Telling stories has been a part of human culture since ancient times, and it is a part of the way we understand ourselves, the culture we live in, and our place in the world. It is a way of sense making. At Tell Me Stories we keep the oral storytelling traditions alive and develop the art for modern times.
Tell Me Stories encourages children to tell stories and teachers worldwide to teach them how to do so. We do this because it develops children’s language skills, their ability to express themselves and understand their own lives as well as their culture.
At Tell Me Stories we define storytelling, as one person telling a story to another person or more people. There are no props or papers involved, just the storyteller’s own mind, memory, voice and body. It can be based on traditional stories, inspired by real life, a part of history or just be totally made up – It needs just to spark creative thinking and keep the listener engaged.
Telling stories is easy, telling good stories take practise and skills. It is an art form, a craft and a way of communicating. In the global society it is not enough to be able to write, but to tell and present with conviction and confidence is vital. Children need to learn these skills, but they are often not emhasized in the school system.
Tell Me Stories’ method is based on the principle of learning by doing and motivates children to learn through creative means. The method teaches rhetoric, dramaturgy and narratology, but we also help build vocabulary, and strengthening the ability to access that vocabulary quickly and using it accurately. Tell Me Stories’ method sparks creativity to make interesting and engaging stories.
TMS has found that people learn better, when you show how things are done rather than just explaining. When starting a course in storytelling, we always start by telling a story. The story can be based on the teacher’s own imagination or it can be a story or a fairytale that he/she can recall from memory. It makes it clear to the children what a story is, and that it is safe and fun to tell one. TMS creates a safe and enriched learning environment. This is beneficial because we make children understand the storytelling situation - that there are tellers and there are listeners, and that one must be quiet and respectful when the story is being told.
UN Conventionon the Rights of the Child: article 13.1.:
"The child shall have the right to freedom of expression."
Storytelling is very effective to teach children to listen, and the most efficient way to making them remember the content of what is being communicated, as listening to a story engages the imagination actively. In that way the teller and the listener are co-creating the story. And when you take an active part in the storytelling and listening you naturally put yourself in someone else’s shoes, which is the basis for empathy. It is of utmost importance to create a safe learning environment, without the fear of being ridiculed, as this prevents learning and remembering. Learning is a social activity, and storytelling is even more so, and the relationship between storyteller and audience should be a trusting and encouraging relationship. When you get on stage you also learn to improvise and use body language.
In early childhood, adults telling stories to children, has a similar effect as shared story reading. It enhances the child’s language and literacy acquisition enormously, it helps to enhance language fluency, and acquisition of vocabulary as well as strenghtens the memory. Later on, it is important that the child itself tells stories. Memory is an active process; dependent on the synapses that connects past and present through neurons in the brain. Neurons have to be activated to survive and through storytelling we enhance synaptic strength and neural connnections, because storytelling connects emotions, time, space, bodily experiences and meaning construction.
Even if the initial language acquisition happens at age 3, proficiency isn't achieved quite so fast. Language has to be trained all the time to get better. Children play with words and make silly sentences.
Jerome Bruner says: “mother tongue is most rapidly mastered when situated in playful activity”.
TMS makes use of the childs own imagination and joy of playing to ensure an effective learning experience through storytelling. We create and learn while we play.
Creating a magical place
Through years of research, TMS has found that children are liberated from their social roles in storytelling. Storytelling transcendent the hierarchies of class and social status, in that in the stories children can play with different roles, abilities and language than they are used to in real life.
We have found that children of different ages are interested in different types of stories. The young children always include something fantastic in their stories to explore the boundaries and potential of their world. The older children are often more restricted in their story world and tell more about themselves.
Motivations for learning changes during a lifespan: The child wish to capture the world, and the youth wish to construct their own identity. In storytelling there is the possibility for both.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: article 29:
States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to: (a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.
The TMS method caters to all age groups and the format can be adapted to fit many different learning situations. We only require that the stories have a main character, a space and time, and a problem. Storytelling creates a potential space and a freedom to explore the relationship between past and present, oneself and the world. It can be a way of letting people feel that they are connected to their regional and national history. Storytelling can work as an “as if” or “what if” universe, where children can imagine or create a world they control. This can function as a coping strategy; it is a way for youth to deal with unexpected changes in life. When children feel like they have an influence on their lives, they are more prone to become active citizens.