A storytelling voyage: searching for storytelling spaces in classrooms

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University of New Brunswick


Oral language is the principle socio-cognitive skill children bring with them to school. This research is committed to the connections among oral language development, storytelling, and literacy learning. Today, widespread attention to high-stakes literacy assessment has been found to amplify our preoccupation with print, impacting classroom instruction, including minimizing the role of storytelling and oral language as the foundation for literacy. As a teacher with more than forty years of experience in public education, I was interested in exploring the role of storytelling in literacy pedagogy. I focused on the landscape of storytelling and oral language development within two early childhood classrooms in New Brunswick. Specifically, I asked the following question: Where are the storytelling spaces in classrooms? To investigate my research question, I conducted a qualitative study employing autoethnography and narrative methodologies. Using research strategies from these methodologies I extended my own and possibly readers’ knowledge of the practices and possibilities of storytelling spaces in classrooms, explored an increased focus on storytelling as a way of addressing oral language development and subsequent literacy learning, and offered possibilities for pedagogical change that embrace imagination, creativity, and a joy of story and storytelling. Data was gathered primarily through semi-structured interviews, semi-structured group conversations and participant observer methods. I collected data and documented the spaces in which adults and children listened to and told stories. The children and educators were invited to be collaborators and co-constructors of stories. We talked, drew, played, performed, represented and constructed stories using artifacts, props, structures and objects from the environment, and other available materials. Readers may find an expanded view of storytelling and the possibility of responsive teaching and learning strategies that enhance, supplement, and/or increase the opportunities for storytelling for both children and adults within their own classrooms.