Opal School closed in 2021. You can continue to access these resources for free at teachingpreschoolpartners.org/resource-library/.



 "Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today."           ~Robert McKee

 Children in Opal 1 gathered excitedly on the rug last week waiting to hear about a new structure we would be starting. This new time of day would be called Storytelling. Storytelling is a time of day when we take turns telling stories. One child (the Storyteller) sits in a chair, while the other children (the Audience) gather around to hear their story. The story can be about anything. It doesn’t need to be prepared in advance, or practiced or rehearsed. In fact, we know whose turn it is to tell a story by drawing names out of a jar. We will continue to draw one or two names each time until everyone has had a turn. Of course, telling a story is optional. Anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable telling a story that day has the option to pass. But there are many advantages to having your turn to tell your story to your community. And although we have only tried this new structure twice, the children are eager as we sing our song to signal it is time for Storytelling. 

You might be wondering why? Why would we create a structure that supports children to orally tell their stories to their community? What might they gain? And why spend the time, when we already have a structure in our week (Story Workshop) where children are invited to tell their stories daily. How is this different? What are the benefits?

These are some of the questions we will be researching as the children and I attempt for the first time, this new structure. Here are some of my initial ideas in response to those questions:

Hearing stories told by members of their community will:

  • strengthen the children’s connection to each other
  • build a culture of respect and listening
  • invite questions to build understanding and clarify meaning
  • develop an understanding and curiosity about multiple points of view

 Orally telling stories to members of their community will:

  • build trusting relationships
  • help gain comfort speaking in front of an audience
  • develop and strengthen vocabulary
  • encourage perspective taking
  • develop and strengthen strategies for engaging an audience

One goal for children at Opal School from the youngest ages is that they will begin to use language with increasing proficiency to communicate ideas, relationships and understandings. This new structure seems to get at exactly what we mean when we say that. We want school to be a place where children learn to read the world by exploring ideas and relationships and by making connections between known and unknown information. We see storytelling as a structure at school that will support those ideas as the children listen, speak, connect, question, and engage with the stories of their classmates. Through this process they also begin to develop an understanding and curiosity about the multiple points of view likely to be held by their peers. We want children to love to learn, to be eager as they invite the unknown, and to express the joy and wonder of learning. Can you imagine a more meaningful way to accomplish those goals than by listening, engaging, and connecting to the stories of the real people who make up your community?  

As we continue to have our monthly Mind in the Making meetings, I also begin to see how this kind of a structure can support some of those seven essential life skills we’ve been talking about, including:

  • ·Focus and Self Control
  • ·Perspective Taking
  • · Communicating
  • ·Making Connections

We will keep you updated on our research as we learn more about each other and the storytelling work we are doing together. And I’ll leave you with a quote of our general sentiment towards this work so far:

“Because there is a natural storytelling urge and ability in all human beings, even just a little nurturing of this impulse can bring about astonishing and delightful results.”

—Nancy Mellon, Author of The Art of Storytelling