The Use of Storytelling in Wellbeing Education

Storytelling is a powerful tool in wellbeing education, with the capacity to expose human nature, characteristics, triumphs and tragedies. It not only provides an engaging perspective into others’ lives but also fosters self-reflection. It offers a framework for understanding moral values, as illustrated by Grimm’s Fairytales, and cultural narratives, as found in Indigeous Dreamtime Stories.

A well-constructed narrative extends beyond a mere tale, it has the potential to provoke contemplation and analysis in the reader. As acclaimed author Brandon Sanderson noted, the role of a storyteller is to incite thoughtfulness, not dictate thought.

In the domain of child development, stories are instrumental. They introduce children to diverse characters who can become imaginary friends. Real-life based fiction serves as a mirror, demonstrating the world’s diversity and familiarizing children with experiences parallel or contrasting to their own.

Learning through stories is an organic process, requiring no explicit teaching. The lesson is absorbed through the act of reading. Immersion in the narrative, stepping into the shoes of characters, further amplifies this learning experience. Children become active participants, experiencing the characters’ emotions and nuance firsthand.

At The Drama Toolbox, we witness this phenomenon daily. Children’s engagement and knowledge acquisition surge as they enact our stories’ characters. For instance, portraying animals coping with Tiddalick the Frog’s greed-driven actions, children experience genuine emotions that are intensified when they are active characters instead of passive listeners.

Stories can also facilitate teaching of social and self-awareness, creating a deeper understanding. This principle underpins our Social Emotional Learning program,  Wild Primary Adventure Series. It involves children embodying different puppet characters each lesson, navigating the growth mindset challenges the animals encounter. For example children watch the transformation of anxious mice learning to be brave and adopt an “I Can Do It” attitude. The Bears lack resilience, giving up when things seem too hard but by the end of the series they face up to new challenges and have a go, and so do the children.

The adventures during this series enable children to reflect, articulate and act upon building satisfying relationships outside the story. This efficacy underscores the value of a good story, as Rudyard Kipling stated, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

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