Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Stories from Sirohi- Same Story, different audience

Krishna Kumar has talked about storytelling in his book, “What’s worth teaching.”

“Thirty stories that the teacher can tell at will can transform the ethos of the first two years of primary schooling, provided of the course that the daily curriculum finds an honourable place for storytelling for its own sake.”

I believe in the power of storytelling.

Storytelling gives a great channel to think, play around and also learn. As a storyteller, there are many skills that needs to be practiced for an effective storytelling session. The storytelling has various aspects. The kind of story and also the narrative offering the right level of detail. Too little and the story is not vivid; too much and it gets bogged down.

Storytelling is more of a performance, how we emote matters. Knowing our audience does also matters.

I read this small book, ‘The smartest giant in the town,’ picked up from the school library.

I loved the pictures. I wanted to share this story with everyone I meet in person. I took out the book and walked into the class to narrate the story and find out if they like it.

1st class.

I walked into the class with the book and sat at one side. Colourful red book in hand, kids are always curious to find out what I bring to the class.

“I’ll tell you a story. Story of this boy.”

Kids gathered around me. Always finds a spot near enough, not letting the other kids see the book.

I had an A4 sized book.  Big enough for 10 kids to see clearly.

I wanted to talk about this boy, I wanted the kids to talk about the boy as well.

‘What could be his name?. Tell me.’

‘Buddhu,’ was the response.

Yes, Buddu is this guy and in which village does he live?


‘Yes, Mandwa.’

‘Buddhu in Mandwa is quiet poor and he doesn’t have proper clothes. We all have good clothes na. He doesn’t have  it. He walked into shop where everyone in town are small.’

Emphasizing on big and small and I kept repeating these two words. Continuing the story, I narrated what happens next.

‘He buys the shirt, pant, tie, socks, shoe, belt.’

Tie was the only thing that was bit out of context to the kids. Kids kept repeating moja moja pointing out the socks. I learnt a new word. Moja it is.  

‘He bought a lot of these things, how much he’d have spent?’

‘2 rupees.’

‘Yeah, 2 rupees.’

Continuing the story

He meets Giraffe who feels cold.

‘Buddu ne Tie dediya.’

I went on with the story flipping the pages and repeating the English words.

I flipped the page and asked the kids to identify the animal. The kids saw and immediately said, it’s a rabbit.  It was a goat but, they saw it as rabbit. I was all in for their story rather than my story. I said yes, rabbit.

I shared the story with rabbit.

The story included the animals, the clothes and the Buddhu gave away a lot of things to lot of animals.

I continued the story focussing on clothes, animals, emotions and a lot more. I let them guess each character and I was not forceful in saying English names, when a kid says, Chua, I say yeah, Rats.

When kid says, Nahi chuha, I say yeah. Chuha, rats bhi bolthe hum.

It was important to acknowledge what they say. Respecting their opinion is one step to make them accept you.

Going through the story, I made them guess the actions of the character Buddhu.

In the story, after giving away every garment, he goes in a jolly mood.

I asked them what he’d be doing.

‘He’s singing.’

‘Which song?’

And the kids picked up the Hindi Rhymes, aaloo ka Chaaloo beta.

When there was another instance, they sang another Hindi rhyme.  3rd time, I said, ‘If he had to sing English rhyme, what he’d sing?’

Kids joined to sing ‘twinkle twinkle little star.’

After the English stint, I didn’t have to hint them, they sang another English rhyme, “We are happy family.’


It was a bilingual storytelling session, focussing on the clothes and animals. Kids contributed a lot to the story and went on reading the pictures from the book.

After, I finished the session, I left them to go back to their own scribbling in their free period. I left the story book in the class and kids took turns to read the book through pictures. Following up with coloring worksheets seemed a great idea.

Idea didn’t turn up into execution.


2nd Class

Another free class, I walked in with the book into the 2nd class sitting at the centre of the class, asking if they’d like to hear a story. Few kids accepted the invitation, few rejected it. I was contended with the number of audience I had. The rest were minding their business. They were silently working on their scribbling.

I started the session with questions. Kids named the character, Kumar and the village Mandwa.

In this class, kids identified the animals right. A fox is a fox, not a dog. They were telling the animals’ names in Hindi, I was helping them with English names.

Asking the budget of the clothes purchase, the kids said, 4000. ‘Chaar hazaar bhaiya.’ They said.

Acknowledging and accepting their numbers, I went on with the session. I kept asking them to guess, if they can read the pictures and voice out their guesses. Kids in the 2nd class are active listeners and wanted only me to talk. They didn’t like any interruptions.

Everyone were busy reading the pictures, they also enjoyed the storytelling session.  I read them out the greeting card, animals write to the character and said rhyming words from them.

By the end, I had everyone in the class listening to me. Kids who were minding their business also joined in between and listened. It was full house session, discussing clothes, animals and a story.

Follow up session on clothes, animals was a thought but didn’t see the light of the day in execution.


3rd Class

Narrating the story in 1st and 2nd classes, I thought to do it in 3rd class as well. Always in a demand of stories through videos, kids were excited for a storytelling session.

We sat in a circle on the floor and started the session. We made sure everyone gets a good glance of the book.

I started the narration showing them the pictures. They were identifying the animals right, guessing the story right. They were contributing to the story. They were repeating all the English words that were emphasized.

Everything was good until I came to the last page.

Since I read out the letter written by animals to the character as a part of story narration, I started reading it in 3rd class as well.

Out of 12 kids, 2 kids sat with me as I started reading the letter. Everyone just got up and sat in their places. I was surprised to see their outright rejection in reading the text.

  Were they not engaged in the story? Didn’t they like the story? Their interaction signalled me that they were interested.

Since I was not strict at making them listen, they opted out of listening to the reading of the text. With such disinclination, to reading, I thought I need to work on their assumptions that makes them feel averse to reading or listening to the reading.

Over all, narrating a single story to all the 3 classes left me out with how kids respond to stories. Every kid loves stories. Every kid loves reading through pictures. Picture reading is a great activity to interact with the kids simultaneously teaching the language.

I remember Shoban ji’s words telling us what all aspects are covered in the design of pictures for picture reading. The search and selection for the picture reading seems to be the work.

During my childhood, textbook reading made me averse to the reading habit. Till schooling, I never read anything other than textbooks. Post schooling, thanks to few friend’s consistent suggestions, I picked up reading. I started with non-fiction and slowly covering to read all kinds of literature.

I haven’t read much of children’s literature. Book suggestions are highly appreciated. Thank you.  


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