Stems: why storytelling matters

Stems: why storytelling matters

January 18th, 2018

Hello Stem families,

It has been a wonderful wet week for the Stems! Last week we mentioned that we observed a burst of excitement over storytelling, so this week we are dedicating this post to talking about what storytelling looks like in the Stems classroom and how supports your child’s development.

Children are natural storytellers.  They tell us the story of how they fell off a bike and skinned their knee.  They tell us about the time they got scared when there was a big storm.  They tell us about special outings and events.  They also tell stories through play…

A potion is made that will turn someone into a monster when they drink it…

The police go after the bad guys…

There is a camping trip with marshmallows on the fire…

And at times they use the pictures in books to “read” (re-tell) a familiar story or to make up their own tale.

It is easy to see how storytelling is connected to language development, both speaking and careful listening.  But storytelling is also connected to so much more, just a few of which are:

  • understanding story sequence: that stories have a beginning, middle and ending which go in a logical order (this is important as they move from storytellers to story writers)
  • visualization: the ability to picture a story or other written information, a foundational literacy skill, later helping young readers to comprehend written texts
  • creating positive attitudes towards reading and writing: as they begin to view themselves as authors and readers
  • critical thinking skills: did the story make sense? why did that happen?
  • social-emotional skills: a safe space to explore feelings and work through understanding the world around us by trying out different endings and outcomes

In the Stems’ classroom, we support our young storytellers by modeling storytelling at our group gatherings and encouraging them to contribute to group stories.  Sometimes they listen to a story or we retell a favorite book and the Stems help to make sure we include all the important details.  On other days we make up a story together as a group.

We are also always listening for their stories and encourage them to share them with us, using play scenarios as a starting point for storytelling.  Playing with small world materials and princess toys from home can turn into a story in which the princesses are the main characters.

One of the ways we do this is by offering to take story dictations.  When we take a story dictation, we write down the story exactly as it is told to us without any corrections to grammar or any of the content of the story (this also gives us lots of information about the child’s current language development). We then read it back to them, to make sure we wrote down everything to let them make any necessary changes.  For children who would like their story to be shared with the group, we read the story aloud as part of a morning meeting or at time for reflection.  This is also a time when the other members of the class can ask questions about the story.  The discussion following a story supports critical thinking and the related skills that they will use later for reading comprehension.  We have also started typing up the dictated stories to display in the classroom.  Later we move these into the story binder to make room for new ones.

By typing up a story we are showing that we value the child’s story and it helps them share these stories with you at home.  It also inspires other members of the class to tell their own stories.   Our story binder is something that we will add to little by little throughout the rest of the year.

Just like everything else, storytelling develops over time.  Some children prefer to be part of group storytelling, which is also just fine because our group storytelling sessions support these skills as well.  For children who do choose to tell their own individual stories, it might take a while before it sounds like what we, as adults, would consider a story.  At first, it may seem more like a list of people or things.  Then, it starts to include events, but they may not be in a logical order.  Then, over time, you start to hear stories that have a beginning, middle, and an ending.

Some parents wonder how they can support storytelling at home.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Tell your child stories (from real life or your imagination)
  • Re-read favorite books over and over (eventually, your child will know the story so well they will be able to retell it to you)
  • Encourage your child to tell you stories (from real life or from their imagination)

As always there were lots of other activities going on in our classroom this week.  A few highlights were: starting to work clay, continuing to explore numbers and weight using scales, wet sand, and wet chalk outside, a renewed interest in building and playing with Legos as well as playing number games.

We hope you enjoy the long weekend!

  • Inga & Ms. Soni