Why Does Storytelling Matter?

Storytelling benefits not only the listeners, but the storyteller as well. The act of storytelling encourages active listening, builds analytical skills, and increases retention and comprehension. Literacy skills are greatly enhanced. You cannot tell a story without being engaged physically, mentally, and emotionally. Organization, sequencing skills, and creative thinking are all required.

Success for Struggling Readers and Writers

Both familiar and new language patterns are heard and learned through storytelling. The act of thinking and reflecting occurs through storytelling. Both tellers and listeners have the opportunity to relate the story to their own lives and reflect and make connections. Storytelling, like other art forms, allows children who do not feel competent reading or writing to excel through an art form that uses a combination of other language and expressive arts. A story is a powerful vehicle for sharing multiple perspectives and transmitting cultural values.

When creating a story, students use a wide range of communication strategies. In the process of creating a story, they are applying knowledge of language structure and language conventions, conducting research, participating in reflective, creative, and critical thinking, and using spoken, written, and visual language. They are using a combination of skills and processes to create a narrative linked to real or imagined events in a clear sequence.

Creating a Classroom Community

Storytelling has a positive effect on the classroom community. When a story is told  or retold, there is an immediate connection that is made between the storyteller and the audience. The audience becomes engaged in a shared experience that is quite different from hearing a story read aloud. Recent research has shown that “when one person tells a story and the other actively listens, their brains actually begin to synchronize” (Dooley 2010).

Everyone has a story to tell, and sharing stories  provides an effective vehicle for giving voice to the teacher and the students. The act of sharing stories builds community, strengthens appreciation for one another, and allows many perspectives to be heard and considered. When students tell their stories, it is their moment to have their voice honored. Stories provide a powerful vehicle for addressing issues such as bullying, racism, and bias around ability, gender, race, and sexual orientation. By hearing the voices of others, students build cultural bridges and have the opportunity to share their own personal stories. This can be powerful and insightful. Many points of view can be heard in a safe and respectful environment when students are able to tell their own and listen to others’ personal stories.

The importance of building a strong and trusting classroom community cannot be underestimated. Through storytelling, a solid team environment is established and the possibilities for successful teaching and learning increase dramatically.

Interestingly, this is similar to the phenomenon of “entrainment” in music making. Entrainment, quite simply, is one pulse imitating another pulse. Teachers are often aware that the speed of their speech and actions affects their students. When people are engaged in any of the performing arts such as storytelling, drama, music, or dance, there is potential to have a mutual influence on one another both emotionally and physically.

This essay is excerpted and adapted from Integrating the Arts Across the Content Areas, Shell Education, 2012.  Citation: Dooley, Roger. July 29, 2010. “Stories Synchronize Brains.” Neuromarketing: Where Brain Science and Marketing Meet (blog). Accessed June 11, 2012. http://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/articles/storiessynchronize-brains.htm.

 Your Turn!

Have you seen the power of storytelling in your classroom?  We’d love to hear about it!