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Resources from Sherry Norfolk

Resources from Sherry Norfolk

During our interview with Sherry Norfolk this month, she was kind enough to retrieve buckets of information for us about folktales and the oral tradition, and we promised to share it with you. Please pass on these resources to any educator, librarian, parent, or anyone who works with children and wants to learn more on how to effectively use stories to teach the curriculum.

Sherry: There’s a growing body of research that says when children are interested, when their curiosity is piqued, they will pay more attention, comprehend more and retain more knowledge.

  • Marcia Tate “20 Strategies for How to Engage Students” | An interview with Marcia Tate – storytelling is the #2 strategy!

  • Sasser, E. & Zorena, N. (1991). "Storytelling as an adjunct of writing: Experiences with gifted students". Teaching Exceptional Children, 23(2), 44-45. Retrieved June 25, 2006, from ERIC database.

  • McKamey, E. S. (1991). "Storytelling for children with learning disabilities: A first-hand account". Teaching Exceptional Children, 23(2), 46-48. Retrieved June 25, 2006, from ERIC database.

  • Oral Storytelling: Building Community through Dialogue, Engagement, and Problem Solving by Doriet Berkowitz, EdM, is a kindergarten and first grade teacher at the Bloomington Project School, a multiage public charter school in Bloomington, Indiana. Doriet wrote this article when she was a preschool teacher at Campus View Children’s Center, a play-based child care center at Indiana University–Bloomington. Photos courtesy of the author. Illustration © Michael J. Rosen.

Sherry: The most important resources are Kendall Haven’s books because he consolidates the research and makes it accessible in conversational English, and not in “research-ese.”

  • Haven, Kendall. STORY PROOF (the evidence—2009) and STORY SMART (the experiments and application—2014) are essential resources for every person—in any field— who needs to persuade, inspire, influence, inform, or teach! Both were published by Libraries Unlimited.

Sherry: A good way to start is to observe other people, especially professional storytellers who have been performing for years. You’ll pick up some tips from them, and then think about how you can apply those aspects to your particular curriculum, to the lessons that you need to teach.

  • Listening, Speaking, Reading Comprehension and Writing – it’s all right there! Check out the work done by the YES! Special Interest Group of the National Storytelling Network at "Storytelling and the Common Core Standards"

Sherry: My biggest recommendation for anyone who is thinking about using the oral tradition in their classroom is to just do it. Just sit down and tell a story.

  • Storytelling Strategies for Reaching and Teaching Children with Special Needs (Libraries Unlimited, forthcoming 2017)

  • Storytelling in the Science Classroom: a Guide (working title). Co-authored with Jane Stenson and Lyn Ford. (McFarland Publishing, forthcoming 2016).

  • Social Studies in the Storytelling Classroom: The Voices of Humanity. Co-authored with Jane Stenson. (Parkhurst Brothers Publishing, 2012)

  • Literacy Development in the Storytelling Classroom. Co-edited with Jane Stenson and Diane Williams. (Libraries Unlimited, 2009)

  • The Storytelling Classroom: Applications Across the Curriculum. Co-authored with Jane Stenson and Diane Williams. (Libraries Unlimited, 2006)

  • MacDonald, Margaret Read, Jennifer MacDonald Whitman, and Nathaniel Forrest Whitman. Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling. August House.

Why Stories?

Carmen Agra Deedy

(Quoted from the Foreword to Social Studies in the Storytelling Classroom.)

A century ago, the notion that the human species might one day find storytelling obsolete (like some Darwinian limb that has outgrown its usefulness) might have been met with scorn, incredulity, even hilarity.

I don’t believe that suggestion would incite much laughter now.

Children, in increasing numbers, are growing up in a world without story. Rare is the family dinner where the day’s tales are shared, fewer the working parents who can muster the stamina to tell bedtime stories, far-removed the grandparents who once shared multi-generational homes and were a reliable source of fantastical tales.

For those of us who work with children, this is an alarming evolutionary trend. Why so strong a term? After all, how great would the loss truly be if future generations were to cull their stories from inanimate bits and bytes of technology.

Great indeed, because although we use machines, but we are not machines.

We are social animals and storytelling is the empathic tie that binds us to one another with bands of steel. It is much more difficult to hate your enemy once you have heard his story.

We are hard-wired for storytelling. This inclination—scratch that, this need—to create narrative out of the daily flotsam of human experience has long been considered a crucial part of what defines us as human beings. We don’t just spew facts. We frame them within context, add curious digressions, create dialogue . . . we make a story out of a trip to the Piggly Wiggly.

At least, we once did.

When a child grows up without hearing family stories, she enters adulthood with an incomplete sense of her personal history. This is loss enough. But when a child grows up without hearing folktales and fairytales, she enters adulthood with an imperfect sense of what it means to be a member of the human family.

These tales carry deep within them the wit and wisdom of ancient cultures. Most are hundreds—some thousands—of years old. And they are an essential part of a complete education. They teach us how to treat our enemies, fight our monsters, and die with dignity. They teach us how to laugh at our foibles.

They are a child’s birthright.

And a most singular heirloom. A story cannot be lost in a fire, washed away by a flood, or left behind in an evacuation. It is an inheritance indestructible.

Or nearly so.

Its survival hangs on one immutable requirement: a story must be told.


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