder tale begins to unfold, and their concentration grows, is a truly remarkable thing. I have on many occasions told stories lasting over half an hour to very young children, they have settled quickly and remained almost motionless throughout. When I have retold these stories to them months later, they are very quick to pick up on any slight changes I may make. 

The magic of storytelling works across the year groups. In early years the cumulative tales with their rhythm and repetition, are loved by young children, and positively encourage language and vocabulary skills. They also provide a wealth of opportunity for interaction, and for children to retell stories in their own words. For older children in key stage 1, 2 and 3, stories can help them develop emotional intelligence, by immersing them in challenges which they may face when growing up, such as overcoming adversity, bullying and intolerance.

The archetypal characters personified in the tales, offer extreme examples of human characteristics and emotions, which children can understand and explore within the safe space of a story. They act as powerful tools to stimulate discussion and debate, and as such are invaluable when introducing new PHSE topics. 

In literacy, storytelling is a remarkable stimulus for creative writing. Stories have the ability to unlock the imagination, and their rich and diverse language provides a wealth of opportunities for children to explore narrative, theme and characterisation - encouraging them to introduce new vocabulary into their writing.

Across other areas of the curriculum their power should not be underestimated, and as a historical resource they are invaluable. In studying historical periods such as the Vikings and the Romans for example, the Norse and Greek Myths explore aspects of society, hierarchy, beliefs and values which are not so easily evidenced in any other resources. That they do so in a way which the children find exciting and accessible, it's a teacher's dream.

Einstein said "... deeper meaning resides in the fairytales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life... to imagine is everything." Let us hope that our children can one day make such a bold statement.

If you're interested in what Clare does, why not go and check out her website? Or if you are curious how you can utilise the skill of storytelling in your school's marketing strategy, get in touch with our team of content marketing specialists that will help you through the process.

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