"Knowledge of how to use stories to negotiate experience and society at large is essential to human development. It is how we learn to empathize and gain empathy. It allows us to stay connected to home though we must leave it, and to make ourselves known when we return."
Literacy learning and pedagogical purpose in Vivian Paley’s ‘storytelling curriculum’ Patricia M. Cooper
In my November 2017 blog I discussed the importance of storytelling in my classroom. Now it’s six months later and we’ve journeyed into the depths of storyland to discover stories are all around us and in our minds, imaginations, and hearts. Stories were told verbally, and through song, dance, puppetry, theater. We invited community storytellers to tell their stories. We learned that listening to other people's stories is as important as telling our own.
One can speak to the literacy learning that takes place by dictating stories and dramatizing them. I mentioned Vivian Paley in an earlier post. She was a kindergarten teacher during the time that kindergarten was seen as a valuable time for children to be children and learn through play. It was a time before No Child Left Behind. She has written several books telling of her use of dictation and dramatization in her classroom. Paley did not see this practice as a method to teach reading, rather she saw it as play—valuable and important unto itself. As we know, children learn best through play. Cooper reminds us that Paley “cautions us not to forget that fantasy play, including the stories children make-up and dramatize, is the ‘glue’ that binds all early academic learning.” Cooper’s article, written in the height of NCLB, goes beyond the play aspect to analyze the benefits that storytelling has on early literacy and reading development. She studied Paley’s storytelling practices and found six literacy skills gained through this process:
1. Oral Language: expression, home language, syntax, vocabulary, and sentence patterns
2. Narrative Form: knowledge of how stories work, where stories come from, what stories are composed of, sequencing, plot development, characterization, writing process, authorial intention, and use of imagination
3. Conventions of Print: knowledge of how print functions, including directionality, spaces between words, letters, words, and punctuation
4. Code: encoding and decoding
5. Word Study: sight words, phonics, spelling, and decoding
6. Reading for Meaning
If interested in learning more about these benefits, you can read the artice here:
All of these important literacy skills developed in the preschoolers. But for me, there is so much more gained in this communal experience of sharing stories. If one digs a little deeper and looks more closely at the experience, we can see that storytelling helps us to understand our world, ourselves, and one another. In his analysis on the impact of storytelling on human emotion throughout history, Cody C. Delistraty points out that “Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They allow people to see patterns where there is chaos, meaning where there is randomness. Humans are inclined to see narratives where there are none because it can afford meaning to our lives—a form of existential problem-solving." Storytelling this year allowed for us to come together as a community of tellers and listeners. Problems were worked out through our stories, fears were explored, and of course, the age-old dilemma of sorting out good vs. evil, fighting vs. playing, love vs. hate.
Our storytelling routines provided comfort and excitement. The simplest stories often received the highest compliments “That was a REALLY nice story!” Laine told Callum one day after his 3 sentence story about a giraffe in Africa. Laughs were shared when Chris created a story about Lucky Ducky, Bucky Ducky, and Ducky Ducky--these quickly became favorite communal characters. We began to learn and understand each other’s stories—Cece’s stories would always have a polar bear or police dog, Callum’s stories were short, Violet’s stories had fairies, and Chris’ stories made us laugh. Storytelling brought us together in ways books and videos cannot. Storytelling is a shared experience. And when it is sustained over time, it becomes a character itself—The Story. The Never-Ending Story, Stories are always happening...
To read more in-dept about our Where the Wild Things Storytell project, click here;
Cooper, PATRICIA M. “Literacy Learning and Pedagogical Purpose in Vivian Paley’s ‘Storytelling Curriculum.’” Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, vol. 5, no. 3, 2005, pp. 229–251.
DELISTRATY, Cody C. “The Psychological Comforts of Storytelling Why, throughout Human History, Have People Been so Drawn to Fiction?” The Atlantic, 2 Nov. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/the-psychological-comforts-of-storytelling/381964/.