The Storytelling Residency was such a valuable experience for my sixth grade students. The experience connected to so many different areas of our curriculum and skills that we are working on in our reading and writing class. More specifically, asking students to really think about community at the start of the year is beyond helpful in creating an environment conducive to learning. Through her storytelling Paula was able to help students recognize what helps make a community thrive, and what can deter one from becoming a functioning group.
As a reading teacher, I found it inspiring to see students who were usually afraid to participate raise their hands and provide insightful thought to a discussion. Even during the stories, the level of engagement of all students was astounding. In one class, students took a risk and acted as a character from one of the stories Paula shared with us. My students stood in front of one another and allowed themselves to feel and speak as a character from the book. It was beyond moving to see these children let go of their inhibitions and speak freely in front of one another. Even more, you could see the pride and happiness they had in themselves when they were done sharing.
I feel as though the discussions and activities lead by Paula really allowed students to let their guards down and bring us closer together as a community, both in and outside of the classroom. It has also given me a renewed appreciation for the art of storytelling, and I hope this is something that we can continue to implement at various points throughout our 6th grade year.
written by Ashley Daly, 6th grade ELA teacher at Frelinghuysen Middle School