1. Listening to and telling stories

A story may be told, written, read or recited. It may be a true story or fiction. Often stories have messages in them about the values of the community, how to live our lives and how to care for others.

You and your pupils will probably have told and listened to stories before. You may even have written some. This part will help you develop your pupils’ understanding of the art of storytelling and also that storytelling is embedded in the culture of your society.

You may be fortunate and know someone in your community who is skilled at telling stories and could come and tell a story to your class. (See Key Resource: Using the local community/environment as a resource [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .) Or, as in Case Study 1, you may be able to visit the storyteller and record them on a tape and use this in your class. Activity 1 suggests ways to organise pupils to share their own favourite stories.

Case Study 1: Using a local person to learn the cultural significance of stories

Mrs Biyela teaches at Furaha Primary School, Tanzania. She is preparing for her next teaching topic, which is ‘Story’. She consults books and website resources on storytelling, writing and reciting. She learns that storytelling has deep cultural significance, and wants to find some way of conveying this to her pupils.

She has heard of an old lady, Bibi Koku, who lives nearby and is famous as a storyteller. One afternoon, she visits Ma’Koku and asks if she would be willing to tell a story to Mrs Biyela’s Standard 4 pupils. The old lady agrees, but, she says, ‘Only during the evening.’ She insists that people who tell stories during daytime invite famine into their community and she is not willing to do that.

Immediately, this becomes an interesting issue for Mrs Biyela – she is sure it would grab her pupils’ attention and give them insights into a cultural aspect of storytelling. Therefore, she arranges to bring a tape-recorder and record Ma’Koku telling a story, as well as talking about the taboo on daytime storytelling. She is concerned to try to make sure that the old lady talks about this in a way her pupils can understand. As it turns out, Ma’Koku solves the problem for her by telling the story about what happens to people who tell stories during the day!

On the day of the lesson, Mrs Biyela checks the tape-recorder to make sure everything is fine. She introduces the lesson, asking pupils if they have ever listened to any stories told by old people. The pupils are curious – they listen to Ma’Koku telling her story.

Next, Mrs Biyela conducts an animated discussion about why Ma’Koku could not come to tell the story at school that morning. She is excited by the fact that so many of the pupils are aware of the custom of not telling stories during the day. By the end of the lesson, they have built up a rich understanding of the tradition and the taboos associated with it.

Activity 1: Choosing a favourite story

Prior to the lesson, ask each pupil to decide on a favourite short story to share in class.

  • Organise the class into small groups of between four and six pupils. Ask each pupil to tell their story to the members of their group. Before they start, emphasise that everyone is to have a turn and they must each listen to each other’s stories.
  • Next, ask each group to choose between them one story from their group. They will present these to the class. If you become aware that any group is finding it hard to agree, step in to help the group decide on a story.
  • Give the groups time to prepare. If possible, provide a range of props – clothing, tools, toys, musical instruments, etc. – or ask pupils to bring these in, to enhance their stories and help convey the meanings.
  • Each group in turn tells their story to the whole class and explains why they like it.
  • Finally, discuss with your class the important parts of a story; the beginning, the body, episodes, setting, characters and the ending.

Were you surprised at the stories your pupils chose?

How well did your pupils work together in the small groups? Do you need to plan different groupings for the next activity?

Section 5: The art of storytelling

2. Exploring traditional Stories