Learning through stories and play

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In this blog, SchoolNet South Africa extends the conversation about the Pedagogy of Play by exploring playful learning as showcased in the ICT4RED Teacher Professional Development Course offered to educators. 

In each of the ten modules offered in the course, teachers learn about digital content, use of digital technologies and importantly focus on how to embed innovative teaching strategies, and relevant assessment tools to create interesting learning opportunities that embed the joy into learning for both teachers and learners. 

Developed for the Tech4RED-CSIR project in the Eastern Cape, the ICT4RED Teacher Professional Development Course investigates how technologies, such as tablets and mobile phones, can support teaching and learning in schools and prepare our children for the future. Each module is developed to showcase a teaching strategy that can be immediately practised in the classroom. Explore the links below for a more detailed view of the course:

Drawing from the commonly accepted understanding that stories help children develop language and thinking skills. The blog focuses on Storytelling which expands on the musings of   Nal’ibali Director, Ms. Nqabakazi Mathe-Gina, during the Pedagogy of Play, Coding and Robotics, and Technology in Education dialogue, where she shared the role of stories for learning and play.

Storytelling has long been viewed as a means to keep culture and traditions alive, and making sense of the world, and teach life lessons. Whilst oral storytelling can improve children’s grasp of language, vocabulary, and foundational concepts, digital storytelling serves a sustainable purpose as it serves to additionally document and archive the rich history of African culture and tradition. 

Digital storytelling takes one through a journey of firstly, understanding the potential of storytelling as a way to collect artifacts for teaching and; secondly, moving into planning for and creating a storyboard that captures what you want to communicate. The affordances of technology come into play after you have decided on the learning journey for your audience and using a mobile device, as an example, we could explore the opportunities for learning through a range of techniques, such as watching a video,  use of a slideshow app to visualise your storyboard,  write journal entries using a journaling app, take and edit photos, use bluetooth or file sharing apps to share files, amongst a range of other uses. 

By making a connection between the ICT4RED Teacher Professional Development and Storyplay workshops developed by the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), learning opportunities for literacy should be promoted for teachers, early learning practitioners and learners to use stories as a learning tool, be it digital or print. According to PRAESA, the story play workshops “provides valuable information and activities to address early literacy and book behaviour.”

Supporting the use of stories for teaching and learning, research shows that stories spark children’s imagination and this can be evident from activities like ‘pretend-play. Here Nal’ibali shares how stories are beneficial in 15 ways for children.

There is a national focus on promoting reading and captured below are two of the Nal’ibali benefits of using stories with children:

  1. Stories help your children develop their imagination and creativity.
  2. Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.

As with the play, the importance of stories as a learning tool is often undervalued or not fully understood. Working to address this limitation, SchoolNet South Africa and Nal’ibali respectively developed learning programmes and work daily to empower teachers and caregivers in learning to use stories as a literacy tool, in the form of Storyplay workshops and ICT4RED Teacher Professional Development Course

PRAESA created three Storyplay booklets to support teachers and practitioners: 

The Storyplay approach, according to PRAESA, has the flexibility to incorporate “aims and Developmental Guidelines of Early Learning and Development Areas (ELDA) of the National Curriculum Framework for Children from Birth to Four (NCF). Also, the Grade R topics and skills in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for Home Language and Life Skills.

This video shows learners engaging with a story. “Play is a story in action. Children make sense of their world through stories.”

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