The purpose of this research was to investigate how educators (RECE’s) use storytelling as one of their approaches to developing young children’s language skills. The problems outlined in the literature identify that currently educators do not feel comfortable using the strategies for children’s language development, ECE’s are unaware of the benefits, and the issue of replacing storytelling with the new use of technology based digital literacy learning techniques. The importance of this research was to articulate the strategies implemented, skills used by educators, educators understanding the role of storytelling in children’s language development, and how educators implement storytelling on a day-to-day basis. These issues were articulated using the instruments of video recorded observations and interviews in depth to answer the research questions.
After coding there was an indication that the development node contains a large number of references -which is why it needed to be explored further, through query using Query Wizard in NVivo. The findings state that all interviewed ECEs agree that storytelling promotes holistic development in all developmental domains.
According to the interviewer’s storytelling “supports child’s development such as social, physical (gestures) development” (Int. 1), “storytelling is an innovative method that enhances development of children at a young age” (Int. 2), Storytelling “activities offer children a great exposure to strategies of literacy and language” (Int. 3).
According to the literature findings storytelling is a holistic approach that Early Childhood Educators use for the purpose of whole language development in young children (Herman, 2007). Also, apart from language development storytelling offers children with the understanding of the community dynamics of others stories and motivates children towards telling their own stories through the use of drama (Wright, Diener & Kemp, 2013). This aspect of storytelling offers children the exposure required for social interactions with their peers or adults, and allows children to use the strategies demonstrated by the educators within their own dramatic experiences such as the gestures used by the educator. According to Herman (2007), the theories of socio-linguistic development support the use of storytelling strategies as a foundation for the structure of language development through the experiences provided to the children. This concept of linguistic development encourages the researcher to investigate another aspect which is the children’s interaction within the storytelling experience that is a resourceful strategy for the language development (Herman, 2007). The educator and children’s interaction within the storytelling experience determines the quality of the experiences if the implementation offers the holistic development or only few aspects of the developmental domains for the children.
Development of Language Skills
Educators understand the importance of language skills and agreed to the concept of focusing the implementation of storytelling around the development of language skills for young children. This concept was explored further using the data collection of observations and interviews using the software NVivo. Furthermore, the language skills concept was explored where it was discovered that educators also agree to the required strategy of using language skills while implementing storytelling.
Educators agree that during storytelling “educators implementing storytelling activities often focus on language skills” (Int. 2), reading “poetry to young children is an amazing opportunity for the children to have language skills of rhyming words, different structure to literacy and writing, and the knowledge of using words in different contexts” (Int. 2). In addition, the educators “language skills is an important strategy to implement the storytelling activities, with high language skills educators can speak clearly with proper pronunciation in order to communicate with children” (Int. 6), through storytelling “children develop their language skills when they experience rapid vocabulary growth and speech development; using correct verb and pronoun tense; language to explore the environment; enjoy playing with sound and rhythm in language” and “allows children to communicate with their peers and have that oral language development” (Int.6). Also, educators identify using strategies when explaining their daily use of storytelling with young children stating that “strategies for storytelling would also include my language skills, how I present those skills in front of the children is important as they are still learning those language skills, using words that are higher in vocabulary is also an important strategy for new learning, for example if children have never heard that word before they will ask what it means which is curiosity in children to learn more about what is going on in the activity” (Int.2)
These key findings of this research identify storytelling as an approach to the development of language skills for young children. According to the literature review language development states that reading offers a significantly intensive vocabulary for young children (RanceRoney, 2010). Storytelling offers opportunities when words and phrases are often repeated within the implementation, the young children heavily focus on the intentional phrases within the vocabulary of the stories. Also, during the storytelling experiences the children comprehend and understand the concepts of language within the story as a conventional method of literacy reading. According to the observation, during the course of storytelling the children are engaged and participating with the adults and other children in a socioconstructive environment. The importance of these findings relate to the educators choices of how they implement storytelling in their daily activity, how educators understand storytelling approach as a language development tool, and finally the strategies educators themselves require when implementing such activities for young children. The research findings further need to be explored to identify the type of activities which could be included and also how the educators can take the leadership role in learning variety of techniques to incorporate a wider range of results for storytelling experiences for young children. As an educator we are required to fulfill the program planners with age appropriate learning for children and it is the responsibility of each educator to understand the approach of storytelling to the depth of its significance to achieve each child’s learning outcomes.
