‘Once there was ...': storytelling as powerful literacy and community practice

Year: 2013

Author: Faulkner, Julie, Kirkby, Jane

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation explores the role of storytelling in primary schools as a resource for expanding community awareness while building oral and written literacy skills and knowledge. We ask what storytelling reveals about the connections between people across social and cultural divides (Schick & Melzi, 2010). The study builds links across the community, school and university sector and, educationally, it explores the capacity of storytelling to enrich learning pleasure and extend literacy practice (Isbell, Sobell, Lindauer & Lowrance, 2004). It calls upon combinations of prior knowledge, assumption, expectation, inference, pattern matching and metaphor. As tellers create, recreate and edit scenarios, understanding of narrative structure builds and deeper kinds of cultural and historical understanding are developed.
Researchers surveyed teachers to gain a snapshot of the role of storytelling in their curriculum. We then worked with teachers, students and professional storytellers to integrate storytelling into the English curriculum. Focusing on primary classes, we explored the ways that storytelling can capture imagination, create new awareness and develop literacy skills (Wedin, 2010; Curenton, Jones Craig & Flanigan, 2008), improving NAPLAN outcomes (Alexander et al., 2004). At the same time, we argue that storytelling provides a beguiling and poetic dimension in a curriculum increasingly shaped by testing. As participant researchers, we worked within classroom contexts, gathering evidence of the impact of storytelling on literacy outcomes.