The Brick Church School has a strong commitment to storytelling, as all classrooms seek ways to broaden the reach of the excellent children’s literature available to us through our individual book assortments in classrooms and the richness of choices in the library run by the parents, for which they invite our suggestions. There is a storytelling area in our resource room with collections designed for telling and books to guide or suggest techniques to enhance the telling or reading.
Classroom teachers bring their stories off the page with flannel boards, puppets, masks, re-enactments and related games. Story invention is used in some classes, as are add-on stories, invented or revised, and round-robin telling of familiar tales. Books are a frame of reference, but the oral tradition is acknowledged as well, as children come to realize that they are already equipped with the voice, memory and imagination to carry the stories to new listeners.
The children participate in repeated phrases, sound effects and gestures. They learn related songs and chants. Some classrooms do retelling with costumes and props created by the children. A class creates a script and films a group retelling to share with parents. Multicultural elements such as instruments, masks and props from the story locations enhance the telling. Kamishibai (Japanese storytelling cards) have become a recurring treat in one class, and appear in many others occasionally. A class makes drums and creates a culture of storytelling in which drumming is the common component from one land’s tales to another.
The storytelling specialist provides telling in all classrooms, including a curriculum with visits every other week for each of the afternoon threes classes. She keeps, refreshes and updates the story books, bibliography, instruments and materials that are meant to enhance the multicultural scope of our storytelling, and provides help when asked by teachers to extend a classroom interest or project through story.
On one afternoon a month, the older children (four and five year olds) who stay at Brick for extended day have a storytelling assembly. It offers them a sense of community grounded in their shared experience of stories with the storytelling specialist in their classrooms. The assembly provides stories both new and familiar; the venue is a change as it affords an opportunity for large group participation together with beginning audience skills. The children learn and repeat rituals and songs that add to the comfort of coming together.