Storytelling, an Art of Teaching and Learning!

An old proverb says, "Tell me a fact, I'll learn. Tell me the truth, I'll believe. Tell me a story, it will stay in my heart forever."

Long ago, as toddlers and school-goers, the best leisure activity that we could recall is undoubtedly the story time around grandpas and grandmas. Even if we had heard a story several times before, we listened to it eagerly yet again. Many a time, we were able to say what happened next or recite the dialogue word-to-word! That is the power of storytelling! Stories can help us visualize, perceive and share our thoughts to the world in an inspiring, interesting manner. Stories also enhance listening capability which is a very important skill in the process of learning.

Storytelling is a well-recognised medium to inculcate knowledge, improve thinking and ignite one’s imagination. While a storytelling session keeps the child engaged, it also educates and entertains. It makes the child curious and boosts his memory power alongside! Much before learning how to read and write, a pre-schooler is able to narrate his best-loved story because---it interests him! It catches his attention, enables him to listen carefully and to memorise!

In olden days, we did not have computers, power-point presentations or digital classes, but still teachers were effective in teaching concepts. Wonder how? Through stories! Teachers shared their knowledge with students in an easy-to-understand story format. A story-like class on a seashore by a teacher to a 10-year old boy on How Birds Fly made him inquisitive to learn more and understand better. Later, the small boy grew up to become a famous scientist in Rocket Engineering and Space Flight. This is a personal experience shared by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in his book “Wings of Fire”. Here, he described how his teacher Sivasubramania Iyer enthralled his students by his method of teaching.

All of us grow old, but some memories stay afresh, especially those of a favourite teacher, their unforgettable lectures, amazing techniques that helped us to learn better, some humour and dramatics in class and personal anecdotes that linked to concepts and definitions of Maths, Physics or Chemistry.

A lot of researchers have found that course material, if delivered in a story format, helps students to understand and recall concepts as they remain in their mind for a long time. A connect is mentally envisaged by children between real-life events and lessons learnt. Just like a song, learning through stories make the lesson familiar and with one part of the story, students are able to recollect the rest of the lesson---even the dreaded definitions and derivations.

Passion is the keyword to enhance the teaching-learning activity. While teacher ought to be passionate about imparting knowledge, children ought to be passionate to learn and acquire them thoroughly. An interactive class is sure to create an indelible impression on the minds of the children. Encouraging questions, however trivial, and trying to find solutions will enable students to think beyond their lessons. This way, the children work under a good pressure to raise their potential to explore new avenues.

Narrating stories, sharing real-life anecdotes, reading autobiographies of great men in class, group activities and discussions, study trips -- all these will lead to a perfect ambience to teach and learn, establish a healthy, positive relationship between teacher and the pupil and in turn create aware citizens who are more willing to share their opinions and experiences to the future generation. Classrooms are not just places of learning books alone but are places where young minds imbibe essential skills for a life time! Happy learning!

~by Uma Narayanan, NSH, Delhi