An Experiential Study of Elementary Teachers with the Storytelling Process: Interdisciplinary Benefits Associated with Teacher Training and Classroom Integration

Article excerpt

The purpose of this manuscript is to describe how elementary teachers used their experiences in a storytelling inservice training to teach lessons in language arts, science, social studies, and bilingual education. Qualitative research methods were used in simultaneously collecting and analyzing data. Storytelling was found to be a valuable tool for motivating students to listen and engage in content area lessons, improve reading skills in the content areas, and as a springboard for beginning units and skill development. Teachers' understandings and implementation of classroom storytelling were heightened as a result of their participation in the inservice training and subsequent qualitative study.

Introduction

Storytelling has a long tradition of orally communicating ideas, beliefs, personal histories, and life-lessons. Most children begin hearing and telling stories before they enter school or learn to read and write. Oral language experiences such as storytelling are a valuable key in addressing students' academic needs (Snowden, 1995). The integration of classroom storytelling has been linked to reading improvement by increasing children's comprehension and vocabulary development (Trostle & Hicks, 1998). The development of language and literacy skills are not confined to the language arts classroom, but are embedded in the school curriculum. Language arts programs are designed to develop skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking which ultimately improve critical reading skills in the content areas. Jackson (1995) found that teachers of reading, social studies, science, and the arts use some form of narrative within the context of their teaching. By hearing and using language within the context of curricular experiences, children are more inclined to learn language (Kies, Rodriguez, & Granato, 1993).

Zipes (1995) stresses the need for long-range storytelling programs and storytelling training for both teachers and students in an effort to foster more storytelling in the classroom. Baker and Greene (1987) discuss the need for storytelling inservice for administrators of public libraries, schools, students of colleges of education, and employees of recreation centers. The literacy benefits of storytelling researched by Trostle and Hicks (1998) advocate storytelling training as a means of implementing it in the classroom. Due to the far-reaching benefits of storytelling and the call for more teacher training in it, I set out to learn more about how teachers implement storytelling in their classrooms as well as how a storytelling inservice might influence their current teaching practices. The teachers described in this manuscript were involved in a one-day storytelling inservice and participated in a subsequent qualitative study of their experiences with the storytelling training session and the implementation of storytelling in their classrooms.

Methodology

Qualitative research was conducted through prolonged engagement within the natural setting in order to get the fullest understanding of the participants' experiences (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Purposive sampling was used in selecting the schools and teachers with whom I conducted the storytelling research and inservice. The data in this study came from interviews and observations, both of which provide an effective medium for data collection and analysis (Merriam & Simpson, 1995). The purpose of the interviews was to gather direct quotes regarding the teachers' feelings about their storytelling experiences that could not be determined through the observations. The constant-comparative method and narrative analysis were used in grounding theory for the storytelling research. For the purposes of this study, the use of both qualitative methods enabled me to look more closely at some of the teachers' responses and find patterns and themes that would not have been apparent otherwise.

The storytelling inservice was intended to introduce the teachers to the nature of storytelling and how it can easily be implemented in the classroom. …