I have a lot of soapboxes to stand on when it comes to education.
I mean…c’mon. Just look at the name of my site.
It’s easy to get riled up about things when you feel as passionately I do about teaching, when you have as much faith in public schooling as I do.
One of my soapboxes is storytelling. It’s an incredible medium for sharing text that we don’t give enough credit to. People, the number of things that happen in our brains, big or small, when we hear a story being told? You could track the research here, or here, or here, or…
Aaaugh, I’m doing it again! All right, Lainie. Inhale. Exhale.
One of my storytelling soapboxes? Using storytelling as a way of crafting narrative. The way I put it is this. Our brains our lightning fast, like cheetahs. Our hands are super slow, like turtles.
When we ask children to write, we tell the cheetah and the turtle to keep the same pace.
No wonder so many kids struggle.
Oral language is that bridge, and it links our thoughts and words together in a manageable way. Think of it this way – how often do you have to talk through a problem to find a solution for it?
Through storytelling, writers at all stages of readiness understand that they hold the power of composition, even if their handwriting or typing skills don’t yet demonstrate it.
And yet oral language largely goes ignored at school, despite the fact that it’s one of the most powerful tools we have.
It’s why I had such a WIN when, a few years ago, I was able to bring a storytelling unit to one of the grades I work with. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be in good hands with my colleagues.
Boy was it ever. I got the most amazing affirmation of my efforts in a planning meeting today, as teachers discussed their upcoming unit on personal narrative. Here are a few highlights…
Me: This might be a place where storyboarding would be great. It would help your writers use oral language to draft and organize your thoughts.
Them: Oh, we already do that!
Me: I find it helpful to sketch the first and last squares of the storyboard, then fill the action in between to build the story.
Them: Oh, we already do that! You taught us that.
Me: One trick for kids working on dialogue is to make quick puppets out of pencils and let them play with the characters.
Them: Oh, we already do that! That’s what you taught us.
Me: … (smiles inwardly, shuffles feet) …
What do I love best about these exchanges?
1. I love to learn and grow. I feel lucky to see colleagues do the same.
2. It’s affirming to know that things I see as good teaching…ARE.
3. I love making myself obsolete because others have pushed forward.
…I’d probably better stop before I get on another soapbox. Like I said, it’s easy to get riled up about things when you feel as passionately as I do…