All good stories have a universal appeal. Those who narrate stories enjoy telling stories; those who listen are equally thrilled. The message of a story reaches the heart directly. Hence, the impact is deep and enduring. Value – based stories provide profound insight into human psyche, and illuminate the path of action, leading a person towards a higher level of consciousness.
A story can elicit powerful emotions and inspire a desire in the children to imbibe the values demonstrated by the character described in it. By identifying with the main character in the story, they subconsciously adopt an aspect of the character.
Most stories have passed from one person to another innumerable times; each time they have undergone inevitable changes depending upon the audience, the context and the narrator’s personal style of narration. Hence, the freshness of a story never becomes stale.
Long before man had a written language, knowledge was handed down from one generation to another by word of mouth, often in the form of stories, from mother to son or daughter, grandmother to grandchild and from teacher to pupil.
Tell the children what they cannot learn by themselves, by observation: namely the stories of Ramayana, the Bhagavata and the Mahabharata. Tell them also stories from the Bible, the Buddhist texts, the Zen- Vista and the Quran. Sri Sathya Sai (6 January 1975)
In ancient India, the knowledge given by a teacher to the pupil was made effective through the narration of stories. Ramayana was the first epic ever told; it is the life story of Lord Rama narrated by sage Valmiki to the two sons of Sri Rama, Kush and Luv. The great epic Mahabharata is full of stories and comprehensive description of human nature that it is said: ‘What is in it may be nowhere, but what is anywhere is in it’. The Upanishads, the Jatak Kathas and the Puranas are all full of stories handed down from one generation to another for thousands of years.
Panchatantra, the classic book of stories was the creation of a teacher who, through the simple stories of birds and beasts woven into one another, conveyed to four princes a whole knowledge of governance of the State. Aesop, originally a slave from Africa, is well known for the fables the told his master.
History is actually one long string of stories of mankind. The lives of great men and women- Shivaji, Abraham Lincoln, Rani of Jhansi, Florence Nightingale, Panna Dai, Ishwarchand Vidyasagar, Bhagat singh – have inspired generations of students and adults alike. As the good shepherd, Jesus taught the virtues of life to his disciples through simple stories and parables, Sri Ramakrishna’s stories are well read and well known. Stories taken from the discourses of Sri Sathya Sai Baba are compiled in the Chinna Kathas, and they are a veritable storehouse of stories from common life, with a message on human values.
Let us consider some of the aspects of using the technique of storytelling as a tool for effective teaching of the curriculum for human excellence.
Story telling is a science as well as an art. Following are some of the points to be kept in mind while narrating a story.
- A story narrated in the class should not be too long. The duration should be brief in keeping with age group of the children. Generally, a 3 to 5 minutes duration is ideal.
Some of you, I find, are a bit over enthusiastic! You have taught the children stories that are too long. Do not tax their memory too much. Short stories, 20 – 25 lines long, will be the best. Don’t make them learn by rote; it will not transform the mind by soaking into it. The incidents and the morals they illustrate have to be imprinted over the heart. They must learn not by heart, but for and through heart- Sri Sathya Sai Baba (1 March 1971)
- The story should not comprise of too many roles. We should be clear as to what aspects of the story are to be emphasized and what aspects to be casually mentioned.
- A teacher should create a proper atmosphere and setting for telling the story. For example, many teachers find it very useful to gather infants around them sitting on the floor or take the children out under a tree, before telling a story.
- Simple language, voice modulation and correct speed of narration are essential. For example, suspense is enhanced by a slow speed and low voice ; anger pride, humility and fear can be demonstrated with much effectiveness by modulation of the voice. Many a times, a deliberate pause is very effective to add to the suspense of the story.
- A teacher should look directly into the eyes of the children while telling a story. Each child must feel that the story is told to him personally. Do not take a story book to class is to read the story from it.
- The theme of the story should look be according to the age group and the occasion (such as Independence Day, Janmashtami, Christmas, Guru Nanak Jayanthi, Children’s day, etc). Infants have vivid imagination and would take great joy in listening to stories of fairies, the elements of nature, birds and beasts. As they grow old, they like to listen stories of adventure, bravery and action. Older children will appreciate stories of sacrifice , national pride and valour, which arouse in them noble emotion, high ideals and commitment to a cause.
- A teacher may use any audio or visual aids to assist in the narration. Examples are Flannel Board, Flash Cards, Folding Charts and Puppets (string, glove, stick, etc). However, it is important to remember that nothing can replace a good teacher as the best audio-visual material in the presentation of a story. Much can be conveyed through movement of hands and facial expression.
Story Telling is an important and useful and; it should be perfected to the level of spontaneous outflow of feelings from the heart. A teacher needs to develop several skills for effective communication. Thus it is an effective (and affective) combination of skills and inspiration.
First and foremost, the teacher should possess a collection of stories appropriate for highlighting different values; practicing them will gradually the skills for effective communication.
You must examine every story or narration that you place before the children from the point of view of individual faith and social harmony. Does this lead the child to a better, more harmonious, a more God- oriented life? That is the question you should ask yourself. – Sri Sathya Sai( 3 January 1974)
Secondly, mere narration of a story is not sufficient. The teacher should develop the skill to ask probing questions and discuss the answers. The aim is to teach rather than to preach. Effortlessly bring out the message of the story on them. We should remember that the qualities of love, purity, goodness and sharing already exist in the children; it is in their true nature. Hence, we do not have to force ideas into them from outside. The narration, followed by introspection, should help children to blossom these qualities.
Begin with simple recapitulation, then move on to questions which require greater understanding to answer them. Then move on to value- based questions, which test the attitude and the decision-making ability of the children. In such cases the teacher should remain non-judgmental, and be encouraging. Ask the children a title to the story; every title is value-based. Thus, the steps in questioning are a) Recapitulation or Logic, and d) Feeling of Compassion.
The teacher should develop the skill not only to introduce a story at an appropriate time in the lesson but also to close the story and the questioning that follows, leading to the next point.
Sometimes a story can be dramatized in the class or an attitude test can be held based upon the story. A story can also lead to art or group work. The story might include the use of a prayer or a quotation as part of a dialogue or a moral to be learnt. It is important to decide the appropriate allocation of time to the story and related activity for the purpose the story has been told.