Storytelling connects us to one another. It gives us a peek into the future and ties us to our past. We have always told stories. As humans, we have distinctive perspectives which mold our own stories and our existence, and thus make it an interesting art form and every day need in our lives.
Storytellers learned that people love to listen to stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end structure. We also seem to be drawn to stories that have characters and people that look like us or act like us—or at least share characteristics we can relate to. We like action, thrilling climaxes, followed by an ending, or satisfying conclusion. We like to use our imaginations, to wonder, and sometimes not to wonder, and prefer to inactively have a story told to us, that engages all of our senses without us having to try. And we enjoy being moved by a story, emotionally, physically, psychologically.
Just as adults can be engrossed by a story, children are no different. A good storyteller and story are key to sparking interest in a subject or a lesson. It creates empathy. It provokes and inspires. We see ourselves and find friends in the characters. We learn cautionary tales. It’s escapism and at the same time teaches us a history of other cultures.
A society and culture pass on its values through stories, through novels, through textbooks, through the stories we tell not only in our day-to-day lives, but also those we select to read aloud to our children. Our stories are our mirrors, reflecting both what we believe and want to perpetuate. It shows us where we have come from and where we are going. They educate and entertain us. They are what make us human, and connect us, no matter our differences or our languages.
Open up a story. Tell a story. Be a storyteller.
It is common knowledge that schools, and parents correctly emphasize the importance of reading stories to their children as a way to increase vocabulary and begin language development, in both native and second languages. However, it is also vital that educators and parents expand their activities to be engaging and, quite literally, hands-on so that children find meaningful ways to express themselves and learn new vocabulary. One hands-on activity is making art.
Young children love to make art. Children love to touch and play with objects. Hey – even adults do too! Children use paint, glue, glitter, stickers, crayons, or markers to observe and show the world around them. Through this process of creating art, it also teaches children to use words about colors, shapes, verbs, nouns, and textures.
By following instructions to make the craft, it introduces children to prepositions. For example, “put the sticker on the tree”, “put the stick through the witch”, “place the mouse inside the house”. Thus, allowing young English language learners to instinctively and naturally learn one of the more difficult parts of speech. Furthermore, they learn to use imperatives and use verbs when putting their craft into action. Finally, children are allowed to make sense of the world around them, be expressive, be given instructions, but have the autonomy to deviate from making the exact same craft as the student next to them.
Teaching language is not only about sitting at a desk with worksheets or learning from flashcards. Through art children will not even know they are learning a second language as they are simply just having fun.