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Storytelling Dramas as a Community Building Activity in an Early Childhood Classroom

Marissa Diener
Cheryl Wright
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Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 DOI 10.1007/s10643-012-0544-7 Storytelling Dramas as a Community Building Activity in an Early Childhood Classroom Cheryl Wright • Marissa L. Diener • Jacqueline Lindsay Kemp Published online: 29 August 2012  Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012 Abstract Healthy social-emotional development is pro- Introduction moted by building a safe, secure and respectful environ- ment in an early childhood setting with positive and Once upon a time there was a gynormous dinosaur consistent relationships among adults, children, and their that was named Godzilla. And there was a giant peers. This study explored storytelling dramas as an Tyranidon named Rodon and Rodon attacked the opportunity to build community within the context of one small monster that was named Padora. And then early childhood classroom. The study was a qualitative, Godzilla came and then Godzilla did his electronic interpretive analysis of 20 videotaped storytelling drama breath. And the electronic breath exploded through sessions containing approximately 100 stories told by the small monster and then there was a big Earth children in one preschool classroom over a 6-month period. shake but it wasn’t really. It was an underground Videotapes of the 20 storytelling sessions were analyzed monster named Gygon. And Gygon crept through his for patterns and themes that may represent community underground tunnel and all the people were scared of building within the context of one preschool classroom. Gygon. The end. Qualitative methods were used to identify themes that This is one of the exciting stories told by a 4-year-old boy emerged from the videotaped data. Triangulation across in a classroom using Vivian Paley’s (1990) storytelling and investigators, time, and methods enhanced trustworthiness drama method. Children in a preschool classroom acted out of interpretations. Results showed that the storytelling this story with much delight and enthusiasm. The four boys drama activity provided opportunities to promote commu- acting in this story came to life as the ‘‘monster’’ characters nity building through four emerging themes: (1) individual by making sound effects, exaggerating movements and roles, (2) group membership, (3) inclusion, and (4) rela- facial expressions. The boys enthusiastically adopted their tionship building. Storytelling dramas provide teachers roles while maintaining an awareness of their fellow actors with an easy to implement teaching strategy that builds and engaging the audience of classmates. Storytelling dra- community and aligns with current early childhood edu- mas are activities in which children act out their own dictated cation quality standards and child development theory. stories and share experiences and ideas as a group (Child Care Collection 1999; Cooper 2009; Nicolopoulou and Cole Keywords Community building  Storytelling  2010; Paley 1990). Although most research on sociodramatic Drama  Preschool  Early childhood curriculum play has been conducted in dramatic play centers in which children come and go, and interact in dyads or triads (Barbu 2003; Hartup 1983; Johnson et al. 1997), the present study examined storytelling dramas based on children’s stories in a whole group setting. C. Wright (&)  M. L. Diener  J. L. Kemp Research has shown that sociodramatic play in early University of Utah, 225 South 1400 East, Rm. 228 AEB, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0080, USA childhood classrooms increases opportunities for peer e-mail: cheryl.wright@fcs.utah.edu interaction and collaboration, fosters healthy social and 123 198 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 emotional development as children use drama to solve to work together collaboratively. Additionally, every per- problems, deal with conflict, conquer fears, adopt new per- son in the community, including the teacher, has a sense of spectives, regulate emotions, and practice self-regulation responsibility and accountability to the group. And lastly, skills (Curenton 2006; Paley 1990; Piaget and Inhelder the importance of providing an environment that is safe and 1969; Vygotsky 1933, 1978). Vivian Paley (1990) began secure for all children is emphasized (Copple and Bre- using storytelling and dramas as part of her kindergarten dekamp 2009). classroom curriculum in order to build an inclusive and It is important to study activities that promote classroom cooperative classroom community. This activity builds community building because a sense of community helps community while integrating literacy, arts, physical motor children establish many prosocial behaviors through peer skills, and social interaction skills (Cooper 2009; Dyson social interaction (Epstein 2009; Siegler et al. 2006). These 1994, 2008; Genishi and Dyson 2009; Nicolopoulou et al. skills include learning to negotiate and problem solve, 2010; Paley 1990; Rothman 2006; Tallant 1992). being an active participant, resolving conflicts, paying Most research on children’s storytelling focuses on attention to others, respecting others, and feeling a sense of narrative structure and/or content of children’s narratives responsibility to the group (Copple and Bredekamp 2009; and research-initiated story-stems, with the unit of analysis Epstein 2009). Early childhood experiences provide the most often being the stories themselves (Bacigalupa and foundation for appropriate group interactions (Epstein Wright 2009; Burton 2009; Darling and Groth 2001; Dyson 2009; Nicolopoulou et al. 2010). 1994, 2008; Libby and Aries 1989; Nicolopoulou and Early childhood group dynamics tend to be dyadic or Richner 2007; McGrath et al. 2004; Tallant 1992; Wang triadic, and fairly unstable during the preschool period and Leichtman 2000). Little research has examined the (Barbu 2003; Hartup 1983; Johnson et al. 1997). As opposed drama aspect of the storytelling process. One exception is a to a small group activity, large group activities may require study that described the concept of power and identity more advanced interpersonal skills (Barbu 2003). Pretend formation in a classroom of young children through the play in the preschool settings involves negotiation and dis- storytelling and drama (Dyson 1994). Others have descri- tribution of roles, and certain children may be rejected or bed the benefits to children’s development in the story- ignored due to a lack of appropriate interaction skills (Coie telling and drama process (Curenton 2006; Dyson 1994; et al. 1990; Hartup 1983; Johnson et al. 1997). In pretend play Genishi and Dyson 2009; Rothman 2006), but our review preschoolers begin to segregate their play and may have found no studies have focused on classroom community trouble relating to the opposite gender’s themes and ideas building during the drama activity. (Barbu 2003; Hartup 1983; Johnson et al. 1997). Storytelling Since dramatization is often a motivation for children to dramas give the children the opportunity to experiment with tell stories, this research explored the importance of this nontraditional gender roles and learn to relate to one activity to the children themselves, as they collaborated to another’s stories (Child Care Collection 1999; Paley 1990). dramatize their stories. Storytelling dramas are hypothesized Children tell stories that are similar to one another in order to to be an important avenue for building classroom community show understanding of each other’s experiences (Child Care (Dyson 1994; Paley 1990; Nicolopoulou and Cole 2010; Collection 1999; Paley 1990). Rothman 2006). Story dramas allow children to represent This study explored storytelling dramas as a community their ideas, feelings, and conflict resolution theories, as well building experience for preschool children, using an as relate to other children’s stories (Curenton 2006; Paley interpretive methodology in order to explore the question, 1990). These are many of the important skills needed to form ‘‘How does the process of storytelling dramas influence a community (Epstein 2009; Nicolopoulou et al. 2010). group social interaction and community dynamics?’’ The National Association for the Education of Young Observing children interacting in their natural setting pro- Children’s (NAEYC) position statement identifies the vides insight into the group dynamics in a classroom components of high quality early childhood education. One community. Other researchers have found rich results with of the major components is creating a caring community of similar methodology (Engel 2005; Erwin and Guintini learners. NAEYC identifies the role of community as 2000; Dyson 1994, 2008; Lash 2008). ‘‘providing a physical, emotional, and cognitive environ- ment conducive to the development and learning of all children’’ (Copple and Bredekamp 2009). The NAEYC Method position statement guided the concept of early childhood community throughout this project. The statement includes The present study included 20 videotaped episodes that the idea that valuing children through active participation comprised 100 storytelling dramas in one preschool or observation develops community in the classroom. The classroom at a laboratory school in a large Western uni- classroom community provides opportunities for children versity. The videotaping occurred from October 2007 to 123 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 199 April 2008. Each storytelling session included an average 1999; Paley 1990). The process used by the teachers is of 5 dramatized stories (M = 5.15). The storytelling ses- described in greater detail elsewhere (Wright et al. 2008). sions were videotaped over a six-month time period, The only materials needed were writing instruments in this beginning one month into the school year. Videotapes of easy to implement activity (drama props are not necessary). the 20 storytelling sessions were analyzed for patterns and The process included storytelling as an optional activity themes that may represent community building within the during learning centers. Although children were not context of one preschool classroom. required to tell a story, all but two chose to do so over the course of the study. The teacher wrote the story down, Participants and Data Collection exactly as the child dictated, and then reread it aloud to the child. Once children had written stories during the learning The NAEYC accredited early childhood program, which was centers, the class acted out the stories on the same day the setting for this study, had an enrollment of 140 children age during whole group time. A child’s story was read aloud to 2–6 years in six part-time classes. The program offers half- the class; the author then chose which role he/she would like day preschool programs and has a very stable student and to play, and chose classmates for other roles. Next, the teacher population. The philosophy of the program includes children acted out the story as the teacher read it aloud. The learning through play and social interaction based on social storytelling drama session held at the end of the day typi- constructivist learning theory, and focuses on attending to cally lasted from 20 to 30 min. individual developmental needs of the children (DeVries et al. 2002). Parents were informed of the storytelling research Data Analysis and Trustworthiness project through letters that were distributed to families and follow-up email correspondence. The videotaped data were The purpose of this study was to analyze the classroom collected in one preschool classroom containing 22 children community in the context of a preschool learning envi- composed of 13 boys and 9 girls, ages 3.9–5.3 years old ronment. This interpretive study used qualitative methods (M = 4.7 years, SD = 0.4). The names of the children and to analyze group interactions of children during storytelling teachers observed have been changed in order to maintain dramas in the context of a preschool classroom (Corbin and confidentiality. Most families were middle class from the Strauss 1987; Geertz 1973; Yanow and Schwartz-Shea surrounding community. Although most families were middle 2006). This analysis strategy allowed the researchers to class, the center strived to provide an inclusive setting for all explore group dynamics in children’s natural learning children. Children with special needs had priority enrollment environment. The qualitative methods used included sys- in the program. Because of this program goal, there was great tematic observation and note-taking of video recording, diversity in children’s developmental levels within the class- revisiting written documents, interviewing, journal and room. Children varied substantially in speech and language memo writing (Berg 2004; Charmaz 2006; Corbin and skills, emotional regulation, self-regulation, attention, and Strauss 1987; Galbraith 2007; Maxwell 1996). The unit of social interaction skills. analysis was the group of children within one preschool Teachers and assistants in the classroom were trained in classroom. Story drama sessions, versus individual story Vivian Paley’s storytelling method. Teachers collected stories dramas, were observed in order to capture community from children individually during learning centers and assis- interactions in this activity. ted children in dramatizing the stories as part of the weekly To identify patterns grounded in the data, detailed field preschool curriculum. All teachers in the classroom held a notes were taken during video observations. Themes were bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. The not identified prior to the analysis; rather they emerged researchers involved in this study were three graduate students from the data. After each observation of videotapes, and two faculty members; none of the researchers had a formal memos were written interpreting patterns that emerged in role or position in the center. Two of the graduate students order to capture the detail and richness of the children’s were primarily responsible for the videotaping and one interactions in the moment of observation (Charmaz 2006; graduate student and the faculty members analyzed the data. Corbin and Strauss 1987; Gaure and Walsh 1998). Obser- Although previous research has focused on the content of the vations of the videotaped dramas occurred until a point of stories and the storytelling process (Bacigalupa and Wright saturation was reached, and no more patterns emerged. 2009), the present study focused on the drama process itself. Journal writing was also done throughout the observation of the videotapes in order to deepen the analytical thought Storytelling Process process, assist in asking necessary process and descriptive questions about the data, and finally to assist in the process The storytelling procedure was based on Vivian Paley’s of reflection (Berg 2004; Janesick 1999; Maxwell 1996). storytelling and story-acting process (Child Care Collection Once patterns and themes were determined; webbing and 123 200 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 clustering were used to developed typologies of observa- the community. ‘‘By observing and participating in the tions to organize data for further interpretation (Berg 2004; community, children learn about themselves…and also Charmaz 2006). Repetition of the observation and inter- how to develop positive, constructive relationships with pretive process occurred to ensure the results were groun- other people’’ (Copple and Bredekamp 2009, p. 16). ded in the data. In order to ensure the trustworthiness of the data, a Storyteller number of steps were taken (Berg 2004; Yanow and Sch- wartz-Shea 2006). First, the observation notes were read by As storyteller and director, children in the class partici- two other researchers and discussed at weekly meetings. pated in a leadership role. The teacher reflected on lead- This provided multiple perspectives and decreased ership as an important skill gained through storytelling. researcher bias that might occur with only one researcher Because the activity was based on the children’s own identifying emerging patterns. Second, the videotapes were stories, the children were more comfortable leading their recorded over a 6-month period, which allowed observa- peers in the activity and were provided with the opportu- tions of changes or patterns over time. Consistent and nity to scaffold each other’s leadership skills. For example, repetitious emergence of themes over this time period Caleb was a child with strong leadership skills, who provided increased trustworthiness to the interpretations. actively