Using Stories for Teaching Primary Social Studies, pp. 3 of 8

Stories for Primary Social Studies

Figure 1 below shows a list of story books suitable for the primary social studies curriculum in Singapore. It is an extension of the list in Sim (2004, pp. 142-143). The story books can be obtained from the National Library. To source for more books in the library, teachers can go to the collection of folktales in the Children’s Section. Look out for books that are classified under 398.2. Look out for award winning children’s books such as those that are awarded the Newbery Medal, Carnegie Medal, Canadian Children’s Book of the Year Award, Australian Children’s Book of the Year Award and the Esther Glen Award. Besides these books, one can also obtain stories from the Internet. Do a search with the word “story tell” for instance and many sites will be listed.

Teaching Approaches Using Stories

Teachers can either read or tell stories to their students. Story reading involves the teacher reading from a storybook to students. The focus is on the words. There is not much eye contact with students and teachers use their voices and facial expressions to draw students’ attention to the story. Students can be active by chiming in on repetitive sections of the story, suggesting obvious words, predicting story outcomes or engaging in expressive activities (Holdaway, 1979). In storytelling, the focus is on the audience (Turner-Bisset, 2005). Teachers will memorise and internalise the story and tell the story without referring to the storybook. They have eye contact with students all the time and use their voices, facial expressions, gestures and body language and even props to engage them in the story. They can also involve students in the story by getting them to chant, sing along, clap and dance. Storytelling can therefore be more challenging than story reading as it requires more teacher preparation. Teachers need to learn the story without referring to the storybook and they have to think of ways to involve their listeners. This is especially so if there are young listeners who cannot sit still for long and love to move around or do something together with or for the characters in the story.

In the following section, under story reading, two approaches will be shared. They are the shared book approach and the integrated biographical inquiry. The difference between the two approaches is that in the former, teachers will read to the class whereas in the latter, teachers will get the class to do their own independent reading for the completion of a social studies task. Storytelling as the third approach will be further elaborated.   

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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