The Storytelling Curriculum

We have developed The Storytelling Curriculum as an innovative approach to the development of children’s literacy in the Foundation Phase (age 4-7 years).

When Did You Last Tell A Story?I don’t mean telling a story from a book to a child, I mean the stories we tell recounting the events of our lives. We all tell stories everyday. We are immersed in story – novels, films, TV, media, history, conversation, the staffroom!

The Storytelling Curriculum is based on the following:

  • We are story-telling animals
  • We have a basic need for story to organise our experience
  • Children and adults are no different – we all need story

Stories are well established as essential for the emotional, cognitive and social development of children and storytelling has an important place in the life of small children.

“We spend a phenomenal amount of our lives following stories: telling them; listening to them; reading them; watching them… they are far and away the most important feature of our everyday existence”

Booker, C. (2004:2) The Seven Basic Plots: Why we tell stories. New York: Continuum

The theoretical underpinning of this approach to literacy development claims we are born with a pre-disposition to respond to story and that narrative understanding is the primary meaning-making tool. If you provide a story-rich curriculum where children’s natural interest in story is used to promote their imaginative thinking they quickly become authors, first orally and then in writing.

Vivian Paley a kindergarten teacher for 38 years says:

“Fairy tales stimulate the child’s imagination in a way that enlarges the vocabulary, extends narrative skills, and encourages new ideas… by the time children are four they can identify and debate many of the issues hidden in these age-old plots”.

The Storytelling Curriculum contrasts with current transmission approaches to teaching literacy as reading and writing are appropriated, not specifically taught and motivation to become literate comes from immersion in the socio-cultural practice of storytelling. It empowers children as authors by giving them ownership of their literacy.

The Storytelling Curriculum immerses children in storiesThey listen to them, create them, dramatise them and share them with their peers

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We learn how to tell and create stories by listening to them

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We can't write stories unless we have been immersed in them

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We learn to read by reading the stories we have written

The curriculum should be regarded as a story to be told and a story to be heard: fairy tales, picture books, children’s authored stories, animations, film, cartoons.

What Happens in a Storytelling Classroom?

  • Everyday children have stories on the carpet – picture books, traditional tales and children’s own stories.
  • Puppets, role-play areas, small world play, dressing up are provided to support story-creation.
  • The children dictate their own stories (link to pdf of children’s stories 3-7)
  • The teacher types out the stories and punctuates them and shares the written story with the child pointing out the features of writing
  • The teacher or child reads the children’s stories to the class
  • The children act out each other’s stories
  • Groups of children work with teacher to create group stories
  • The children’s stories become reading material available to the children in Foundation Phase

“It works! Before the story writing project I was quite regimental in the way I taught story writing. I’ve seen amazing results. I haven’t taught them how to write – it just seems to come naturally. They go to the story table in free time and I’m fighting them off to be honest.”

Shan, Year 2 Teacher, Glyncollen Primary, Swansea

See my research on The Storytelling Curriculum. If you would like details of training in The Storytelling Curriculum please contact me.

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