Saturday 23 Jan 2021
Story telling is the oldest form of teaching. Stories are very important; they teach us about life, about ourselves and about others. There are multiple benefits of storytelling in early years: they boost listening skills, foster imagination and help develop communication skills, to name some.
Stories are an excellent way to introduce new language and instill interest and love for English in children who learn English as an additional/second language. Recently, Ms. Natasha has decided to further enhance the storytelling impact in my classroom by using the so called ‘sensory storytelling’. The research tells us that the more senses children use in their learning process, the more information they retain. In sensory storytelling, the narrator uses words and sensory stimuli to tell a story.
Stories are usually shorter and each sentence is paired by a sensory stimulus. The stimulus not only supports the sentence but can develop into a story by itself. For example, in a story we read, one sentence talked about the grains of sand so Ms. Natasha brought a few containers filled with sand, with some shells and stones buried. They examined the grains of sand, dug out the shells, counted them, compared them and smelt them. The children were excited about the process and used a lot of language while they were engaged in it. The important thing was also that even those children who are very reluctant to use English and who sometimes drift off when a story is being told, were engaged in the process and language exchange.
Sensory stories support turn taking as in case of some stimuli, a child will have to wait for their turn to touch or smell.More importantly, for children who learn English as a second language – providing a multisensory experience when introducing new vocabulary makes it easier to understand and remember new words. For example, in a sentence of a recent story ‘the bumpy skin of a whale’ was mentioned – our sensory stimulus for that particular sentence was a bubble wrap that created a bumpy feel when touched.
A very popular prop for sensory storytellers comes in the form of sensory umbrellas. These are just regular umbrellas which the storyteller uses to hang on different objects that relate to the story or, if the umbrella is white, it can even be used for projection. Sensory umbrellas are eye catching and fun to handle and children love to spin them and touch the hanging objects.
All the materials that are used to tell a sensory story provide an excellent resource for extension activities: children continue to engage with the material even after the story has been finished, they discuss, take turns to touch or play with them. Ms. Natasha has used some of the materials also in free flow – this provides an opportunity for the children from my class to share a story they heard with the children from other classes, to share what they have learned and how they have been playing with the props.In the next stage of our sensory storytelling experience, Ms. Natasha will provide a simple story and ask the children to look for different stimuli to accompany it. This can be done as a homework project to involve parents as well.