Winch et al. (2010) present to the reader a background of oral language endorsing the importance of including oral language in literacy learning. Through the development of oral language, children discover phonology (the sounds of language), morphology (the meaning of words), syntax (the structure of sentences) and pragmatics (rules of language use). To scaffold oral language skills, varied opportunities are required to engage the student. One particular form is through storytelling, which provides students with an opportunity to engage with new oral language which can assist with the development of understanding cultural communities, demonstrating 21st century learning and teaching, still employs one of the earliest forms of communication for the development of language and cultural literacy.
This article outlines the current approach taken across schools in Canada and Australia to integrate story-telling and story-reading within reading programs. Although showing promising results in preliminary trials, the article reveals more research is needed to examine the effectiveness of this type of strategy in literacy learning. The article demonstrates a detailed review of recently published works; Timmons & O’Donoghue (2006) who developed a ten week literacy program supporting instruction on storytelling through encouraging oral histories storytelling which has revealed consistent gains in word reading, comprehension and listening comprehension, looks to have promising results in improving literacy capabilities.
The approach taken by the author (a first year teacher) indicates positive results of literacy learning through using one of the oldest forms of communication, Storytelling within the classroom. Reilly’s (2007) research demonstrates a consistency with that of Vygotsky (1978), who believed that ‘literacy as a higher mental function is expanded by social interactions’. Reilly’s (2007) examination of the relationship of storytelling for literacy acquisition, comes to the conclusion that correlates with theorists Froebel, Montessori and Dewy, Storytelling does have its place in assisting literacy learning abilities. Research demonstrates storytelling certainly has its place within the classroom but cannot stand alone as the sole method of shifting student’s cognitive positions.
The article supports the teaching of traditional storytelling to assist literacy learning. The authors present to the reader the historical significance of employing traditional knowledge through the telling of stories. The storytelling knowledge associated with Indigenous cultures demonstrates the preservation of traditional lessons whilst ensuring stories play a critical role for Indigenous students when learning to read and write in both traditional and non-traditional languages. Through the telling of stories Indigenous peoples preserve what is most important to them, language, culture and traditions. Storytelling is a ‘cultural tool and research shows that children are showing considerable progress’ through supportive programs such as the Story Thinking Program (McKeough, Bird, Tourigny, Romaine, Graham, Ottmann, & Jeary, 2008).
As an educator you are aware of the varied developmental stages undertaken throughout children’s lives. Effective planning of literacy learning assists children move through the different stages of development. In the book ‘Before They can Read: Teaching Language and Literacy Development through Conversations, Interactive Read-Alouds and Listening Games’ (Miller, 2010), Chapter Four presents the educator with relevant teaching opportunities, in particular touching on the authors three big ideas for literacy development: great conversations, good listening skills and interactive read-alouds. Research shows that Read-alouds appeal to children, expose students to a richer vocabulary therefore expanding the number of words a child knows. Miller (2010) presents Chapter Four employing varied supportive ideas that can be used both in the classroom and at home which ultimately will reinforce letter and sound progression for the child.
The chapter, Oral Traditions and Storytelling (2000) is broken up into three sections; Storytelling, Teaching Strategies and Teaching Resources. Stories are considered to be the oldest form of teaching tool. Oral traditions; stories, songs, dance and rituals have been passed down through generations through the form of storytelling, essentially delivering students with an opportunity to reciprocate their own knowledge through stories. Essentially the chapter supports storytelling with the provision, storytelling encourages the listener to make meaning of the vocabulary, therefore enhancing student literacy skills through the form of oral sharing of either personal or traditional stories. The teaching resources provided are relevant to support literacy learning within the classroom in the form of graphic organisers.
It is evident throughout this article that Robin (n.d.) demonstrates the hotly contested terminology, ‘visual literacy’ certainly has a place within the education community, providing a strong foundation in the many forms of literacy; digital information, visual literacy and media literacy, therefore aligning with 21st century learning, concurring with the Australian Assessment & Reporting Authority (2012), who’s approach is to use necessary resources to develop and expand the repertoire of the English language . As a student teacher the table provided within the article supplies teachers with a set of questions to investigate their own use of digital tools, creating a sense of responsibility of the barriers that can unintentionally be put in place when integrating digital literacy learning within the classroom.
The authors, Palmer, Leiste, James and Ellis (2000) express the view that storytelling exposes students to a variety of new ideas, facilitating children with an opportunity to improve their listening skills, sentence structures, add new words to their vocabulary whilst making meaning of the English language. The paper supports family literacy programs that are undertaken exposing children to a rich, complex and vivid language. One aspect of the paper documents the supportive movement towards family literacy programs making evident that oral storytelling enables closing bridging gaps between communities and school programs.
The journal article outlines the undertaking of several studies conducted regarding the effectiveness of storytelling as a pedagogical strategy. Findings by Miller and Pennycuffby (2008) support the studies undertaken, and encourage the reader to further investigate concurring strategies. The phenomenon of storytelling is not new and related research studies noted within the article in particular, Wallace (2000), Isbell, Sobol, Lindauer & Lowrance (2004) concur with the author in saying, ‘storytelling seems to have a positive effect on communication. The findings of this study demonstrate storytelling as a common language that facilitates meaning putting aside culture barriers whilst supporting the learner of new vocabulary, with a deeper comprehension.
Cherry-Cruz, T. (2001). Enhancing Literacy Through the Techniques of Storytelling.
This article outlines the positive learning outcomes that are developed through the one form of literacy learning; storytelling. Language intervention methods for today’s children must lend themselves to a level of flexibility which can realistically meet student’s needs. Storytelling and the use of stories could be considered an integrative and effective learning style, which supports the current diverse classroom. The author acknowledges students with varied learning abilities are often unable to use correct word order and word endings therefore having a significant impact on their language abilities. Teachers are disadvantaging students by not having students partake in storytelling which provides students with an opportunity to expand on their own existing language, building towards students becoming effective communicators, active listeners and gaining proficiency their own language abilities” (Cherry-Cruz, 2001).
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