Reviewed in issue 116 of Montessori International by Sue Briggs. Reproduced with kind permission, this is an edited extract.
The Storytelling School: Handbook for Teachers by Chris Smith and Adam Guillain; 147 Traditional Stories for Primary School Children to Retell by Chris Smith
reviewed by Sue Briggs in Montessori International, issue 116
“Stories are magical. Every teacher knows that.” So begins Pie Corbett’s foreword to The Storytelling School. As Montessori teachers we have all seen the magic of entrancing children with a wonderful story, and know that reading to children builds their vocabulary, fuels their creative imagination, develops their ability to sit, listen and concentrate and extends their cultural and life experiences.
Do we also understand the fundamental difference between reading a familiar story to children and the freedom of simply telling a story? Pie Corbett is convinced that this is where the magic really lies and says that if you are telling a story without a book, you are able to engage more directly with each child, ensuring that they become rapidly involved with the story’s spell and enabling you to adapt the tone and pace as you read their emotions: “The way in which the children listen helps to shape the actual telling of the tale.”
The Storytelling School is a toolkit for teachers that introduces them to their own storytelling abilities by introducing the ideas and concepts behind the Storytelling Schools approach, where every child and every teacher learns to be a storyteller, building confidence and fluency in spoken language and using storytelling as a springboard for raising standards in writing and for teaching across the curriculum.
The handbook explains the key features of a simple technique for telling stories using a series of sensory markers to aid memory and reinforce the inner-imagined sequence of the story: hear, map, step and speak.
The handbook guides the development of the skills and confidence in both teacher and students through a series of exercises clearly described and illustrated with diagrams, plans and mind maps, enabling practising storytellers of any age to develop their own individual methods based on their specific strengths, and using mime, dance, drama and art to ‘deepen’ the story so that it grows in the imagination.
The companion book to The Storytelling School is 147 Traditional Stories for Primary School Children to Retell, which lists the stories in suitability for year groups (beginning with Year 1) and then classified by topic, secondary and tertiary topic, values demonstrated within the story, genre of story and country or region of origin. For example, the topics for ‘The Little Red Hen’ are growing, food and family, and the values of helping and friendship, and the story is a traditional English tale. The Nasseradeen stories are comic Arabian fables of philosophy, humour and reinforcing family and community values.
The 147 Traditional Stories are a phenomenal cross curriculum linking resource material, as each story is told simply and clearly. Appendices give full details of origins, versions in differing cultures and web sources.
Together the books are a valuable resource for schools wishing to establish storytelling within their settings and particularly appropriate for primary schools. The only drawback is the price which might be prohibitive for smaller settings.