“Storytelling”: Replacing “Storymaking” as a Supplement to the Elementary Health Education Curriculum
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Storytelling: Replacing Storymaking as aSupplement to the Elementary Health EducationCurriculumCarolyn C. Cox aa Health Education , Truman State University , Kirksville , MO , 63501 , USAPublished online: 22 Feb 2013.
To cite this article: Carolyn C. Cox (1998) Storytelling: Replacing Storymaking as a Supplement to the Elementary HealthEducation Curriculum, Journal of Health Education, 29:3, 151-153, DOI: 10.1080/10556699.1998.10603326
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Storytelling: Replacing Storymaking As a Supplement to the Elementary
Health Education Curriculum Carolyn C. Cox
Storymaking has been the story technique traditionally used by elemen- tary school health educators to stimulate learning about health issues. The storytelling techniques of the profes- sional storyteller, however, can be used in the health classroom as a teaching method to stimulate interest in the topic area and more importantly to encourage continuance of learning outside the class- room. By selecting appropriate, well- written, health-related childrens books andapplying to them various storytelling techniques described in the article, the school health educator can capture the students attention. With little instruc- tional time available for health content in many elementary schools, motivating students to read health-related stories on theirown can supplement the lessons.
Storytelling in the Schools
The techniques of storytelling (char- acter imagery, feltboard, drawtalk, pup- petry, rhythmic, shadowbox, and panto- mime) stimulate students imaginations and motivate them to read. Through this visual, hands-on teaching method, the instructor becomes the character in the days lesson. Storytelling promotes lit- eracy and excites pupils about books, making the lesson come alive. The stu- dents will not easily forget the story; thus, the teacher can emphasize or rein-
Carolyn C. Cox is an Assistant Professor of Health Education at Truman State University, Kirksville, A40 63501.
force a content area. In one research study, library books that were rarely checked-out were used in classroom storytelling. Once these story books were read to the students in an interesting manner, every one of these books was continually checked-out of the library for the next two years (Dupont, 1995).
Additionally, children who are read stories at an early age tend to be the better learners. Students involved in listening to stories at school develop communica- tion skills more quickly, are more so- cially active, and are better public speak- ers (Dupree, 1994). Research suggests that high growth rates of vocabulary in children can be at least partly attributed to the stories.
Teachers who elaborate on the mean- ings of new words during storytelling activities may also assist students with enlargement of their vocabulary (Combs & Beach, 1994).
Childrens Literature in School Health Education
Childrens literature, infused through- out the curriculum, can enhance students mental processes and language develop- ment (Hewitt & Roos, 1990). Learning activities that use language arts materials now supplement health class as well as art and math for kindergarten through early elementary grade pupils (Bainter, 1988). Literature lends itself well to ad- dressing such important topics as per- sonal and community health issues.
Using childrens literature in elemen- tary health education improves class- room instruction and fosters a connec-
tion between physical and mental health. Whether fiction or non-fiction, reading health-related books can increase a childs awareness of health problems, clarify abstract health concepts, and per- sonalize health messages delivered in the classroom (Winfield, 1984).
For each content or instructional area and for every developmental and grade level, the health educator finds a multi- tude of books. To aid the instructor in selecting developmentally appropriate learning activities, some reference books provide annotated lists for fiction and non-fiction titles for all the content areas included in a comprehensive school health education course. According to Manna (1984), the selection of an appro- priate title to integrate into the school health program depends upon balancing an adult response with the needs and interestsof the students. In addition, many other resource lists and bibliographies exist to review childrens books, includ- ing those written with health-related themes or story lines (Hewitt & Roos, 1990; Manna, 1984; S U N Y at Cortland, 1992; Farris, 1992).
Storytelling in School Health Education
The art of storytelling is the essence of teaching and learning, perhaps the most effective teaching technique avail- able. Sinceourbrains store knowledge in the form of stones, stories can work when the lecture method cannot. All our communications take the form of stories, from transmitting cultural traditions and knowledge to television shows and news
JOURNAL OF HEALTH EDUCATION-MAY/JUNE 1998, Volume 29, No. 3 151
reports. We communicate by way of sto- ries all the time, but we name these stories science, history, and even health. Storytelling is a powerful educational tool that can be used to entertain, teach, and heal. The students, the receivers, and hopefully the future senders of the storytelling message, can use their imagi- nations to try-out new and different health behaviors (Dupree, 1994).
Storytelling is used throughout the subject areas, with much success. In the social studies curriculum, stories are used to increase pupils interest in the past and present, as well as to study similarities and differences between people of many cultures (Combs & Beach, 1994). A paired storytelling approach is used in conjunction with cooperative learning techniques to assist students in English as a second language to improve their language skills (Lie, 1993).
In schools, then, both elementary (and even secondary) students should be more involved in storytelling. Listening to sto- ries as a part of the health education curriculum is beneficial in many ways. Students engaged in storytelling develop theskillsof listening, sharing, accepting, and creating (Combs & Beach, 1994). Stories can be used not only to teach a concept, but also to enhance an entire subject area such as health. Students, excited by the stories, can become more interested in learning (Dupree, 1994).
