THE ART AND SCIENCE OF STORYTELLING

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Teachers, especially those dealing with young children, are often faced with requests of ‘Please tell us a story’. In fact many teachers use this as a reward for good behaviour ‘If you are quiet, I will tell you a story’. This clearly indicates that children like to hear narrative of events told in an interesting manner. Storytelling is an art which has a deep science behind it and if done with care there is no limit to the learning that can happen in the young minds. Find out more about the science behind storytelling and learn how to be a good story teller.

 

THE SCIENCE OF STORYTELLING

It is all in the mind

When we hear a good story said in the proper way, the language processing parts of the brain get activated along with certain other areas that deal with experiencing the event. The activation of the motor cortex occurs if a motion is described in the form of metaphors like ‘The burglar had slimy hands’ or ‘She sings like a nightingale’.  The same is true for actions that are recounted like ‘The lion jumped high and pounced on the rabbit’ or ‘The king took off his crown and danced around with joy’. Basically, a story gets the mind to work and when said in the proper way, they can have a very great impact.

 

Wired for stories

Human beings have evolved as the most advanced of all species and this includes the art of storytelling too. When a story is told well and the events unfold one by one, it has a deep impact on the learning process. A story is made up of several cases of cause and effect and human mind is geared to think in the form of narratives. In fact there is a story in our head all the time without our realizing it. This may be in the form of day to day events like, a visit to the grocery shop, staffroom lunch or any other trifle. Whenever we hear stories we relate them to our personal lives and the effect is permanent. Even children relate the stories they hear to similar experiences and this helps to establish better learning. A perfect example of this is the recent movie ‘Life of Pi’ where the narrator likens real people to animals based on their characters.


THE ART OF STORYTELLING

The grandmother of stories

Most children like to listen to stories told by their grandmothers, who can enact the stories as well as have enough time and patience to say them how they should be told. Many of us were fortunate enough to have lived in households with grandparents. Recall the lazy afternoons that were spent listening to stories told by your grandmother. Now try and pick out similar themes and make the stories just as interesting so that the children love to listen.

Actions speak louder

While recounting incidents, make sure you use plenty of gestures that include head, hand and body movements. Actions help in developing interest and hold the attention of the kids. You don’t have to be a master at gesticulating; make up some actions that go with the sequence. They feel that the incident is happening live in front of their eyes and remember it for a long time to come.

Monotone kills

Do not tell the lines in a monotonous manner. Instead use a lot of high and low pitches, dropping your voice to make the kids prick up their ears and then increasing the sound suddenly to make a bigger impact on them. If you are telling them animal stories, then it would be a good idea to include some animal sounds as well. Some animals are easy to imitate and have set sounds attributed to them. So instead of tell the children every time ‘then the lion said….’ ‘or the cat whispered….’ , just using different voice tones will make it clear to them about which character in the story is speaking and engross them more. With the help of simple stories, a good teacher can plant ideas and emotions in the minds of the young listeners.

More the merrier

A passive listener feels bored after sometime. Young children have a shorter attention span than adults and so to hold them for a longer period, you need to involve their participation. Let the children enact the roles as you tell them the story. Or let them lend voice to the dialogues. They can even be ready with cut-outs if you brief them or you could have a joint session of cut-out making. Try a guessing game of what happens next. Encourage them to come up with suitable titles for the story.

The teaching-learning process can be enlivened through storytelling. Even small incidents when told with a fair dose of imagery, gesticulation and voice modulation, can leave deep impact on young minds. Teachers can develop interest in the lesson by integrating stories wherever possible. Our minds are geared to understand better when we can relate stories to real life incidents. In fact the human mind has evolved to think in the form of stories. Storytelling is an art that is not difficult to develop. A little effort can bring your stories to life and make learning fun and long lasting.

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