Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Storytelling as an Educational Tool

For many generations, stories have been a meaningful part of childhood. Christian classics, from authors like Arthur Maxwell, Josephine Edwards, and Eric B. Hare have held children’s interest at bedtime worship and on many happy afternoons. The art of storytelling is a craft that broadens horizons and transports a child to places far away and too many times in history. From the pages of The Bible Story by Uncle Arthur to the adventures recounted in the audio presentations of Your Story Hour with Aunt Carole and Uncle Dan, children have been held spellbound as lessons have been learned. Through stories, the world opens up in front of them.

A story is an account of connected events that are presented to a reader or listener. It is a sequence of spoken or written words. These words can be read silently from a page or recounted orally.  It can include narrative, prose, poetry, news facts, telling, or writing. There are many ways to recount a sequence of events in effective ways. Storytelling is a natural way to teach children to write and to introduce them to literature.

According to Ruth Beechick, an educator who encouraged home education and wrote many educational books, stories can be a way of increasing a child’s knowledge and use of language. She states that parents to use stories regularly when interacting with their children can expect to the following rewards:

  • Building of vocabulary.
  • Stretching a child’s knowledge of things and ideas.
  • Building a feel for fine sentences and larger language structures.
  • Building a understanding of orderly sequence, cause and effect and other logical ways of thinking.
  • Development of sense of wonder and imagination.
  • Building of closeness and security between parent and child.

The first step to good storytelling is the implementation of the family story hour. Reading stories aloud to your child from a wide variety of resources sets the stage for learning about language. A home library is something that can be established and built from early in a child’s growth and development. There are a wealth of quality reading materials available for kids. Bookstores, libraries, and a grandmother’s attic all contain treasures that can provide your child with many hours of listening pleasure.

Before expecting a child to put a story down on paper, it’s a good idea to spend time teaching a child how to orally tell a good story. Children can be notorious for blurting things out in an excited and scrambled way or for communicating so sparsely that it is difficult to know what they are talking about. Other children talk without end, but are unable to bring out the main points of a story, getting stuck in minute details instead. While considering a child’s age and abilities, a thoughtful parent can help teach a child better ways of recounting events. You can start by asking the five important questions: who, what, when, where, and why? Then, ask for specifics to fill in the blanks. Details can include a request for descriptions, or sequences like what happened first, and a one sentence conclusion to evaluate and tie the recounting together in one concise thought. Practicing these skills daily with your child will help set the stage for the written story.

Once a child has had practice with oral storytelling and has gained adequate proficiency in the skill, it’s time to move along to writing stories. There are several ways to ease them into the process. Some ideas are:

  • Ask the child to dictate their story, word for word, while you write down what they have recounted. Write it exactly as they dictate, making sure the words are the childs and not your own. Then, read the story back to them. Help them make any changes that may clarify or enhance the story. Once completed, many children enjoy drawing a picture to illustrate their story.
  • Use a pocket chart and index cards that you’ve written words on. Separate the words according to verb, noun, adjective, and adverb and place each in their own stack. Add prepositions and connecting words in other stacks. One the chart place the words “who, what, when, where, and why”, using one word per line. Then, have the child fill in the chart rows, choosing the cards in the stacks to create a story. Start with a noun and a verb and then fill in the blanks with the other appropriate cards. The end result will be a short story that they have “written” without having to deal with the mechanics of actually using fine motor skills.
  • A story starter is something that can be used to draw children into the writing experience. It is a paragraph that sets the stage for a story. The child reads the paragraph and uses it as a springboard for creative storytelling. Depending upon a child’s age and abilities, the story can be dictated to a parent or written down by the child.
  • A picture prompt is another way of encouraging a creative streak in the young storyteller. Provide the child with a picture or photo that is interesting or unusual. The purpose is to spark the child’s imagination as they use the picture as a basis to write their story.

A story is a simple technique that can teach a child many things. The act of storytelling can teach, persuade, and help children understand themselves. A story is a powerful tool in the quest for positive character development. Use it as an integral tool in your homeschool for maximum effect. It will bring enjoyment and satisfaction to the entire family.


  1. I love all these awesome ideas that you shared about how to share stories with your little one. We have a story telling hour every day for worship. We read special stories, sing songs, and even act out with props stories for Little Bee. He loves it!

  2. I think family story time is so important! Even now, with my little one at 10 months, I make up stories all the time with her toys, or stories about the little bug we see. I hope she enjoys stories and telling them herself!

    Katie @ Cup of Tea