Storytelling for Learning
After coding, a theme that emerged from the findings showed that “learning” was a code that was appearing most often while using the software NVivo. This is when researcher chose to explore the results collected to identify the concept behind the word and used the word frequency query to see where the word was used most. Educators during the interviews recognized that the children are learning many different aspects from one story during the storytelling experiences.
Evidence from the observation showed that the choice of story and educator’s focus was on moral of the story. The ECE stated the message of the story and expanded the experience with a discussion of the moral of the story (Obs. 2). In addition, during the interview the educator stated that the “children are learning to read and understand stories for more meaning” and storytelling offers “learning outcome of language skills” (Int. 2), storytelling experiences “allows children to communicate with their peers and have that oral language development and also a social interaction with cognitive learning” (Int. 6). Furthermore, through the storytelling experience “the children learn different behaviours through the characters of the book, the techniques or strategies of how to solve problems, grammatical knowledge, and sentence structure” (Int. 3).
This concept of learning through storytelling correlates with the theories discussed previously in the literature review which states that storytelling offers learning for children at each step of the process. According to Wang & Zhan (2010) each stage of storytelling allows children to be encouraged to reflect on their learning process and the experiences of their lives. This re-counts with the educators remarks during the interviews regarding the learning for meaning through storytelling and cognitive learning for young children. The children learn differently during each stage of the experience such as communicating with peers through story time discussions, cognitive learning through the social interactions or the concepts of the book, and reflection of personal values through the morals or message of the story.
Educator’s use of Strategies
The issue discussed earlier of educators not feeling comfortable when implementing storytelling was a focus when observing and investigating through the interview. This problem relates to educators use of strategies and their views on how to implement storytelling on a day-to-day basis. Upon reviewing the nodes of the data collection it was seen as a significant finding that educators used the strategies of interacting with the children through discussions where educators often asked questions between the stories.
A minority of the educators had shown passive behaviour where the ECE said “shhhhhh, I need you to listen okay” (Obs. 2). While other educators used enthusiastic and curiosity in their behaviour to reinforce the storytelling experience for the children towards learning more for example, “So I wonder what really lives on the moon (educator puts up her right hand and index finger up when talking to the children (Obs. 3). In addition educators responded in the interview of a useful strategy of asking questions to the children such as, “What is the character feeling?” “What makes her feel this?” (Int. 6), the interview answers correlate with observation of ECE where she: “asks Does sheep live in a hole?” (scrunches her nose and eyes asking in expression of curiosity (Obs. 6).
The data collection identifies that majority of educators understand the role of storytelling in children’s language development, however few educators during the observations were not consistently using the same strategies as identified. According to Dawkins & O’Neill (2011), this may be due to educators doubting themselves, thinking that they are not able to give the best performance for the storytelling time which often results to educators feeling uncomfortable in their environment. This may be due to their lack of self-confidence, self-esteem, or their ability to engage in critical thinking dialogue with young children. Majority of the educators showed there in depth communication with the children expanding on the story and using their presentation skills to enhance the storytelling experience for meaningful learning. According to research studies, the combination of knowledge and skills are learnt through the critical thinking process which gradually improves the teaching practice of educators (Wright, Diener, & Kemp, 2013). The educators were seen during observation using the knowledge of strategies within their implementation to provide quality experiences to young children’s language development which according to the literature is seen as educator’s use of critical thinking (Dawkins & O’Neill, 2011),
Knowledge and Skills
The main focus for this research was to investigate the knowledge and skills used by the educators for storytelling experiences. The research findings show that the educators agreed that they require skills and knowledge prior to presenting storytelling experiences to young children. During the interview the educators stated that most important required skills are the “skills of critically analyzing the children’s behaviour (Int. 2), having “knowledge of story, plot, characters, importance of story, have more knowledge about children’s development before planning and implementing activities for children” (Int. 1). As noted during one of the observations of storytelling the educator shows that it is her first time reading the book or has little knowledge of the book (Obs. 3). In addition, another observation showed that the educator seemed like she had prior knowledge of the story due to her speed and minimal gaze at the pages of the book (Obs. 4).
