Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Curriculum Proposal- Storytelling In The Classroom

Storytelling In The Classroom

None of us are to be found in a set of tasks or lists of attributes;we can be known only in the unfolding of our unique stories within the context of everyday events. Vivian Gussin Paley
Storytelling has a place in the classroom. In fact, storytelling is the oldest form of education. Stories capture the imagination; they are an effective starting point for teaching. By opening the mind and engaging the emotions of listeners, stories build connections for learning.

In the classroom, stories can serve multiple purposes:1

  • spark student interest
  • aid the flow of lectures,
  • make material memorable,
  • overcome student resistance or anxiety,
  • build community,
  • establish rapport between community members.

What Is a Story and Why Do We Tell Them?

A story is a narrative account that raises unanswered questions or unresolved conflicts1 which the characters may encounter. The narrative is a sequence of events connected by a subject matter and related by time. The storyline has a beginning, middle, and end or situation-transformation.

The storyteller, through the story, seeks to put some observation or experience into a time and place. The story gives meaning to the teller's experience. In stories, authors attempt to convey their intentions by selecting incidents and details, using time and sequence, and including details related to culture.

What Is The Effect Of Storytelling In The Classroom?

Listeners to stories become emotionally engaged with the story and build their own mental imagery of what is transpiring. The story merges with their own experiences to create renewed, deeper understandings. Listeners react almost automatically to stories and participate in the narrative along with the emotions, passion, enthusiasm, and creativity of the storyteller.

Stories are an effective way for listeners and storytellers to build connections. They can build connections between life experiences, concepts, and meaning they place on events. By entering into the perspective of another person, in essence, the listener and storyteller have, for a time, related intimately with each other.

Storytelling, then, gives classrooms a new tone and makes subject matter come alive. It inspires reciprocity and a respectful venue for sharing experiences. When stories are dramatized a new dimension is added by storytelling in the classroom. Vivian Paley wrote, "drama formed the primary substance of their relationships in the classroom...[it] continued a sense of belonging throughout the day. To the extent that each child experienced a wide variety of roels and plots and had time to think about them and talk about them did the classroom feel like a happy and productive place." 2

Curriculum Proposal During the upcoming 2006-2007 schoolyear we will explore and expand our use of storytelling in the classroom. The objective is to build this skill for both the students and teacher. The goal is to capitalize on the mentioned benefits of storytelling,as well as, basic literacy skills. Skills assessments on several areas will be administered at the beginning and the end of the year to verify student growth on basic literacy and social skills.

Experience and response stories will be dictated, up to one page long, using students words and storylines. These stories will be shared with the class and then dramatized by peers. In the science area, stories about three experimental processes will be maintained and updated throughout the scientific experiment. These stories will analyzed for growth in understanding in light of the process of observing, forming understandings, building stories, and then rechecking meaning against further observations. Curriculum money supplied for this project will be utilized to purchase some simple machines and startup life cycles for classroom observation.


1 Green, Melanie C. Storytelling in Teaching. Association for Psychological Science. April 2004. Vol 17, no.4.

2 Koshewa, Allen. Interview with Vivian Paley. Talking Points. October/November 2002.