engaged in the storytelling dramas, and had the The third portion of triangulation was to interview the lead unique ability to engage many children in his stories. Caleb teacher in order to confirm or disconfirm patterns identified participated at an intense level, trying to discuss roles, and add further detail to interpretation of the storytelling characters and who would do what before the teacher even dramas from the perspective of an active participant. had the chance to read his story aloud. Taking the initiative Because of the timing of the research process, the semi- to decide who would be in his story, modeling how they structured teacher interviews were held one year after might act out the character, and at times, trying to rephrase filming of the data. This allowed for a check of the inter- the story, Caleb modeled leadership skills to his peers. pretations and provided teacher perspectives and insights. Participation of the storyteller and leadership skills in The interview questions were open-ended in order to pro- the storytelling drama activity evolved throughout the year. vide flexibility in responses (Erwin and Guintini 2000). Another child, D. J., told a story at the beginning of the Sample questions included ‘‘What is your role in the sto- year, but chose only to have it read aloud, not acted out. rytelling dramas?’’ and ‘‘Why do you include storytelling The teacher respected D. J.’s wishes, and he still gained the dramas in your class?’’. valuable experience of participating by sitting in front of the audience while his story was read. Later in the year, D. J. became an active participant in the storytelling dra- Results mas as an actor and eventually also had his stories acted out by his classmates. Several months after the activity had Four major themes emerged from the data of storytelling been implemented in the classroom, another reserved child, dramas. The themes align with community building and Lee, felt very comfortable in directing his peers, ‘‘put on included: (1) Individual Roles (2) Group Membership (3) your helmet!’’ when the story stated to put on clothing. Inclusion and (4) Relationship Building. Narratives from Although children varied in their frequency of partici- the videotapes were used to support the themes discussed pation and leading the audience and actors as a storyteller, and these narratives are the primary data source. Unless the dramas led to more and more children telling stories otherwise noted, all quotes come from the video tran- and directing stories as the year went on. The teacher scriptions. The teacher quotes were derived from the tea- described, ‘‘As the year went on children would wait as cher interview. long as 45 min during learning centers to tell a story, motivated by the opportunity to act it out.’’ Children fre- Individual Roles quently stated they wanted their story to be told, ‘‘Hey, I really, really, really want to do my story!’’ or ‘‘Is it Every child in the class participated in the storytelling my story’s turn yet?’’ This provided evidence that children activity during the school year. Twenty of 22 children told felt comfortable, secure, and valued in their ideas as a and directed stories or volunteered to act in the stories storyteller and as leaders in the drama activity. throughout the six month period. All children observed as members of the audience and most (20) participated in the Audience Members enactment of the storytelling drama. The roles of story- teller, audience, and actor provided children with many As the audience, children spent time watching and listening opportunities to participate observe others and contribute to to their classmates’ stories. The teacher explained the 123 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 201 important role of the audience and often reminded children, children’s actions were developmentally appropriate in the ‘‘Remember, it is your turn to be the audience and listen to ebb and flow of engagement, attention, and discussion: your friends’ stories.’’ The child audience observed and Becca told a story about princesses, including Jas- engaged in positive interactions with other audience mine, and one monster. Becca’s story was read aloud members, teachers, author and actors by laughing, patting and she began selecting actors. While sitting in the each other on the back, giving suggestions, and smiling at audience, Aaron and Amy discussed some of the each other. characters. Aaron stated several times, ‘‘I wanna be The storytelling dramas were an interactive and engag- the monster’’ and Amy responded, ‘‘No monsters are ing activity and most children were able to self-regulate in it.’’ Aaron repeats, ‘‘I wanna be the monster’’ and and focus their attention on the activity. Storytelling dra- again Amy said, ‘‘No monsters are in it, no mon- mas provided opportunities for children to practice self- sters.’’ Aaron responded, ‘‘Just one monster’’ with his regulation skills and be a responsible member of a group by pointer finger up, showing the number one. Amy participating as an audience member. There were times went on to discuss, ‘‘…it (the monster) was Jasmine.’’ when some children were distracted, and the teacher or other children had to guide the children’s attention back to Although on first observation it appeared that Aaron and the activity. The teacher assisted in developing self-regu- Amy were not paying attention to the activity, they were lation skills. The following is an example of classmates actually engaged in a discussion about the story characters. holding other children responsible with reminders: Another example of children appearing disengaged, During the role selection process, there were two girls tired, or distracted was during Eric’s story. Several in the circle with a boy in-between who began to boys were lying on their stomachs, head in hands. converse. The boy attempted to interact with the girl They at first appeared to be disengaged when the on the one side by leaning in front of her face and story was being read aloud, but once the teacher talking to her. She responded by leaning forward and requested that Eric choose five saber tooth tigers, all back in an attempt to continue to watch the activity four boys quickly and enthusiastically raised their and avoid the boy. The teacher reminded the boy it hands. At first glance none of these boys seemed was time to watch and listen to the story. He focused interested in the activity, story, or characters but, in on the storyteller selecting characters, but the girl fact, immediately volunteered to participate as tigers. who was once paying attention was now talking to As audience members, the children were engaged and the girl next to her. The boy leaned over and showed interest. The opportunity to observe and discuss the reminded the girl, ‘‘You have to listen to the story!’’ stories, as audience members, allowed children to interact She responded with, ‘‘NO!’’ She then leaned forward, at their own pace and in a meaningful way with other falling off mat, but the boy tried to regulate her classmates. behavior, ‘‘Get back on your mat’’. The teachers After observing the videotapes and reviewing observa- began to clap at the end of the story and the boy tional notes, two boys were identified who never partici- quickly turned around to face the stage. pated as storytellers or actors over the 6-month period as Conversations such as this one occurred often among the described below: audience members, with children reminding and directing One of the boys, Ansel, who did not participate as a other children in the audience. This exemplifies community storyteller or actor, was an engaged and interested building in the audience in which the children began to audience member. He watched the activity intently hold one another accountable to the group’s well being and and continually followed storytellers and actors as showed respect for the storyteller and actors. they moved around the stage or selected characters. It is important to note that when the audience was His gaze also shifted to the teacher whenever she talking to one another during dramas, it did not necessarily would speak. At one point he also interacted with the mean they were disengaged. A pattern emerged that when girl sitting next to him as she sat back down from children talked among themselves, they were discussing acting. He smiled and talked to her for a few minutes ideas and characters from the story. Providing a context for about the story and drama. He then went back to children to talk to their peers about the activity and to watching children act, smiled, and appeared to enjoy collaborate in order to build on each other’s ideas is a watching his peers. Ansel showed little fidgeting community building strategy (Copple and Bredekamp throughout the drama session. 