According to the literature review professional learning of all educators is an important aspect towards using presentation skills as an educator and having the pedagogical knowledge of implementing a variety of storytelling strategies. The concept of professional learning in educators provides a critically defined pedagogical perspective to the theories and implementation of activities (Taylor, 2013). This relates to educators learning new knowledge and using skills that are effective towards creating quality experiences for young children. Educator’s knowledge of stories and the importance of the story identify their professional learning as an ECE implementing the approach of storytelling. Furthermore, apart from critically analyzing the children’s behaviour educators use the storytelling experience with an interactive method of presentation with dramatizing and narrative skills. Dramatization of stories within the experience offers children with the understanding of the community dynamics of others stories and motivates children towards telling their own stories through the use of drama. (Wright, Diener & Kemp, 2013). This concept of offering storytelling with a change in view is a part of how the educator can use this strategy according to the children’s interests. The knowledge of the benefits through dramatization storytelling is important for the educator to explore and build upon the experiences. As an educator it is a required component to provide a caring community of learners within the classroom setting (Wright, Diener, & Kemp, 2013).
Digital Storytelling Approach
For the purpose of this research it was important to identify the educator’s use of digital literacy in classrooms with young children. During the observations it was significant that all educators chose to use the traditional method of storytelling with books rather than digital storytelling. This finding resulted in the follow-up interview questions to investigate the approach of digital literacy according to the educator’s perspective to language development. Through the use of software Nvivo it was discovered that the words “technology based learning” was used in the interviews when using the query for text search. When asked regarding digital literacy, educators agreed that technology is an effective tool for learning and is often used in classrooms for technology based learning for young children, however an educator recognized the use of technology in classrooms is not the best method for learning.
In the interviews with educators it was stated by the RECE that “digital storytelling I feel it’s a great method to involve technology with learning, our entire world is focused on technology and these children coming into our programs already know how to use more complex tools then they did in older generations so the problem isn’t complexity of the tool but the way educators choose to implement the tool itself” (Int. 4). In addition, another RECE stated that “using technology for learning is not the best method for learning, children get more distracted because of the complex programs” (Int. 3). These findings for the follow-up interviews showed a variety of views and perspectives of educators currently in the field of education. Many educators continue to use the method of books as an important tool for the implementation of storytelling, while others feel the integration of technology is something that cannot be avoided.
Through the process of storytelling educators create and narrate stories where the young learners acquire knowledge and develop language skills with the process of plotting, writing, revising and narrating their own creation of stories (Wang & Zhan, 2010). This process can be transformed accordingly with the integration of technology, however the progression towards digital literacy varies from educator to educator. The importance of this finding asks one significant question: When integrating technology for the purpose of storytelling, what is required by the educator in order to create the similar outcomes as found earlier with the method of traditional storytelling.
Furthermore, the key aspect of this study show the use of digital literacy which is increasing in classrooms with the exploration of the new trend in eBooks. EBooks are currently being used as a tool by early childhood educators to provide young children with the experience of new language and literacy development (Di Blas & Paolini, 2012). Digital literacy in our society is growing due to the evolution of technology based learning within our school systems and at home. According to research it is presented that print based media is limited to solely linguistic, while digital literacy offers multimedia as a communication tool which offers a variety of modes as a form of literacy (Shuker & Terreni, 2013). The use of multimedia offers children with different forms of literacy such as print and numbers (similar to oral storytelling), also provides symbols, photographs, animations, movies, videos, and website environments (Shukee & Terreni, 2013). Digital literacy has broadened the pedagogical thinking of many educators’ beliefs and philosophy of how children learn through the storytelling method within a classroom setting. Theories of digital literacy for children’s oral and literacy development are believed to prepare the young learners for the future (Shuker & Terreni, 2013).
Storytelling is a tradition that goes beyond the invention of the printing press of books in 1450 where books then became an important tool in society (Wang & Zhan, 2010) . Now time is changing again where technology based learning is becoming an important tool in our society with digital storytelling methods. Even though the tool of storytelling is the oldest form of education which contributes to the language development in speech, written composition, reading and listening, it may be transformed into something more with the use of digital literacy (Wang & Zhan, 2010). The approach of storytelling has been used as an instructional strategy and learning tool within the Early Childhood education system for years now. This approach for storytelling is always changing over time and many educators reject the new methods, while other educators embrace it, which all depends on their personal beliefs of philosophy and pedagogical thinking as an educator.