by JB Rowley
|How Parrots Got Their Colours|
“You can tell us this one,” he said.
For him, telling a story meant reading a book. Because I did not use a book, I had not told a story. The ancient art of oral storytelling is practised so infrequently that children (and adults) do not always understand what it is. Since that day, I usually start my storytelling sessions, especially when telling to young children, by saying, “My stories are all in my head.” Sometimes the children think my head is a strange place to keep stories and they giggle. I guess it does seem strange to children brought up to expect stories to come from a book. However, that is what oral storytellers do. We keep stories in our heads.
When I tell a story, the story transfers from mind to mouth (my mind to my mouth) and then passes from mouth to mind (from my mouth to the listener’s mind). There is immediacy and intimacy in this. As an oral storyteller I pass the story directly to my audience, creating a personal communication between me and the listeners. I have the flexibility to change and/or stop the story, according to my audience’s needs and reactions, as well as the freedom to invite participation. The listeners and I become a community.
Listening is an important element of oral storytelling and is one of the skills children can learn and develop by attending oral storytelling sessions. The first stage of language development is listening. It is a skill that can be fostered through being an audience member as well as by being the teller of a story. When children tell a story in front of an audience, even a small audience of family members, they realise their story works better if the audience listens well. This knowledge and experience will contribute to improving their own listening skills.
Another significant benefit of oral storytelling is stimulation of the imagination. When listening to an oral storyteller children must create their own pictures in their minds. They also develop an awareness of story components such as characters, structure and sequence.
Storytelling is something children can do long before they can read or write stories. While oral storytelling has benefits for all ages, at the pre-school stage it is a vital language development tool. Parents who encourage a child to tell stories, even just a one sentence story, give that child a precious gift. Some pre-school children love to imitate the storyteller. They gather all their toys together and proceed to tell stories to their captive audience; an excellent activity for language development.
Parents and teachers can create storytelling programs for young children that include:
• A simple oral story with repetition and language play
• A song
• A chant or rhyme
• An activity
Topic based programs are especially suitable for young children.
An example of a topic based program for pre-school children:
• Story - How Parrots Got Their Colours
• Song - Sing a Rainbow
• Rhyme - The Bunch of Blue Ribbons
• Activity - Colour in the colours of the Rainbow Lorikeet
An example of a topic based program for older children (5 - 7):
Seasons – Spring:
• Story - The Wattle Fairies
• Song - Rig a Jig Jig
• Rhyme - Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
• Activity 1 - Ask children to change the last sentence of Mary, Mary Quite Contrary by adding their own rhyme
• Activity 2 - Ask some children to retell the story
BIO: JB Rowley is an oral storyteller, an educator and an award-winning writer who lives in Melbourne, Australia. Her books include the non-fiction novel, Whisper My Secret, and a children’s series called Trapped in Gondwana. Blog link: http://jbthewriter.wordpress.com/
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