2009). The following examples provide evidence of moments when audience members first appeared to be Thus, although Ansel did not appear as an actor or uninterested in the activity, but on closer observation, the storyteller, his role as an audience member enabled him to 123 202 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 interact with and learn from his peers within the classroom about Ninja Turtles there were 11 children, both boys and community. The teacher remarked that Ansel—who was girls, on ‘‘stage’’ engaged in pretend fighting, waving arms, also the youngest child in the class—did participate in the circling each other, stomping feet, and running in place. storytelling dramas as an actor and storyteller the following This story allowed children to practice behavior that was school year. This specific case demonstrated that story- appropriate and conducive to the well being of all of the telling drama activity is a process, where some children children, a crucial part of building a sense of community may take longer to develop self-confidence in acting and within the classroom (Copple and Bredekamp 2009). In telling stories. fact, many of the stories contained fictional aggression and Reflection with the teacher confirmed that two boys did children showed great self-restraint by limiting physical not participate as actors or storytellers, but she also noted contact and being gentle with classmates. the importance of the audience members and their role. She In addition to practicing self-regulation skills, acting in noted, ‘‘The audience is just as important as the kids par- the stories gave children the opportunity to experience ticipating (as actors and storyteller). They are still a part of pretend play themes or roles of the opposite gender. This it [the activity], even though they are not acting because collaborative experience of discovering and experimenting even kids that do not act out will still show appreciation at with social norms and roles furthers children’s awareness the end and say, ‘oh good job’.’’ As audience members the of the world around them and community expectations children were observed collaborating on ideas, learning to (Copple and Bredekamp 2009; Epstein 2009; Dyson 1994; be accountable to the community group, and valuing oth- Nicolopoulou 1997). The character’s gender and who could er’s ideas. act out various roles was frequently discussed during the activity, such as in the following example: Actor Anna told a story that included her sister. Anna sta- ted, ‘‘My sister is a girl’’, as she looked around to As actors, children build community through having a pick a child for the character of her sister. The teacher sense of ownership in the stories, being active participants, stated, ‘‘Sometimes boys can play girl roles.’’ Anna and working collaboratively in a group. Children showed responded, ‘‘But my sister is a girl.’’ Anna tried to their active engagement by volunteering for roles with pick Carrie, but Carrie stated, ‘‘I don’t want to be the enthusiasm and excitement in their voices, such as ‘‘I sister.’’ The teacher stated, ‘‘Can you pick a friend wanna be the ghost!’’ At times they also pointed each other who has their hand up? Those are the friends that out; for example, one child said to the teacher, ‘‘Erica does want to be a part of it. A boy can pretend to be a sister (wants a turn).’’ They remembered which characters were too.’’ Anna approached Michael and taps him on the in the story and even parts of the storyline. Some began to head to be the sister. The next character selected is act out their character from the moment they were chosen, her Mother. Anna picked another boy, D.J. As D.J. and continued until sitting back down at the end. Often joined Michael on stage, Michael stated, ‘‘I’m a girl they acted out the character with their own ideas, ‘‘I was a too’’ while giggling. transformer that could transform into an airplane!’’ explained one boy as he finished acting and sat back down This example of conversation between the teacher and to join the audience. child, as well as peers, not only provided Anna with a new Every time children participated as actors, they were, concept about who could pretend to be which characters, like the audience members, given the chance to practice but all of the children were able to hear and learn from this regulating their behavior and maintaining a sense of conversation. The topic of character gender and actors was responsibility, especially when acting in stories that con- discussed throughout the year and as the year progressed tained aggression. One of the few teacher rules of this children participated as characters of the opposite gender. activity was ‘‘keep hands to yourself and only pretend In November there was a character in Becca’s story that fighting’’, which provided children an opportunity to act started out as a monster and changed into a wicked queen through imaginative play themes such as characters fight- later in the story. The boy acting the role of the Monster, ing, smashing, kicking, and dying in a safe context of Aaron, became very upset with the change in the character. storytelling dramas. These themes appeared frequently in He stated, ‘‘I can’t! No, no I’m not the wicked queen. the preschool stories (Bacigalupa and Wright 2009). Self- Nooo!’’ and continued to be a monster. Later, children regulation skills required for the important rule of ‘‘just frequently volunteered and acted in roles of the opposite pretend’’ at very exciting moments in a story led children to gender, without discussion or giggles. In Lee’s story, told be accountable and have a sense of responsibility to other in March, Amy volunteered to be an army guy and was members of the group. Children were able to restrain from selected by Lee. That same day Colin told a story about a actually hitting or kicking their classmates. In one story Weather Fairy, Ice Queen and Fire King. He chose to be 123 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 203 the Weather Fairy and acted it out by running on his tiptoes hands, getting up on their knees to be more visible, and and flapping his wings. Children were able to learn new verbalizing with, ‘me, me, me!’ or ‘I wanna be (character perspectives of members of the community and the world name).’ around them by experimenting with roles of the opposite Children also learned to become valued members of the gender. group through problem solving and negotiation of roles. The child actors learned important skills that helped to Often there was a conversation between the author and promote a sense of community. These skills included audience members about who would play what role, for accountability, responsibility, collaboration, developing a example: sense of self-worth within the group, and problem solving. Sam wrote a story about people and spiders. He Acting in a story also provided children with the oppor- selected his classmate Michael to be a ‘people’. tunity to collaborate and problem solve with classmates However, Michael said to Sam, ‘‘I want to be a spi- with whom they did not typically interact. Acting as a der, I am a spider.’’ He then went over to the teacher character in stories allowed children to experiment in new and repeated the request. Michael approached Sam roles and adjust concepts of group norms and values again, suggesting that there be two spiders in Sam’s through group social interaction. story. His persistence paid off because Sam then Each individual in the class played an important part in approached the teacher to agree, ‘‘There can be 2 the storytelling drama, either through active participation spiders.’’ or observation as a storyteller, audience member, or actor. The storytelling drama allows for an age appropriate, child- The fact that Sam acknowledged and accepted centered activity that caters to young children’s egocen- Michael’s request provided evidence that he valued his trism (‘‘my story,’’ ‘‘pick me, me, me’’), and creates group classmate’s ideas. The teacher also recognized Michael’s awareness through the three roles of storyteller, actor, and ability to contribute valuable ideas to the group, ‘‘Michael audience. The various roles of telling a story, directing, was a deep thinker and problem-solver,’’ as in another acting, and observing allowed children of all abilities to example where Michael stated, ‘‘There can be two contribute in his/her own way, and because it was an meglodans!’’ activity based on the children’s own stories, children val- Individual children in the classroom provided their ideas ued the collaborative experiences. throughout the activity that children later used and built on. The following are examples from the videos where chil- Group Membership dren’s individual strengths were copied and appreciated by classmates: Learning from one another’s unique ideas and strengths Caleb showed great enthusiasm and exaggeration in allows for a greater respect for each person in the class- acting out his stories. Caleb’s stories often contained room, leading to an atmosphere of community (Copple and monsters, velociraptors, and other kinds of dinosaurs. Bredekamp 2009). The children learned to be accountable Each time Caleb stood up to have his story read aloud to one another and responsible for their actions during the he would step into character. For example, entering drama activity they were ‘‘in charge of.’’ Valuing other’s the stage area as a dinosaur, Caleb hunched over, ideas, contributing stories, and feeling that one’s own ideas whipped his head back, held up his ‘‘claws,’’ snarled were valued among peers develops a sense of belonging. his teeth, and stomped over to the teacher. Caleb There were numerous examples that emerged from the modeled new and unique ideas to his classmates videotapes, providing evidence of children valuing each through his imaginative acting and ability to verbal- other’s ideas, being accountable to one another, and having ize directions in acting, which other children were a sense of responsibility to the group. later observed using in the activity. One way children expressed that they valued other’s ideas was by adopting peer strategies and ideas as their Anna was a child who the teacher described as being own. Children observed and learned to experiment with very shy and reserved during whole group activities, peer strategies in being selected as a character, choosing but she became more comfortable with time. In the characters, or acting out the stories. Including other chil- first video recorded and observed, Anna was the first dren’s strategies into their own repertoire provided evi- child to tell a story and have it acted out. As she dence that the children in the classroom valued peers’ ideas selected classmates from the audience, she slowly and often built on those ideas or changed them slightly to walked around the edge of the circle with her finger reach their goal. Children with more advanced social skills on her chin, contemplating whom to pick. She was modeled effective strategies for being selected to partici- thoughtful and deliberate in whom she picked and pate, such as following teacher suggestions to raise their seemed to be savoring the power of the storyteller. 123 204 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 Her method of selecting classmates can be seen later at a different developmental level socially and verbally being utilized by other children: circling and think- than the other children. ing, prolonging the privilege of selecting the actors Success in social interaction, relationships, and leader- and leading the group. ship occurred in the storytelling activity for other children that had trouble at other times in the classroom experience The activity provided each child with the opportunity to as illustrated below: utilize their strengths, feel competent in their abilities and then, in turn, feel a valued member of the group. Children The teacher described Michael as very intense, hav- in the classroom became members of a group by observing, ing difficulty following rules and liking things a experimenting, and utilizing strategies of other peers. The certain way. There were times in the storytelling children observed the ideas and strategies of their peers and drama activity and in the classroom when Michael incorporated them. had difficulty regulating his emotions, and he became very angry. However, there were also many moments Inclusion when Michael was successful in the storytelling drama activity. According to the teacher, stories were Although the class consisted of a fairly homogenous group acted out in the order told at learning centers, with of children in terms of race and ethnicity, the class was a Michael’s story usually first. This provided evidence mixed age group with great developmental diversity. of his enthusiasm for the activity. Michael was fre- Children of differing abilities and on various levels of the quently chosen by his classmates to be in their stories developmental spectrum participated in the storytelling and classmates enthusiastically volunteered to be in drama activity. Because this activity was child-centered his stories as well. Michael would often add a sense and followed children’s interests, it was effective with of humor to his acting, which his classmates valued children at various individual ability levels (Paley 1990). through joining in laughter or smiling at his actions. Participation allowed peers to view children with devel- This positive reaction to Michael’s stories, acting, opmental delays and challenges in a positive light and and volunteering placed him in a new light with his focused on individual strengths. Below are four specific peers and provided him with a positive experience in examples of children who participated and were included the classroom community. in the drama activity at their own ability level: Michael was not the only child with social challenges to David was a 4 year-old boy with language delays who be seen in a positive light by his peers in the classroom. told stories by listing objects and characters, often a Adam also developed new leadership skills, social inter- characteristic of younger children’s stories. Class- action skills, and an ability to express his interest in the mates volunteered to act in his stories even though activity over time in this example: David told very simple stories. His classmates showed Adam had delayed social and language skills, yet he that they valued his ideas and as the year went on, was also able to participate successfully in the David’s stories became more complex after hearing activity over time. Throughout the storytelling drama and observing other classmates’ stories. As the year activity, Adam was often quiet and not verbal with went on David increased his leadership skills by his peers. Socially, he did not engage with his peers directing the other children in his story. By March he in the circle and took longer than his peers to imitate selected children and guided them to the stage by strategies in being selected to act. To show that he leading them with his hand on their backs or pointing to wanted to participate in the acting, he would often the position he would like for them to be on stage. Other stand up, or repeat part of the story aloud. On the first children also showed they valued David’s contribu- day of storytelling dramas, Adam stood up in the tions by selecting him to participate in their stories, Lee center of the stage. The teacher asked if he would like stated, ‘‘Hum, I’ll pick David’’. At another time, Bryan to be the frog and he nodded yes. He then went to join selected David to be in his story to be the devil char- his peers on stage. By March, Adam began to ver- acter. As David was getting up to join the other actors, bally express his interest in acting. After a story about he tripped on the carpet. Bryan, asked, ‘‘Are you OK?’’ Scooby Doo was read aloud, Adam began to sing the and David nodded his head, yes. Scooby Doo theme song aloud, expressing his interest These examples provided evidence that his classmates in the story. Over time he learned to request to be a valued his contributions to the group, and they showed character, like many of the other children, ‘‘I wanna compassion and empathy toward David, despite his being be Scooby Doo.’’ 123 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 205 Regardless of developmental level, all the children were bonding over this experience, and creating a community able to successfully participate in the drama activity. The through the shared emotional experience of humor, fright, teacher reflected on the fact that over time, children began shock, or sadness. In the first video, Kelly told a story about to select children to be in their stories that they may not her mother being ‘‘smashed’’ by a car. When the story was have otherwise chosen to play with in the regular routine of first read aloud, children had no reaction to this portion of the classroom. the story. However, once children were acting the story out, As mentioned in the participation section, children several children reacted to the idea of the mother being engaged in roles of the opposite gender, but it is also smashed by a car with gasps, moans, and ‘‘oh no!’’ The important to note the pattern of inclusiveness in terms of mother character was one that most of the children could gender. The observed classroom had more boys than girls, relate to, and it was obvious by the shared emotional but they had equal participation and leadership as story- reaction of the audience members. The mother came back tellers and actors. Although all girls in the class were to life in the story and the children did not show any out- engaged in the activity, it may surprise early childhood ward signs of distress. As discussed in a previous paper professionals and teachers to hear of boys’ intense interest (Bacigalupa and Wright 2009) the aggressive stories told in this storytelling and drama activity. Eleven of the 13 by the children in our sample tended to be fantasy based, boys in the class told stories or acted in a classmate’s story which is consistent with the idea that storytelling may throughout the year. This activity provided boys with an provide children with a safe place to play with ideas that appropriate place and time to experience pretend play concern or frighten them. Only 7 % of the stories in the themes such as fighting and killing that some teachers may present sample contained aggression without an element of shy away from in the classroom due to a fear of escalating fantasy (Bacigalupa and Wright 2009). In analyzing the inappropriate or aggressive behavior. The teacher noted content of the stories, the researchers previously noted that that allowing the children to engage in these pretend in many cases the primary purpose of the aggression was to aggressive dramas did not increase aggressive behavior in provide excitement and emotional reactions such as the her classroom. Stories that included aggressive topics or example above. The sharing of strong emotions has the actions allowed boys, who may otherwise be excluded, an potential to build community relationships and the dramas opportunity to express ideas they were interested in and be can help children learn emotion regulation strategies that accepted by their peers and teachers. are important components to community building (Nico- Storytelling dramas provided children with the oppor- lopoulou et al. 2010). tunity to learn about their individual abilities, learn about Over time children enhanced the humorous aspect of peers in the classroom, appreciate differences and unique their storytelling. This routine allowed children to gain a ideas of others, and broaden their awareness of belonging sense of belonging or membership between their peers and to the group of children. was a part of the children’s culture that adults do not always understand (Erwin and Guintini 2000). At times, when the children were laughing and giggling, teachers Relationship Building would hush or remind children to be quiet. This provided evidence that the teachers did not always recognize the Children share in meaningful experiences and show importance of shared joy and laughter, and that storytelling appreciation for each other’s stories through the emotional dramas provided an opportunity for children to form their elements of storytelling (Child Care Collection 1999; own sense of shared experience. One child created a silly Nicolopoulou et al. 2010; Paley 1990). As children par- topic that the children routinely included in their stories ticipated in the storytelling drama activity there was and they continued to find it amusing. The following story unnoticed communication between children, which at first was one of the first of many stories written about ‘‘talking glance was easily overlooked by teachers and adults. and walking heads’’: Closer observations revealed the little actions and moments that connected the children to one another and their stories. Colin told the first story containing characters such as Although the teachers tried to connect the audience to the walking or talking heads and eyeballs. The student plays by clapping at the end of each story, children had teacher assisted children in preparing them for the their own way of showing they appreciated and enjoyed funny story, ‘‘Guys, this is such a funny story! You watching their classmates. These included emotional dis- are going to want to listen very carefully, ok? plays of laughter, sighs, gasps, or excited discussion with Ready?’’ Immediately children began to giggle and their peers. At times adults perceived this laughter, talk, or laugh at the story told by Colin, with Colin beaming ‘‘noise’’ as interruption or disrespect for the peers per- in the background. After the story was read aloud, it forming. However, on closer look, the children were was time to select the characters, such as ‘‘walking 123 206 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 head’’ and ‘‘eyeball’’. Children immediately and nodded his head in agreement with Eric and whis- excitedly raised their hands, got up on their knees pered, ‘‘OK, in a minute,’’ pointing to Eric. waving arms and said, ‘‘me, me, me’’ (a strategy Both of these examples provided evidence that the often used by children to be selected over the entire children gave forethought to who would be in their stories year, even though the student teacher attempted to get and reflected the relationships they built with peers in the them to quietly raise their hands without success). classroom. Nine children volunteered enthusiastically to be the Building consistent, positive and caring relationships is Walking Head, and Eric was chosen. Once chosen, a foundation for developing a classroom community many of the children were already in character and (Copple and Bredekamp 2009). Through the storytelling practicing their movements. The children acted out drama activity, these children shared in meaningful expe- the humorous story in an amusing fashion by making rience, enjoyed humor, and worked together to accomplish faces, crawling in funny ways, and bouncing here and a task (Child Care Collection 1999; Paley 1990). Children there like a walking head or eyeball. The audience also learned about emotions, about expressing emotion, giggled and laughed at the actors and at each other as conveying empathy and ideas to others, and taking on the they shared in this moment of pure child-initiated perspective of their peers through telling and acting out enjoyment, creating a sense of community. their stories. The children in this classroom built relation- Children displayed appreciation through simple actions ships with others through these shared experiences and such as a touch or pat on the back, a smile or laugh, which learning opportunities during group dramatization of their provided evidence of their emotional connection to each original stories. other and the story, and provided evidence of building relationships in the classroom community. Stories were sometimes written with friends and class- Discussion mates as characters in a story. Storytelling and drama provided the children with opportunities to express to one Storytelling and drama have been used in early childhood another their feelings and relationships with each other. classrooms for many years and in various forms in order to enhance early literacy skills, communication, emotional In one of his first stories of many about firefighters, regulation, symbolic representation, and social interaction Lee included several of his classmates in the story. (Curenton 2006; Dyson 1994, 2008, Genishi and Dyson The teacher read, ‘‘Lee and Anna and Rachel and 2009; Libby and Aries 1989; Nicolopoulou and Richner Sam were in the road and the fire truck smashed 2007; McGrath et al. 2004; Tallant 1992; Paley 1981, 1990; them.’’ In the audience Rachel smiled at Ali next to Rothman 2006; Wang and Leichtman 2000). Vivian Paley her, who giggled, both pleased that Rachel was specifically focused on allowing children to tell and act out included in Lee’s story. Rachel then volunteered to be their own stories in her kindergarten classroom (Child Care herself by waving her hand in the air and bouncing up Collection 1999; Paley 1981, 1990). The storytelling drama and down. activity, done for an age appropriate length of time and as The ‘‘smashing’’ theme was an attempt to be humorous an option to children in the classroom, provides a unique and indeed the children exhibited behaviors that showed time during the classroom day where children come toge- they found it funny. They laughed, clapped and patted one ther as a group to build relationships, participate and col- another on the back demonstrating that the ‘‘harm’’ in the laborate, and value each individual’s strengths to develop a story didn’t appear to upset them. Story themes and ideas sense of belonging to a community (Paley 1981, 1990). were repeated if the audience laughed or had a strong Storytelling drama incorporates the pretend play that chil- reaction to a story theme. dren thrive on, but yet includes the ideas, participation, and Other times the storyteller would motion or whisper to a cooperation of the class as a whole group—all of which are classmate in the audience about being in his/her story, important components to community building (Copple and showing that they already had an idea of who they wanted Bredekamp 2009; DeVries et al. 2002; Epstein 2009). to be in their story. Sam wrote a story about Transformers. Before the Implications for Practice story was read aloud he stated, ‘‘I wanna be Optimus Prime. Colin is in mine!’’ Sam, Colin and Eric con- Insights were gained about the teacher’s role in the story- tinued to have a conversation about who wanted to telling dramas through both systematic observation of the play which character. As the teacher read about bad videos and discussions with the lead teacher. Important guys, Eric stated, ‘‘I wanna be the bad guy.’’ Sam lessons were learned from this preschool storytelling 123 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 207 experience that could be used in other early childhood contribute to positive and constructive peer interactions classrooms. (Copple and Bredekamp 2009). Storytelling dramas pro- Guidance from the teacher, especially when first intro- vided opportunities for children to become familiar with ducing the activity, was crucial. The teacher provided others in the class and interact with children they would not important strategies for the children to use, such as raising normally initiate play within the class. Over the six-month hands to let others know they wanted to be in a story, period, children appeared to become more comfortable giving suggestions on how to act out the story, and pointing with one another, and the routine of the activity created a out children who were less skilled at making their presence safe activity where children shared ideas. known (who had not had a turn). Similarly, the NAEYC One issue of controversy is the aggression often found in position statement on developmentally appropriate practice young children’s storytelling and dramas. This issue has acknowledges the importance of the teacher’s role in been addressed in detail in another manuscript (Bacigalupa developing a caring community. This includes assisting and Wright 2009). There are two competing views children to develop responsibility, providing a safe envi- regarding this issue. One view is the developmental view ronment physically and psychologically, ensuring children that portrays aggressive play as a vehicle for children to find enjoyment in learning, and valuing children’s contri- explore, master, and diffuse strong emotions and the butions (Copple and Bredekamp 2009). competing sociopolitical view is that aggression is not to be Although children should feel that the teacher values tolerated because it reinforces unacceptable behavior their ideas and suggestions, it is just as important for them (Levin and Carlsson-Paige 2006). Although this debate is to be valued by their peers in order to build a sense of beyond the scope of this paper, we encourage teachers to safety, belonging, and membership within the whole group. be more tolerant of aggressive ideas that children want to Storytelling dramas provided children with the opportunity explore through their storytelling and dramas. We see to hear, see, and talk about each other’s experiences and storytelling and drama as a healthy and positive means of ideas, while becoming familiar with peers in the classroom. exploring negative emotions that make many early child- The activity also provided children with various levels of hood professionals uncomfortable. This research project social skills, including the opportunity to participate in an provided evidence that young children are fascinated with activity that engaged them with the whole classroom group. and enjoy telling stories that contain strong emotions, and The drama activity, guided by the teacher, gave positive this can be a strategy to bond with other children in cre- reinforcement to young children that were susceptible to ating a common community. The children in our study peer rejection due to less effective social interaction skills demonstrated an amazing amount of self-control when (Gomes and Livesey 2008). These children had the acting out aggression in their stories. For example, they opportunity to be seen positively by their peers. This were able to engage in pretend superhero fighting and activity provided positive reinforcement and joint positive could follow the ‘‘no touching’’ rule to create a safe and play experiences within the group, as well as opportunities secure learning environment. And although this research to observe peers with more advanced social interaction project did not focus on themes, our previous analysis of skills. These social building experiences may impact social storytelling content revealed that stories often contained status and organization in the group (Hartup et al. 1967; aggressive elements. Can the expression of negative emo- Roopnarine and Adams 1987; Vaughn and Waters 1981). tions build community? Our research supports the notion Children who were storytellers were also given the that children can handle negative emotions through a sto- opportunity to be valued as leaders, regardless of their rytelling outlet and in fact may need activities that allow social skills or status within the group. Time spent near a for the range of emotional expressions for both genders. teacher in the classroom, as when the author of a story was When building community in an early childhood class- next to teacher during dramas, may promote visibility by room it can be a challenge for the teacher to bring both peers, positive experiences for these children, and possibly boys and girls together in an activity of interest and peer acceptance (Hartup et al. 1967; Vaughn and Waters engagement. As children reach the age of 4 and 5 years, 1981). As children become more familiar with one another, they begin to segregate their playgroups by gender (Barbu they feel more secure and accepted by their peers, leading 2003; Hartup 1983; Johnson et al. 1997). When developing to more cooperation within the group (Epstein 2009). As activities and fostering community in the classroom, not children collaborated and contributed to the classroom only is it best practice to meet individual developmental group during storytelling dramas, children can possibly feel needs, but teachers must also remember the importance of validated, competent and important as individuals within meeting the unique needs of boys, including the need for the group (Black 1992; Epstein 2009; Paley 1990). This ‘active and whole body play’ (Bredekamp 2011). Boys activity has the potential for children to be valued by both were active and frequent participants in this activity. their teachers and peers through telling stories, and could Children appeared to become comfortable, over time, with 123 208 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 acting in roles traditionally labeled for the opposite gender. children’s cues, scaffolding, and co-construction of the The activity also provided opportunities to foster boys’ children’s knowledge (Bredekamp 2011; DeVries et al. awareness and attention to social cues and responsiveness. 