1. Developing pupils’ research skills

We all tell stories, about our daily lives or about the past. There are many traditions around storytelling and many lessons to be learned from stories. Activity 1 explores what researching is, how it is done, and how results can be analysed. As you work alongside the class on the task, you will learn what your pupils are capable of.

We suggest that you read Key Resource: Researching in the classroom [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   before starting. If you would like to read about other people’s research, Resource 1: Traditional fables is also interesting. It reports on a workshop, held in Qunu in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, where parents, teachers and pupils discussed the questions you are researching.

Case Study 1: Researching why people tell stories

Mrs Rashe and her Grade 3 pupils in Nqamakwe, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, tell stories every day.

One day she wrote the question ‘Why do people tell stories?’ on the chalkboard and then listed pupils’ answers:

  • To enjoy
  • To make people frightened
  • To teach me not to do something

She asked each pupil to go home and ask an older person the same question and to bring the answers back. She made sure that she reminded pupils that they needed to approach people very respectfully when asking the question. She also reminded them to explain what the information would be used for.

The next day she added their answers to the list. Where more than one person gave the same answer, she added a tick (see Resource 2: Why people tell stories).

She asked the pupils to add up the ticks for each reason. They discussed the following questions:

  • Which reasons are the most popular? How do you know?
  • Do you agree with the elders’ ideas? Why, or why not?

After the discussion, Mrs Rashe asked her pupils to write what they had found out through their research.

The next day, she asked a few pupils with different views to read their reports. She was very surprised and pleased with the different ideas that the pupils came up with.

Activity 1: Investigating storytelling

  • Explain to pupils about research, using Key Resource: Researching in the classroom beforehand, to help you plan what you want to say. Explain that they are going to help you investigate storytelling. (See Key Resource: Using explaining and demonstrating to assist learning.)
  • Write the questions from Resource 3: Questions about stories on the chalkboard.
  • Explain that each pupil is going to ask these questions of one older person in the community. Remind the pupils to approach the elder respectfully and to record the answers they are given.
  • Some days later, divide pupils into groups of six to eight and let them list (for each question), the answers they got, adding a tick where more than one person gave the same answer.
  • Now each group reports and you complete a set of data (the information collected by the class) on the chalkboard.
  • Discuss the most common ideas. Do the pupils agree with them?
  • Help pupils to write a simple report on their findings (see Resource 2 for a plan for a research report).

Section 1: Investigating stories

2. Thinking about the purpose of a story