Stories define us, shape us, control us and make us who we are. They teach us about life, about ourselves and about others – storytelling transcends borders, cultures, and is a fundamental part of human existence.
We are living in an important moment in time – amid Brexit, Covid, and a looming recession. We are a part of and characters in a significant chapter in the history books, whether we like it or not.
So it has never been more appropriate to celebrate National Story Telling Week, taking place this year from 30 January – 6 February. Nathan Davies, Head of the Lower School, explores the importance of storytelling and explains why it is essential for our development.
The innate value of storytelling in the classroom
Throughout history, humankind has communicated through stories.
Every time we open our mouths or put pen to paper, we are telling a story. Stories are how humans are hardwired to understand the world. In an educational setting, every time a teacher stands up in front of a class to teach, they are telling a story – whether this is explaining angles and triangles or looking at piece of literature.
Reading builds patience as it takes time for a story to unfold. It can create a hunger for more knowledge and transforms ordinary school subjects, making them interesting and exciting. When I taught a lesson on the Wars of the Roses, I told the whole of the Battle of Bosworth as a story. I knew this had been successful when, at the end of the lesson, there was a collective groan from the pupils as I finished on the cliff-hanger of Richard III seeing Henry Tudor starting to move from one part of the battlefield to another!
Encouraging the future generation of storytellers
To be a great storyteller, you have to be encouraged to tell stories from your earliest days. In school and nursery this makes exercises like ‘Show and Tell’ or ‘Weekend News’ vital.
Often as we move beyond P2, these opportunities get replaced with ‘proper’ work, however, it is vital that, as educators, we continue to find ways to encourage children to tell their stories out loud as this is where effective storytelling and communication skills are developed – you soon learn what bores your classmates and what inspires them!
Learning from the greats
The greatest storytellers are people who move us and challenge us to think in new ways. In my opinion, Winston Churchill was an outstanding storyteller, creating a narrative of the Second World War that bound people together and gave them belief in a time of huge challenges.
I have been an avid reader all my life and there are many stories that have gripped and inspired me. One of my favourite books is Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett. It is part of a trilogy set in a dystopian future and is simultaneously a thriller, detective story and character study all at once. It is written in the first person, so you have a complete understanding of why the protagonist behaves as he does even as he plunges into madness and heresy.
There are many books I have read over and again; however, I always return to the James Herriot stories – All Creatures Great and Small. To be able to travel to a less complex time is relaxing and his character studies of both man and animals are so perfect that you can never grow tired of reading them!
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