Friday, September 11, 2009

Storytelling in Preschool

Today I received an inquiry from an author who wanted to talk about storytelling and its impact on literacy in preschoolers. What a great topic!

Anyone can tell a story. Young children's oral language development, vocabulary and their ability to communicate with confidence grow during the preschool years more than any other time in their lives. Tap into the natural opportunities in your classroom to encourage this skill of storytelling. Here are a couple of ideas that you can use in the classroom tomorrow:

1) Especially if you work with 2-3 year old children, you hear often "read that story again!" Children are learning about the structure of stories, that there is a beginning, middle and end, as they listen to familiar books. They are also learning how just the right word choice makes a story lively and communicates what they feel. Place a few props (felt or laminated pieces representing the main characters in a story, or objects that appear in the story) to help children remember the proper sequence in the story as they retell it in your "book nook" or storytelling center. Incorporate that into circle time where the children are actively engaged in helping tell a familiar story when you prompt with "what happens next?"

2) Busy parents need ideas for how to encourage their children's growing literacy and storytelling is one of the best. Our children love to hear about the day they were born, their mom or dad's life when they were a child, etc. First ask them to share a few of those stories with their children, taking time to elaborate and give good details. I still remember stories from my childhood like that. It also gives children a sense of belonging and personal history. Also remind families that letting their child tell stories (the one they heard in the family or one from school) help children learn to use our language effectively. They will also learn incredible things about their children when they listen. Teach your parents how to expand on what their children are saying, reflect back to them and ask for more!

3) Model good storytelling. To do that, you need to watch some great storytellers in action. There are storytelling festivals all over the country. In my own neck of the woods, there's an annual Athens (AL) Storytelling Festival with lots of different styles (funny, entertaining, sentimental, and thought-provoking). Check out the storytelling festivals in Jonesboro TN (The International Storytelling Festival), Three Rivers in Pittsburg, PA or The Toe River festival in my own native state North Carolina.

Don't forget that children tell stories when they talk about what they are doing in centers during free play time. Expand on what they say, encourage them to share through language and create great stories there too (a few of which you can take down in dictation and share with the world!)

Enjoy the story!

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