Monday, November 01, 2004

Validation is a wonderful thing!

Last Wednesday at school might be what one would call a wash; just past a full moon, the last day before the four day weekend in Wisconsin, and most critical--the day of the classroom Halloween parties! I knew as one of those teachers who doesn't have her own classroom, aka "special ed," I'd be twiddling my thumbs if I didn't take some sort of decisive action. Right away in the morning, I emailed all the first and second grade teachers, offering to come and tell age appropriate "scary" stories during their parties. Two teachers took me up on the offer. I think most of the others just view my "storytelling in education" crusade as some sort of charming eccentricity, despite the volumes of research I've found backing up the claim that storytelling is good news for standardized test scores.

Dressed in my witch costume--despite claims by some co-workers I don't really need the costume!--I entered the first classroom right after the costume parade. The kids were, as they say, abuzz. Once I started with the story of the "Naughty Girl and the Hideous Beast," they were *mine!* One little boy kept making comments, but he was with me more than I've ever seen that child with a teacher. His eyes never left my face, and though he protested that "I wasn't scared!" he looked like he might have jumped the highest of any of the kids.

I thought they'd be all set to gorge themselves on punch and treats, but when I was finished, they just sat there. Still as the proverbial church mice! I looked at them and asked, "Do you want me to tell another?"

I told the story of the tiny tiny ghost, and I had them all for that one, too. I've been doing this long enough not to be too surprised at the response of my little audience. Still, today when I went out to the playground for recess duty, the classroom teacher strode right up and said, "You can come tell stories ANY time!" Doesn't matter if they're doing math, reading or anything else, if I have time and the inclination, she'll drop whatever they're doing to have me tell them more stories. ANY time. As often as I want. All year.

It's a wonderful thing in these days of high stakes testing for another educator to see the value of something not "tested," and validate that with an open invitation. Truly, the kids will be better for it--I have plenty of research to suggest the test scores will improve as a result.

But it still feels great! So what story should I tell them next?

(For just one position paper on the importance of storytelling, see what the National Council of Teachers of English have to say).


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