*No, not Edgar Allan Poe, yet.
“Once upon a time, in the lost gardens of a virtuous land, there was an aspiring but naive teacher who started an educational blog. She was so enthusiastic about writing on that very teeny-tiny blog. Every day and night, she dreamed of what to write; she planned ceaselessly countless essays with titles yet nothing more. Alas, a wicked, atrocious, petrifying day had come. She dropped all hopes and dreams into a fathomless, putrid hole where never-ending, severe, heart-pounding, mind-numbing remorse roamed with terror and agony alongside…”
You are all hooked on, aren’t you? It makes you wonder now what that terrible day was if she has overcome or not. It is not magic. It is the power of words, the power of storytelling. I could have bluntly just told you how lazy I was, but it would not have engaged you this much to this post. It would be yet another thing I wrote here. Because storytelling is not just randomly telling or talking about something. It requires imagination, immense description skills, and a little bit of acting.
Here is what I mean:
Now, try re-reading the story by imagining that I am right in front of you, telling you the story of my laziness by using my gestures, my voice, and a little bit of drama. I am moving around. You are with me, sitting on your chairs or cushions, etc. Try feeling your presence. You are watching me, listening to me attentively. It does change the whole experience, doesn’t it?
As we all know, storytelling has an impact on foreign and second language learners. Many researchers and educators have published research papers and books on the benefits of using it in our classrooms. Even the acclaimed book series; “Resource books for teachers” by Alan Maley had a storytelling book with activities. However, how much of this knowledge do we apply to our day-to-day teaching? When we use storytelling as a tool, how much of it is storytelling? Is it just read, listen and do worksheets? More importantly, as educators, are we aware of the difference between reading a story and telling a story?
I decided to write a post in two parts on this topic and my ultimate observation on storytelling, Denmark, and its Friskoles.
From my mouth to your ears
It shouldn’t be shocking that storytelling is not only part of our lessons, but also our everyday life since we all (incl. the whole world) started to preserve and communicate our cultures through the oral tradition or oral storytelling. Before we wrote, we spoke. It functioned to entertain, to educate. Socrates taught his pupils, such as Plato, with storytelling, not just with heated discussions or debates on forums. Plato, who must have been influenced by his mentor, actually gave quite a huge importance to education and in his Socratic dialogue Republic, he mentioned stories to educate mind and character which were more paramount than educating the physical body:
“What kind of education shall we give them then? We shall find it difficult to improve on the time-honored distinction between the physical training we give to the body and the education we give to the mind and character.
And we shall begin by educating mind and character, shall we not?
In this education you would include stories, would you not?
Yes.”–Republic: Book II, Plato
Nevertheless, we always forget that storytelling is not just stories, but songs, poems, epics, etc. It is limitless. As we are more evolved and have other mediums of transferring information, we do not look at storytelling or the oral tradition as we used to. It is simply fantasies, and that is exactly when we start to lose the essence of reality in storytelling. Particularly, when it comes to our lessons, our storytelling is not that authentic as it is in our life. I am not implying that everything can be told for the sake of storytelling, not to forget, our purpose is not just storytelling, and of course, there should be a good and beneficial selection, effective planning, and a purpose but we can at least make our stories less fabricated, superficial and dull.
For the past 8 months, I have been in a very different school in Denmark. They have in fact, a unique methodology and approach when it comes to teaching. The method is based on the teachings of two sweet and old Danish guys, Grundtvig- Kold. In another post, I will talk about these Dane Platos and their methodology, one thing that I want to mention though, is how they relate storytelling with their approach:
“Since Christen Kold began to use it in his pedagogical work, the story has had a special place in the Grundtvig-Kold schools. Kold discovered that through storytelling, he could teach children much more in certain school subjects than through ordinary book teaching. But for Kold, the narrative became not just a pedagogical method in line with other methods. It contains under the right conditions in his view some dimensions that ordinary teaching does not. And the right conditions are partly the teacher’s commitment to the content of the story and partly the idea that the purpose of the story is not only to achieve a certain school knowledge but even more to become wiser about what human life is and what difficulties and joys there are. It is living the life here and now. When it is understood in this way, teachers and students are equal in their approach to storytelling – and therefore storytelling is not only a pedagogical method but also a way of being together. A great way to create mutual understanding and community.”
—Source: Fortælling –http://grundtvig-koldsk-skole.dk/leksikon/fortaelling/
You may think that “Yes, in theory, that sounds nice and *ahem* éducatif. But you cannot just tell stories all the time. There are things to do; homework to check, revisions before exams, etc.” True, but that is why we plan our lessons. Believe me, a revision with storytelling would make much more impact on just us, constantly explaining stuff, and asking them to do the next question. Especially in a language classroom, we expect them to use the language exceptionally in written and *wait-for-it* in oral. Besides, the storyteller does not always need to be the teacher. Our students can become one as well.
It is a continuation of oral tradition. It is a natural and unique human trait. So, we are back to basics. Our ancestors knew none another way than storytelling to educate. In this chaotic era, storytelling is still a way to document. We reminisced a lot on storytelling, and we are almost reaching the destination point. In the second part of this post, we will continue with storytelling and our classes.
Thank you for reading and hanging in there.
More on Storytelling
PS: I have even found a Masterclass on storytelling, if you are interested in that, here is the link:
Another PS: I have just realized, I had another post on storytelling a couple of years ago. At the time, I mainly focused more on digital storytelling, and it was part of my assignment. The reason I emphasize the assignment part is I re-read it and didn’t like it at all. I missed the whole point of storytelling.