2. Exploring traditional Stories

Many traditions and beliefs are passed on through story. In this part, we suggest how to develop pupils’ understanding of the importance of story in passing on such traditions and providing messages about how people should live.

It is very exciting for pupils to hear expert storytellers telling their stories. In Case Study 2, a teacher organises a visit to a storyteller. In Activity 2, you use brainstorming to investigate your pupils’ knowledge of traditional tales and explore ways to gather these stories together (see Key Resource: Using mind maps and brainstorming to explore ideas [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ).

Case Study 2: Taking pupils to visit a local storyteller

Mr Mncube is an arts and culture teacher at a school in KwaZulu-Natal. Mr Mncube visited his village leader, Inkosi uShandu, and asked him if he could bring the Grade 6 pupils to his kraal. He also asked the village leader if he would tell a traditional tale to the pupils. This was agreed.

A day before the appointment, Mr Mncube told the class that he would be taking them out on a visit to the village leader’s home to listen to the traditional tales of the amaZulu. In order to prepare his pupils, he conducted a brief discussion about their experiences of story and what they thought they might encounter the next day and made a mind map of their ideas on the chalkboard.

The tale that the village leader narrated is set out in Resource 1: The rabbit grows a crop of money. It had an important message and lessons to be learned. Mr Mncube, as he listened to the story, was already preparing questions that he would ask the class about the story in order to bring out these lessons. Because the village leader was an old, respected man, he was also able to impress on the children the rich sense of ancestry attached to the story in Nguni tradition – it had been handed down over time, with its meanings reinforced from generation to generation. Mr Mncube realised that he had made a wise choice in actually bringing his pupils to the storyteller’s home, rather than simply telling them the story himself.

Activity 2: Reconstructing traditional tales

Before the lesson, gather as many written or oral versions of local traditional stories as you can find. (See Resource 2: Stories and fables from across Africa for a useful website and read Key Resource: Using new technologies.)

Ask pupils to brainstorm as many traditional tales as they can remember hearing.

Next, divide the class into groups of four. Ask each group to identify a story that was identified in the brainstorm and to write up and illustrate a fuller version of the story.

Provide guidelines, such as:

  • What is the name of the traditional tale?
  • To which society/community/clan does the tale belong?
  • What message(s) does the tale provide?
  • What lesson(s) can be learned from the tale?
  • Who normally tells the story?
  • Who is the intended audience and why is this audience targeted?
  • What time of the year is the tale normally told? Why?
  • What time of the day is the tale normally told? Why?

The stories that are produced can be bound together as readers for use in the school. It may even be possible to publish them in the community or beyond.

1. Listening to and telling stories

3. Supporting pupils in writing a story