Mumbai-based co-educational school, Jasudben ML School (estb. 1979) has collaborated with iconic Indian publisher of graphic comics and novels, Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) (estb. 1967) to introduce a first-of-its-kind in-curriculum storytelling-based value enrichment programme for its young primary grade (classes 1-4) students. Damayanti Bhattacharya, Principal, Jasudben ML School shares details of the year-long programme with Dipta Joshi of EducationWorld.
Q) Why incorporate storytelling as part of the curriculum?
A) Story-telling is an easy and effective way to engage the students instantly. It allows for direct interaction between the student and the teacher which helps to establish a rapport. It promotes a relaxed and easy atmosphere in class which is conducive for effective learning. At the same time, storytelling enhances listening skills, improves verbal proficiency, communication skills and encourages children to imagine. Stories stimulate the child’s imagination and teach without preaching in a very subtle manner. Story-telling can be a very powerful pedagogical tool for the young especially, when we cannot meet the children physically through regular school sessions due to the pandemic.
Q) Tell us about your collaboration with Amar Chitra Katha and how will the programme work?
A) A whole generation of Indians have grown up reading Amar Chitra Katha’s comics that tell stories from our epics like the Mahabharata, Ramayan, and other religious texts besides folklore and characters of historical importance, etc. So, when we wanted to tell our children stories revolving around ethics and values like kindness, honesty, and respect, etc., it was natural to engage with ACK. Every section of grades 1-4 has a 35 minutes long theme-based story-telling session once a week which are then followed by quizzes, discussions, art and craft work and even theatre-based activities centered around the theme of the story to help reinforce the values we want the children to imbibe. All related activities are pre-planned.
Q) Parents have complaints about keeping younger children engaged during online classes. Is the use of curriculum-based storytelling an answer to the monotony of online sessions?
A) We have had positive results so I hope the story-telling model is popular enough for all teachers to adopt it to enhance learning. We experimented with the method last year and had plenty of fun activities organised all year round. It kept the children and the teachers involved, interested, and going. I believe, unleashing the magic of stories is a good method to keep up the enthusiasm in any classroom.
Q) Why and what kind of training is required of teachers conducting such sessions?
A) Teachers need to be trained because story-telling is an art that uses body language and voice modulation. These skills need to be learned if we are to create the maximum impact. The teachers also need some initial help with creating lesson plans and activities related to the themes all of which needs to be pre-planned. The teachers need to be aware of the purpose of each class and exactly how they can get the best response from their students.
Q) Children seem to have an obsession with foreign Superhero characters. Do you think stories from our epics will interest them?
A) Yes, we seem to be inundated with western Superhero characters too but that is not necessarily a bad thing because all Superheroes are after all characters that teach you certain positive values. Wisdom is universal and I believe there is a phase for everything in life and what we call a ‘craze’ for certain characters will come and go. There will always be some amount of peer pressure and children will watch new shows, talk about them and maybe even emulate them – that’s all a part of growing up. What is important is that eventually children will learn and imbibe the values the Superheroes stand for.
Q) Will the use of curriculum-based storytelling remain a time-bound programme?
A) I see this as a programme that will evolve with time. The stories of our epics are as complex as they are simple. I believe similar storytelling sessions can prove useful discussions on values for students of the higher classes too. It would deepen their understanding of the complexities of human life and the nature of man. I am sure the stories from our epics and folklore can be points of debate in Sociology, Psychology, and Literature classes.