Shikari Shambu, Rhino and other characters from V. Adithya’s collection of books get new twists and turns when he narrates stories to his parents. The Standard III student of Kola Perumal Chetty Vaishnav Senior Secondary School creates characters to make his imagination go wild.
“I see his concentration, imagination and comprehension skills have really improved. The story origami workshop especially makes him invent a narrative for every fold,” says Geetha, his mother, who attended one such workshop out of curiosity.
Storytelling workshops have found a new place for parents and children who want to see better academic performance. Teachers too are taking up a lesson or two from these sessions to make the classrooms livelier. Storytellers also are exploring. Besides improving public speaking skills and sparking the child’s imagination, many are applying them to teach subjects like mathematics and languages.
Storyteller Latha Subramaniam combines origami (the art of paper folding) and story to make a session both activity-oriented as well as engaging. Through the process, children also learn about different angles in geometry, symmetry in folds, logical and analytical skills, she says.
“Storytelling cannot hold concentration for a long time, so I couple it with activity and interactivity,” she adds. Besides children, teachers and special educators attend Ms. Subramaniam’s workshops. “I also had enquiries from a few schools who wanted me to hold story-origami sessions from the coming academic year,” she says.
In the West, storytelling is an important method integrated with most subjects to make teaching more engaging and effective.
However, teachers and storytellers say it is yet to pick up in India. A majority of schools still look at storytelling sessions only to improve communication skills. “Many schools are into technology-based teaching. Storytelling is an old but a rich and powerful medium where the involvement is high,” says V. Deivanai, Principal, Chettinad Hari Shree Vidyalayam.
According to storyteller Jeeva Raghunath, integrating stories and lessons is a different genre not all specialise in. “One of the biggest challenges in schools is constraint of time and not everybody would want to be adventurous. Storytelling, especially in teaching history and geography, is a beautiful way to register and understand lessons,” says Ms. Raghunath.
Kathalaya, a storytelling academy, claims its expertise lies in training teachers. “There is resistance from teachers initially, but once you convince them they get creative,” says Deeptha Vivekanand, centre head, Kathalaya. Today, storytelling in the classroom is predominantly used for primary classes in languages, social sciences and mathematics. The bar has to rise, but then if the foundation is strong and one has captivated the child’s interest higher classes are going to be easy, she adds.