2002). Further research could focus on the dynamic Storytelling provided both genders the opportunity to between teacher guidance and children as leaders in the observe each other’s play strategies and to experience each activity. Vivian Paley placed a strong emphasis on taking other’s play topics (Black 1992). The interest of both boys turns, equality, and avoiding favoritism in the drama and girls in the storytelling drama activity allowed for them activity (Cooper 2009; Paley 1990). Focus on the role to experiment with new roles and play themes in a safe selection process allows for observation of group dynamics context. and community formation since teachers observe chil- Lastly, it is important for teachers to recognize that dren’s peer character selection (Dyson 2008; Rothman allowing enough time for the activity can impact commu- 2006). nity building. Children need time to contribute new ideas, It is also important for teachers to recognize moments problem solve, and negotiate roles. These skills are when children work together and draw attention to the necessary for working cooperatively in a group, and the importance of collaboration (Epstein 2009). These activi- teacher must allot enough time for each child’s story and ties are a time to share, build relationships, and learn from drama. Paley stated, ‘‘stories that are not acted out are other peers (Copple and Bredekamp 2009; Vygotsky 1933, fleeting dreams: private fantasies, disconnected and unex- 1978). Many of the skills required of children to develop a amined. If in the press of a busy day I am tempted to sense of community are fostered through child-led, peer shorten the process by only reading the stories aloud and group interactions and pretend play (Black 1992; Copple skipping the dramas, the children object. They say, ‘but we and Bredekamp 2009; DeVries et al. 2002; Epstein 2009; have not done the story yet!’’’ (Paley 1990). Sufficient time Piaget and Inhelder 1969). Learning to listen to others, is needed for each story to be led by the children with negotiating and problem solving, self-regulating emotions attention to the children’s pace and necessary ‘‘wait time’’ and actions, leading others, and contributing ideas are skills in decision-making. necessary to group dynamics and interacting with others The important role of the teacher in storytelling dramas throughout life (Battistich et al. 1997; Epstein 2009; Nic- is to be a facilitator and lay the foundation for the children olopoulou 1997). Storytelling provided opportunities for to be able to participate, feel they are in a safe environment the children observed in this study to develop and foster to contribute ideas, become included members of the many of these individual skills and feel competent in the group, and build relationships. Teachers may also be con- skills, which, over time, can create a sense of belonging to cerned with implementing this activity in the classroom, the larger class group. We documented a growth in com- while at the same time meeting educational standards. The munity building overtime where children included students storytelling drama activity meets the criteria of intentional in their dramas who were not part of their regular friend- teaching practices (meeting child development goals) while ship circles. The dramas provided a platform for children to also being a meaningful, child-led activity with strong links be more inclusive in this play activity. Future research to literacy and language development. Within this activity could document the generalization of this inclusion to other there were many times the teacher assisted the children play settings. with engaging in appropriate behavior, self-regulation, and learning to respect others, as provided in previous exam- Strengths and Limitations of Study ples. It is also important to note, there were times when the teachers missed children’s cues, ideas, and moments when As with every research study there were some limitations children were gaining developmental objectives in their to this project. First, this study involved videotapes of own time and in their own ways. As one assistant teacher children, rather than direct observation in real time. stated, ‘‘Oh you should have been here yesterday. The Although this approach provided consistency over time in children were soooo good! They all sat and listened and observing and making interpretations without participatory were quiet, and didn’t even do the ‘‘me, me, me’’ thing!’’ bias, this study did not contain the deep understanding of This statement provided evidence that, although, the the classroom community a qualitative researcher that is in activity should be filled with problem solving, negotiation the field would understand from observing in the classroom of roles and discussion, the teacher valued following (Charmaz 2006; Geertz 1973; Gaure and Walsh 1998). directions and self-regulation skills over some of the Further research involving observing children over time in growth that could happen when some of the leadership is various classroom activities, including storytelling and released to the children. Teachers can use best teaching dramas, would provide additional information about the practices in whole group activities in order to promote impact of these activities on community and group inter- learning and developmental goals through attention to actions. Additionally, the teacher interview occurred one 123 Early Childhood Educ J (2013) 41:197–210 209 year after the storytelling dramas took place and her recall Battistich, V., Solomon, D., Watson, M., & Schaps, E. (1997). Caring of these events could have been inaccurate. school communities. Educational Psychologist, 32(3), 137–151. Berg, B. (2004). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences. This study describes the experience of children in a Boston: Pearson Education. specific classroom. Different teachers, children, and con- Black, B. (1992). Negotiating social pretend play: Communication texts may elicit different peer interactions from young differences related to social status and sex. 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Guide to Vivian Paley and the boy who The descriptive nature of this study was useful to could tell stories. Muncie: Ball State University. Coie, J. D., Dodge, K. A., & Kupersmidt, J. B. (1990). Peer group addressing the question of, ‘‘how does the process of sto- behavior and social status. In S. R. Asher & J. D. Coie (Eds.), rytelling dramas influence group social interaction and Peer rejection in childhood (pp. 17–59). Cambridge, MA: community dynamics?’’ Interpretive science provides Cambridge University Press. teachers and practitioners with descriptive examples that Cooper, P. (2009). The classrooms all young children need: Lessons in teaching from Vivian Paley. Chicago: The University of can be related and applied to their classrooms. Chicago Press. Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (2009). NAEYC position statement: Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood pro- Conclusion grams serving children birth through age 8. In C. Copple & S. Bredekamp (Eds.), Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs (pp. 1–31). Washington, DC: National Storytelling dramas can enhance cognitive, language and Association for the Education of Young Children. literacy skills; equally important are the social and emo- Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1987). Basics of qualitative research: tional skills developed that lead to children building rela- Grounded theory procedures and techniques. London: Sage. Curenton, S. (2006). Oral storytelling: A cultural art that promotes tionships, membership and belonging as a community school readiness. Young Children, 61(5), 78–87. (Nicolopoulou and Cole 2010). The activity is meaningful Darling, L. D., & Groth, L. A. (2001). Playing inside stories. In A. to children and focuses on children’s ideas, stories, and Goncu & E. L. Klein (Eds.), Children in play, story and school experiences. Storytelling dramas provide opportunities for (pp. 220–237). New York: Guilford Press. 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