1 Why use storytelling?

Stories are a very powerful medium in the classroom. They can be funny, inspiring and challenging. They can take their listeners from their everyday life into fantasy worlds. They can stimulate thinking about new concepts, and help people explore problems and feelings in an imaginary and unthreatening context.

Storytelling can also be used across a range of curriculum areas, including maths and science, to introduce topics and issues in engaging ways.

Pause for thought

Think back to your childhood.

  • Do you remember anyone telling you stories? Who told them: your father, your mother, a grandparent or a sibling? Can you remember any of the stories? What made them special?
  • When did you last tell a story to someone? Was it about an experience you had, or an imaginary tale?

Stories play an important part in our lives, and can also be a valuable classroom resource, as you will read in Case Study 1.

Case Study 1: Preparing for storytelling

Mr Sinha is an elementary school teacher from Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. Here he explains how he engages his young students in his storytelling.

When I was very young, my grandmother told me stories every evening. I was captivated by them. I now tell some of those stories to my own children, drawing on the same techniques as my grandmother did.

At school, I teach young students in Classes I–III. They love listening to the stories I tell them each week. Some teachers find it difficult to tell stories from memory and prefer to read to their students from a book – perhaps they feel safer that way. Storytelling does require practice and confidence, but it can be very worthwhile.

With a new story, I prepare myself in advance by telling it to my daughters or to an imaginary audience. I use a natural ‘narrator’s’ voice for the body of the story, but give the characters distinctive voices for variety. I use my face to show particular expressions like sadness or surprise, and my hands for gestures like waving.

By observing my students as I tell the story, I can tell if they are following and interested.

Pause for thought

What techniques does Mr Sinha use to engage his students in his stories?

Compare your ideas with ours:

  • he uses his voice in different ways
  • he employs facial expressions and hand gestures
  • he observes his students’ reactions.

Now read Resource 1, ‘Storytelling, songs, role play and drama’.

Video: Storytelling, songs, role play and drama

Why this approach is important

2 Using stories in the classroom