By Krista Kerr – Pohutukawa Teacher
In the preschool, we start our year off with frequent and varied small groups. We have many conversation groups as tamariki are full of news about all of the exciting things they have done over the holidays. For preschoolers, speaking is a relatively recent ability that they now love to practice.
Storytelling groups have many benefits: they help tamariki stay on a topic and learn the ‘rules’ of conversation such as turn taking and listening to others. They also play a large part in building the community of the akomanga as we get reacquainted and new tamariki start to build relationships with kaiako and their peers.
“The development of language is part of the development of the personality, for words are the natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people.” Dr Maria Montessori
Tamariki love hearing and learning about their world and those in it so these stories do not have to be wild, fantastical tales to capture their interest. Indeed they can start off with a sentence such as “At the supermarket yesterday….” or “On my way to school this morning…..” These stories give value and importance to the little everyday things we do, and are about something concrete that children of this age can relate to.
A true story may last a minute or two before moving on to another person in the group or if the focus of the group is me telling a story then a verbal story may be told which is much longer. This extends concentration for tamariki in a way that reading a book cannot. As there is no ‘object’ on which to focus their attention, more self-control is needed to sit and listen.
Reading books with tamariki certainly has its place, both at home and at kura, however verbal stories are equally important. In many cultures, including Māori, oral storytelling is used as a way to pass on knowledge and history. Only you know the intimate details of your child’s life and their history and ancestors. Tell stories such as “It is such a surprise that you don’t like to brush your teeth! Let me tell you about the time we found your toothbrush snuggled up in bed with you…” or “When I was five years old …” or “Your Nana came to New Zealand from….”
Children of any age can be engaged in these stories, learning their personal stories as well as those about their family historyFamily trees fascinate children as it helps them to work out their place in the family and the world. So make the most of a snuggle at bedtime, a car trip or any spare moment together to start a story.
A short article on the benefits of oral storytelling: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/what-kids-learn-from-hearing-family-stories/282075/.