Stories are magic- transporting us – in the past, to the future or delving on the presents, they take a child in a desert to the land of snow or to a place where no one ever goes. The words of the storyteller reach across cultures, for stories speak to the heart first.
In pre-historic times storytelling was the only tool available by which individuals within their communities could preserve and share their heritage. Stories not only explained life and preserved history, but also ensured the continuity of experiences from one generation to the next. Stories as a potent tool for communicating ideas and sharing expressions is an indispensable part of Indian culture even today as India abounds in the oral tradition.
It is not surprising then that story telling has since quite some time entered the walls of schools. Storytelling has long been recognized as a valuable tool in elementary instruction. The impact of telling stories in a language classroom has been emphasized by a lot of teachers, researchers and educationists alike across the globe. What is an oft debated topic is however – the use of story telling in other classrooms.
Though there is some research that shows that through stories and storytelling, people are exposed to long-standing archetypal models that engage the imagination, stimulate sympathetic responses, and cause participants to think more deeply about their social world. Taken as a whole, these studies suggest that the activity of storytelling has an impact on participants' interpersonal relationships, empathy, and sense of "connectedness" in the classroom. Storytelling strategies improve concept integration, and also provide children with experiences of working collaboratively.
There is evidence also to prove that storytelling is an important technique in the process of learning and understanding. Individuals gain a better understanding of one another through the use of concrete examples rather than through vague abstractions and generalizations which have no relationship to life's experiences, since the sharing of experiences through the device of storytelling enables individuals to build the bridge of understanding between one another. This facilitates commonality and the shared resonance of experiences. The story provides the framework and context for individuals to better understand others by providing the key to their own vast index of experiences. Thus, the listener is able to relate in a meaningful way to the teller's point of context by working through personal experiences that result in a more profound and lasting understanding than would have been possible with a generalization. The teller and the listener come together on a cognitive and emotional level that allows the listener to relate to the teller from his or her own personal framework and thus grasp the teller's perception of the content at the same time. Thus, it can be argued that storytelling is a developmentally sensitive tool with which to elicit thoughts, identify distortions, and create a more ordered sense of the world.
As the Department of Elementary Education at Lady Shri Ram College for Women enters into its second decade with renewed rigour and enthusiasm, we take this opportunity to dedicate this Academic Meet to embrace the power of the lasting impact of stories on our imagination.
The meet would centre around exploring some of the issues such as:
What are the possibilities of using stories as a pedagogic tool?
What is the potential usage of stories in classrooms other than a language classroom?
Is using theatrical skills an essential aspect of story telling?
How to move beyond the ornamental usage of story telling?
What are the challenges for a teacher to tell stories in a classroom with a group of 30-40 children?