Storytelling in the French Language Classroom

Storytelling in the French Language Classroom

January 10, 2017
By
Jessica Birch, Jacqueline Hiebert, and Josie Wolfson, French Teachers, CHS Junior School

For two wonderful days in December, the Crofton House Junior School had the privilege of hosting Anne Glover, a world renown storyteller and recipient of the 2016 Storytellers of Canada Award. Anne was with us December 1 and 2 when she presented her unique workshops to our Senior Kindergarten to grade 7 students.
 
What makes this all the more special is that Anne conducts her workshops in both English and French. As members of the CHS French department, we promptly requested that Anne conducts her workshops in French as an extension and application of the language the girls have been acquiring since grade 1.
 
String figures are always a component of Anne’s presentation. They add a visual, low-tech, and creative dimension which is appealing to all ages and learning styles. Anne learned a few basic string figures as a child, but it wasn’t until her late teens that she realized there are string figures all over the world, and they have been an important part of many indigenous cultures for thousands of years.
 
Anne has observed the power of string figures to teach, create community, improve reading, inspire all ages and on occasion drive teachers and parents crazy. Anne frequently sees an enthusiastic, cooperative, tangle of strings after her programs.
 
Why storytelling?
As brilliantly explained in the article, “Storytelling in the Classroom,” over and above the language experience and extensions, educators have long known that the arts can contribute to a student’s academic success and emotional well-being.
 
An accessible art form
The ancient art of storytelling is especially well-suited for student exploration. As a folk art, storytelling is accessible to all ages and abilities. No special equipment beyond the imagination and the power of listening and speaking is needed to create artistic images.
 
Develops daily life skill of communication

  • As a learning tool, storytelling can encourage students to explore their unique expressiveness and can improve a student's ability to communicate thoughts and feelings in an articulate, lucid manner. These benefits transcend the art experience to support daily life skills.
  • In our fast-paced, media-driven world, storytelling can be a nurturing way to remind children that their spoken words are powerful, that listening is important, and that clear communication between people is an art.
  • Becoming verbally proficient can contribute to a student's ability to resolve interpersonal conflict nonviolently. Negotiation, discussion, and tact are peacemaking skills. Being able to lucidly express one's thoughts and feelings is important for a child's safety. Clear communication is the first step to being able to ask for help when it is needed.

Develops Imagination
Both telling a story and listening to a well-told tale encourages students to use their imaginations. Developing the imagination can empower students to consider new and inventive ideas. Expanding the imagination can contribute to self-confidence, and personal motivation as students envision themselves competent and able to accomplish their hopes and dreams.
 
Passes On Wisdom
By presenting imaginative situations demonstrating the outcome of both wise and unwise actions and decisions, storytelling, as based on traditional folktales, is a gentle way to guide young people toward constructive values.
 
As Jane Yolen, editor of Favorite Folktales from Around the World explains: “Storytelling, the oldest of arts, has always been both an entertainment and a cultural necessity... storytellers breathed life into human cultures.” 
 
References

  • Storytelling in the Classroom. (2000) Retrieved from https://www.storyarts.org/sitemap.html
  • Fitzgibbon, Heidi Bordine, Wilhelm, Kim Hughes, (1998) Storytelling in the ESL/EFL Classrooms, TESL Reporter 31,2, p. 21-31