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Teaching through Storytelling

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to share some ideas at RMIT University with my fellow Spanish teachers form Vats: Victorian Association for Teachers of Spanish. We talked about how storytelling is a wonderful teaching tool to teach anything to students of any age, but especially for teaching languages to little kids. Here are some of the ideas that we discussed during that session.

Storytelling is almost as old as humankind . It has been there as a tool for passing knowledge for a very, very long time. Any given Greek Myth is a good example of this. Take Prometheus' story, for example which talks precisely about sharing knowledge /culture.

The way we are wired for stories and how our brain respond to them are well explained in Lisa Cron's book "Wired for Story". If you don't have time to read the book, here you have her Ted Talk.

Through stories we can achieve an emotional connection that facilitates learning. It is a matter of chemistry! When we hear a story our brain produces some of the chemicals that are present when we fall in love, such as: Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Endorphins. If you have been in love you might have experienced some of its effects, like increased motivation and creativity, or the ability to better remember details.

Oxytocin, Dopamine and Endorphins can be released in our brains just by listening to a story.

Childhood is the perfect time for learning, and it is also the perfect time for being exposed to different stories for a number of reasons:

- Children love stories, We all know that! They also love you to read the same story many times; and that repetition is a wonderful thing when it comes to learning a language.

- ”Words enable us to think. Stories enable us to link.” Christina Baldwin.

When we teach new concepts or words using a story, we present them in packs of meaningful content. For example, when I say "Ese sapo verde se esconde y se pierde" y "mira a la luna, desde la laguna" kids not only learn how to say Tod in Spanish: sapo, they also link that word with other words such as green, hiding, lake and moon; and so they start constructing mental maps of meanings which lead to better retention, and most of all to a real understanding of the language.

- The exposure to stories told "eye to eye" and their numerous social, and cognitive positive effects in children have been widely studied. (Here you have just a few links that talk about those benefits):

Why is storytelling important to children?

Reading and storytelling with babies and children

Storytelling - benefits and tips

What is the Importance of Storytelling in a Child's Development?

In Holamigos we love stories. We use them, we tweak them, we sing them, we build them together with the kids, and most of all we truly enjoy them.

"Words unable us to think, stories unable us to link."

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