Storytelling is an effective way to enable students to become interested in writing in general. Often, teachers teaching language arts or literature, especially at the elementary level, face challenges on a number of levels.
Students may be disinterested. They may find it hard to get started with writing assignments. They may be easily distracted during the writing activity. They may be mentally tired or exhausted depending on the kind of home life and experiences they may be facing outside of school.
Additionally, in our current environment of lock downs and stay at home orders, many parents are working from home and students are schooling remotely. There are far more pressures in the mix.
Often enough, students are not well equipped to organise themselves. They may be unclear about how best to express what they think or feel. They may find it difficult to locate the most appropriate words or phrases to express themselves.
They may be grappling with things that hinder the flow once they begin writing when they are unsure about punctuation or spelling. Students may also start out with a great idea but then become uncertain about how to develop that idea further.
So how can teachers help?
For one, we need to find ways to give students the opportunity for continuous experience. “They need the chance to experiment using what they know about writing and the opportunity to practise their developing skills and knowledge…” (Fellowes and Oakley)
We can begin with helping students tell stories.
Telling stories as opposed to other kinds of writing activities may present a slightly easier way to begin the writing activity.
Children love reading good stories, especially when these stories bring laughter, excitement or courage to the forefront.
When reading or listening to a story, students get transported to a different place and time where their imagination flows effortlessly. With this imagination at play, stories take on new meaning and new life. This is one of the reasons why getting children interested in writing through storytelling may be easier.
If you are helping to bring the storyteller out in your students, explore various ways you can encourage them with visual cues or prompts that can spark their imagination.
Use questions as a way to get them to think differently about a topic. There are different kinds of questions you can ask (some talk about “lower-level” and “higher-level” questions) depending on what you are aiming to achieve and then, help facilitate a discussion.
Here are some tips that may help you get your students started with telling stories:
- Picture the scene before you start writing. Get into some detail as you describe that scene.
- Use a wide range of adjectives and use descriptive language so the reader can tap into the emotion you are creating.
- Create a sense of mystery. Help draw the reader in slowly.
- Add lots of tension.
- Reflect the character’s personality.
- Use conversation as part of storytelling. Let the reader see the character use their own words.
- Spark curiosity.
- Think of something wacky once in a while. That may be in a person’s behaviour or a scene. Do this to be a little unpredictable.
- Leave the reader hanging.
- Explain why the event is happening. Let the reader get into your mind and emotion.
- Explain why the character is feeling the way he does.
- Be persuasive. Help the reader to see things as you see them unfolding.
- Inject humour if you can but don’t try too hard.
- Use personal pronouns (me, I)
- Incorporate a twist to make the story unpredictable.
- Sensory descriptions help the reader feel like they are there with you. Use them.
- Use topic-specific language.
- Use paragraph headings to help break up ideas.
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