In many school settings, the method of story-making is employed. Once upon a time . . . stories are created by instructors to introduce topics, stimulate questioning, and initiate units of instruc- tion (Cleaver, 1982). Other story-mak- ers seek to create scenarios that in- crease awareness and demonstrate health- protecting skills. In this instance, the addition of puppetry or supplemental activity workbooks can enhance the learn- ing experience (Bainter, 1988).
Orally-transmitted narratives or folktales also are developed for promo- tion of health education messages (Moody &Laurent, 1984), sexuality edu- cation curriculum, and substance abuse prevention (Metzger, 1992) for specific
cultural groups. Reading these stories or folktales to the pupils in an expressive manner and on the childrens language level, allows them to focus better on the storys content and health messages.
Blending Childrens Literature And Storytelling in School Health Education: The Health Educator As Storyteller
By choosing well-written, profes- sional material appropriate for the spe- cific student population and combining it with the skills of the professional sto- ryteller, the health educator generates pupil interest in the book, as well as in the health topic. The visual-verbal model of the storytelling reinforces key concepts of the books, which in turn reflect the theme of the health instruction. The lit- erature and materials used may also inte- grate into the rest of the health education curriculum and even into other academic areas.
Before the story is told, the storybook must be chosen. In addition to using expert book reviews, school health edu- cators must conduct their own health education program-specific review of the stories. When choosing a book to include in the school health program, whether fiction or non-fiction, health instructors must determine if it is appropriate for the curriculum and scrutinize its quality. A high-quality storybook holds the pupils attention with an interesting plot, por- trays characters and emotions realisti- cally, and conveys a universal theme or main idea. Since health information is always changing, it is most important to determine if facts presented are accurate and timely, and that the health informa- tion and concepts contained in the books can be understood on the students level (Manna, 1984).
The professional storyteller can be used in the health classroom as a teach- ing method to stimulate interest in the subject area and to encourage continu- ance of learning outside the classroom. With specialized knowledge in the areas of movement, dramatics, vocal interpre-
tation, and expression, the professional storyteller knows the story completely (Dupree, 1994). Health teachers, with some instruction, also can learn to be- come storytellers.
There are some rules to follow when usingstorytelling techniques in the health education classroom:
( 1 ) The book is first shown to the pupils as the storyteller names the au- thor, title, and illustrator.
(2) The story begins with a brief intro- duction alluding to the plot.
(3) One may add to or delete from the story so long as it does not change the main theme.
(4) The story, never memorized, should be told in the teachers own words (Dupont, 1995).
Several methods of storytelling, all with unique criteria, are available for the teacher to use. With character imagery the storyteller becomes the main charac- ter of the book and tells the story in first person and in past tense. Using voices that fit the characters and dressing as the characters, the teller mimes the action words. The feltboard technique dis- plays realistic-looking, proportional char- acter images on a feltboard. The teller synchronizes their placement with the narrative. Stories that have a cumulative quality using several character pieces are well-suited for this method. Drawtalk uses a newsprint pad or tlip chart and felt tip markers. The teller illustrates the story on the newsprint pad while simulta- neously telling the story. For a story with two or more extremely active characters, the puppetry or stick puppetry method is effective. The selection of a simple stage with a background color contrasting that of the puppets is neces- sary. Puppets should all be given differ- ent voices and be kept moving and vis- ible. Audience participation in the rhyth- mic technique keeps all students in- volved. A rhythmic phrase, practiced by the audience, is repeated about every 15 seconds during the narrative whenever the storyteller gives the signal. Similar to the feltboard and puppetry, the shadow- box method is created by stretching a
152 JOURNAL OF HEALTH EDUCATION-MAYNUNE 1998, Volume 29, No. 3
cheesecloth over a frame. A lighted bulb is added behind the frame, and silhou- etted cut-out images are placed like pup- pets on a stick or wire. The action of the images and characters is synchronized with the narrative. Last, the Pantomime method transforms action words intopic- tures by means of the tellers gross motor movements (Dupont, 1995).
For the health educator who is inter- ested in learning these techniques, many instructional resources are available. Storytelling conferences, festivals, and classes are continually offered through universities and storytelling associations. Instructional videotapes, such as the one by Dr. Sherry Dupont of Slippery Rock University, convey the value of the art while demonstrating proper performance criteria (Dupont, 1995). Books that ad- dress the storytelling techniques are also available. One such guide, by Margaret Read MacDonald, a librarian and story- teller, offers the novice as well as the experienced storyteller advice on inte- grating stories into the curriculum. Book selection, performance tips, and class- room applications are detailed (MacDonald, 1993). Another avenue by which to learn and practice the tech- niques is to contact the National Storytelling Association at 615-753- 2171. The association publishes a direc- tory that lists storytelling groups around the country.
The selection of an appropriate, well- written, health-related childrens book and the application of one of the various storytelling techniques to it can stimu- late a pupils creativity, promote literacy, and enhance the health curriculum. Health educators can become trained in the storytelling techniques and knowledge- able about book selection processes in order to promote learning both in and out of the classroom. The power of the nar- rative, told in an exciting fashion, can assist the school health educator in cap- turing the students attention so that the message of promoting positive health
behaviors is emphasized. With little in- structional time available for health con- tent in many elementary schools, moti- vating students to read health-related sto- ries on their own can supplement the lessons.
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