We think that "Social Studies in the Storytelling Classroom: Exploring Our Cultural Voices and Perspectives" illustrates the often-used cliché from storytellers about storytelling: The shortest distance between two points is a story. If the goal of social studies is to help young students bridge the gap between their experiences and an understanding of the world, then this book by edited by Jane Stenson and Sherry Norfolk will help teachers meet that objective.
This manuscript is a collection of essays regarding the use of oral (primarily) storytelling in the classroom to facilitate activity and understanding. Like most good books that are compilations, the editors of this series have allowed the chapter of each contributor to speak in its own voice while keeping the very specific niche of the book in sight. We feel a good energy from the book much like a live and effective in-service event, as if one good presenter finishes their topic and hands off the workshop to yet another gifted speaker.
Each chapter is essentially an essay, lesson-plan or several lesson plans around a specific topic. The topics are divided into "Culture," "Culture, Continuity and Change," People, Places and Environments," and "Individual Development and Identity." Some of the essays are more academic, giving the reader some foundational perspective of the topic rather than a specific lesson plan. Most of the lessons plans, ranging in intended ages from what appears to be Kindergarten (new to school) to Middle School (young and early teens), give a list of objectives, actions and supply lists.
Be aware that many of these chapters are written by experienced performance storytellers with years knowing how to nuance a story. While it may be easy for some of them to conquer complicated fairytales with Kindergarteners ("The Queen Bee" suggestion is an example), most teachers will need to spend a good deal of practice time getting some of the stories in this book ready to be told to their students. While we think the book makes it clear that such rehearsal is worth the rewards, just be aware that this isn’t a "read story and get results" set of lesson plans.
Overall, "Social Studies in the Storytelling Classroom: Exploring Our Cultural Voices and Perspectives" is a solid work in making legitimate links between storytelling and social studies. You’ll probably come back to this book often as you teach.
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