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Storytelling to young children -- by Louise Phillips

Storytelling to Young Children

-- by Louise Phillips


Storytelling is a universal, traditional art form, that has featured strongly in all cultures as an effective communication tool.

Important messages can be so skilfully conveyed through storytelling, as the listener is so entranced by the magic images the storyteller paints before your eyes.

And it is in this way that we as educators of young children can promote their learning.

They can develop:

  • An understanding of human nature.
  • An understanding of feelings.
  • An awareness of the role characteristics people assume.
  • An understanding of sequence.
  • Language skills (vocabulary, grammar, syntax and pronunciation).
  • Their attention span and their ability to listen.
  • Their ability to follow instructions.
  • Their ability to co-operate with others; and
  • An understanding of concepts.

Strategies To Consider When Telling Stories

Young children are unclear about the boundaries between fantasy and reality, and for this reason it is important to make a clear distinction of entering another world before the storytelling begins.

Tell the children that you are going to another place (name it what you like) without leaving the room and that both you and the children will be different people / creatures / characters.

To add to this distinction it can help to have a process to make this journey possible. For example: You may need to ask them to close their eyes and take a few deep breaths, whilst you say some spell, play an instrument, dim the lights or whatever suits your situation.

And then with a snap you are in the world of stories and you can lead your children off on any kind of adventure. Children learn through concrete experiences - so involve the children as much as possible.

Use props (something tangible to add to their belief).

Use the children's names (along with involving them, it gives them a sense of pride.

Tell a story about yourself (as a major figure in the children's lives - they are interested in you and want to know more about you, also they are more likely to believe if it happened to someone they know).

Involve the children through actions, movement, chants - so they feel they are a part of it and their attention is maintained (children love to move).

Finding a Story

  • It may be based on real events that happened to you or the children.
  • Traditional tale collections.
  • Children's picture books.
  • One's that you have created yourself.
  • Or a story that you have heard someone else tell.

To Structure the Story

Have well-developed characters. Have a clear image of the characters. Have many words to describe the character. Develop a voice (or sounds) that depict that character.

Know the characters well - the children may well ask you questions about them.

It is best not to memorise a story word for word, as this will not allow for your own flair. Know the plot and the dialogue well (like your characters) yet allow the narrative to flow with your own style. This is what gives a story the sense of being told.

Once your story is finished it is important to bring the children back to reality. You can complete the circle by taking the children back along the same path that took them into the world of stories.

Discussing the story can also work well as a grounding strategy. Tell the children that they are now back at 'Kindy' and it is now time for ...

© Louise Phillips 1996
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