Okay, so it might seem a little leftfield to suggest that – of all the qualities and skills a teacher needs to possess – storytelling is the most important skill of all…
Others maybe do spring to mind sooner or roll off the tongue more naturally: subject knowledge, classroom management, passion, dedication, organisation and communication, to name just a few.
Nobody’s denying that all these (and many other) skills are extremely important, but let’s stick our necks on the line for the sake of debate and discussion and consider the importance of storytelling.
Why is storytelling so important?
Before we look at how important storytelling is in the classroom and why it’s such a valuable skills for a teacher to have, let’s look more widely at the overall status of stories.
Stories are the most innate form of communication there is. Storytelling has been an intrinsic part of human life for thousands of years. From cave drawings to the graffiti in cities, they all tell a story.
It’s entirely possible that the real reason that language developed in the first place was that of storytelling. Stories make us wonder, think and feel.
We all love stories and we all tell them. Parents read stories to their very young children. Not all children develop a love of reading, but all develop a love for stories. From books to comics to cartoons to plays to soap operas or movies – the common denominator is that they all tell a story.
Our lives are built on stories – the story of our day, our lives, gossip of the playground or the staff room; or the news of the world around us.
Human brains are almost hard-wired to think about everything in terms of a beginning, middle and end.
Storytelling doesn’t have to be about reading, writing or literacy. Stories are all around us and within us.
All teachers are storytellers
All teachers are storytellers. It’s just that many teachers only see storytelling as something that they do when they are reading a book to a class. At primary level this will be something that is done on a daily basis. Even so, teachers can exploit their storytelling skills more.
For many teachers, they might think of storytelling skills in terms of how they read to a class – adopting different voices for particular characters, being animated, or possibly using props – anything that makes the experience more engaging for the class.
All of this is true, of course. But storytelling can be much more.
The benefits of storytelling
When a story is told well, it creates a moment of magic. It can make children sit with eyes wide, mouths open, and totally enthralled in the experience.
Storytelling is something that can be scheduled into the school day. Equally, it can flow organically and naturally. There isn’t really a right or wrong way of doing it.
Stories make fantastic introductions to new topics. Stories make excellent illustrations too. Difficult ideas and concepts or facts and figures can come alive when incorporated into a story.
Stories that are true, from somebody’s real-life experience will always resonate with an audience, of any age. Similarly, creating hypothetical of fictional stories will stimulate the imagination and creative thinking. Stories offer a different angle of engagement or ‘way in’ for a child.
Teaching is all about telling a story
It doesn’t matter whether you are teaching Maths, Geography or English, a fundamental part of the teacher’s job is to convert their subject knowledge of a topic or idea into a chunk of learning that will engage pupils and that they will understand, grasp and hopefully be inspired by.
In essence, that is storytelling! Teaching is not what you know, it’s how you tell the story – how you get it across to your students.
Private tutoring is a great way of doing this. Being able to hold the attention of a whole class is one thing. Being able to do this on a one-to-one basis is another thing entirely. Many children who are tutored are those that struggling in some aspect of their learning, or would benefit from the extra support that the individual attention of a tutor would bring.
These are children for who haven’t quite got the story yet. It hasn’t clicked. It is the private tutor’s challenge to tell the story in a way that will captivate the child. If you are interested in taking on this challenge and see the rewards of bringing the story of your subject to life for a child, get in touch with Impact Tutors today.
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