The Golden Thread: Storytelling in Teaching and Learning

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The Golden Thread:Storytelling in Teaching and learning by Susan Danoff, a book for educators, parents, librarians and storytellers discusses how stories transform classroom dynamics and why storytelling is a valuable bridge to reading and writing. In addition to discussions on classroom culture, relationships, imagination and literacy, each section of The Golden Thread begins with a story, reminding us of the magic of the tale. Author and storyteller Diane Wolkstein has written of The Golden Thread: "Next best to having Susan visit your classroom is to own the book itself, to refresh your understanding of the importance and value of storytelling."

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About the Author:

Susan Danoff is the founder and Executive Director of Storytelling Arts, Inc., an organization that provides storytelling programming to low-income and special needs children and their treachers in New Jersey. She teaches a week-long summer storytelling institute for teachers at Princeton University. Susan has also produced audio recordings and performed at numerous festivals and schools across the country. She has a B.A. from Princeton, a M.A. from Rutgers University and teaching credentials from the University of California at Berkeley.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Preface

For over twenty-five years I have been telling stories, using stories to teach emergent literacy and writing, and helping teachers become storytellers in their own classrooms. This book has grown out of my belief that storytelling is not an entertaining diversion, a filler, a treat on a cloudy day, or a reward for good behavior. Nor is it a craft that belongs solely to the professional storyteller who visits classrooms on special occasions. Storytelling is a method of teaching, a way to gain trust, to communicate effectively, to inspire imaginative thinking, and to provide a foundation for the thinking that is basic to literacy. The Golden Thread lays a foundation for understanding what is really happening in children's learning when we teach through stories. In a book about storytelling it is important to be reminded of the magic of the tale. For that reason I have begun each section with a story that serves as a metaphor for the discussions that follow. The essays at the heart of the book reflect upon the unique capacity of storytelling to teach, what we're teaching when we tell stories, and why it seems to work.

Although some practical suggestions run through the text, Part VI provides specific suggestions about how to begin telling stories. Storytelling Arts will be publishing a second book for teachers that will contain replicable activities for the classroom, including how storytelling can teach prose and poetry writing, movement, visual literacy, multiculturalism, creative dramatics, and discussion. I begin by considering the role of teacher as storyteller. Teachers are unusually well equipped to tell stories because of their already finely honed communication skills. Once they have stories in their repertoire, using those stories can profoundly affect social interaction - the relationship of teacher to student and the building of class community. Stories not only address social and behavioral issues in the classroom as I discuss in Part II; they also help children to think. Stories links feelings and thoughts, and the place of intersection is the imagination. Part III, "Storytelling and Imagination," shows us how stories can perform a great service to the child's developing imagination because they hone the skills of visualizing, envisioning, and play that help us to become thinkers and actors in the world.

Some teachers and storytellers believe that our work has the greatest impact on children's literacy. I have saved my discussion on literacy for Part IV because I believe that the behavioral issues and the development of imaginative thinking are prerequisites to literacy. In schools where children struggle with literacy, often for cultural reasons, storytelling can have a profound influence on learning to read and write.

Finally I talk about the spirit of the teacher. Storytelling can feed our spirits and remind us why we became teachers in the first place. It can place us among the vast chain of teachers since ancient times who have compelled their students to learn through the sheer power of the story to captivate, inspire, and transform the imagination.

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