Using Stories for Teaching Primary Social Studies, pp. 7 of 8

“storytelling corner” in class with some bookshelves filled with storybooks and a rug on the floor and ask their students to sit on the rug as they listen to the stories. Teachers need to ensure that their students are settled down and are ready to listen before commencing the story. The story is to be told in one’s own words because storytelling is not about recitation or performance but is about speaking to the audience. Teachers can revel in the language by taking time to roll the lush words around on their tongues and use voice variations and repetitive phrases to draw students into the story.  Teachers need to utilize their eye contact, facial expressions and gestures to enhance the story appeal to the young audience. They can share their enthusiasm and warmth with their students so as to draw their attention to the story and enhance their enjoyment. Teachers also need to pace themselves by slowing down if need be or speed up as the story develops. Whatever it is, the pace of the storytelling is determined by the story. Teachers need to be sensitive to students’ responses and needs. Teachers can encourage students to interact and participate in the storytelling by clapping, singing or chanting special words that appear in the story. However, it is important for teachers to be true to themselves. It is best for teachers to be their natural selves and not try wild gestures if they are uncomfortable about them. Ending the story with confidence is important to bring the audience back to their own lives. Teacher should not worry about the performance technique. They should simply share the tales they love most in a simple, direct way and build up their experience and storytelling techniques over time using riddles, images, rhythms and repetitions, gestures, sound effects and word, music, costumes, masks and other props. An example of how storytelling can be used in primary social studies teaching (Sim, 2004, p 146) is illustrated in Strategy Example 3 below.

When to Use Stories?

Stories can be integrated into the beginning, middle or end of a primary social studies lesson. When it should be used depends on the objective of reading or telling. If the teacher’s intention is to stimulate students’ interest in a topic, then the story may be integrated at the beginning of the lesson. However, if the story can help students comprehend some concepts or generalizations or if the story can imbue some values or attitude, then it is best to include the story as the lesson develops. However, if the intention is to reinforce the concepts learnt or to wrap up the lesson, then the story can be added at the lesson conclusion. Since curriculum time can be a constraint, there is a need to choose stories that are short, between 5 and 10 minutes long as stories that are too long may not hold students’ attention easily (Sim, 2004).  

Many follow-up activities can be conducted after a story is told. A lot will again depend on the lesson objectives. Some examples of follow-up activities include doing art and craft, writing story reviews, retelling the tale from another perspective, making new endings, conducting a role play to interview the story characters, conducting a discussion or debate, making comparisons between the story and actual events (Sim, 2004).


Primary social studies can be taught in various ways and one of the ways is to use stories in teaching. Story reading through the shared book approach, the integrated biographical inquiry and storytelling if used effectively, can enhance content and values learning in primary social studies. Sim (2004) states that the key to effective use of story reading and storytelling is practice. The more teachers tell or read stories aloud to students, the more confidence they will gain and the easier it will become. One does not need to have a special talent for story reading and storytelling. Rather there is a need to read or tell the story in a way that is natural to the story reader/teller and they are comfortable with it. Nobody can read or tell a story quite like another, not even professional story readers and tellers. Teachers should hone their story reading and storytelling skills and open themselves up to the story and the audience and tell it from their hearts. When the stories are read or told with such enthusiasm, they will engage students in learning.

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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