Written by Marcie Follett, Trinus´ Early Childhood teacher
Starting with simple stories in Early Childhood children hear many stories through the years: fairy tales,folktales,fables, myths, legends and stories from history, spoken aloud by the teachers and transmitted heart to heart.
Storytelling helps develop speech. By being aware of one’s speech when telling a story, adults are modeling clear speech, building a child’s vocabulary and helping them develop language skills. The ability to understand speech comes before reading and writing, so we are exposing children to rich language before grade school.
A morning in a Waldorf Early Childhood almost always includes a story, which may either be told or presented as a puppet play- usually a nature story, a fairy tale or a folk tale. Stories are told by the teacher “by heart” rather than told by memory because Waldorf Teachers aim to tell stories with love from the heart. Of course, a teacher memorizes the story but once it is committed to memory it allows the teacher freedom to make the story their own and to tell the story with joy. It is common for Waldorf Teachers to tell Grimms fairy tales. When these stories are told the teachers don´t “dumb-down the original language”. Through the rich language of fairy tales, children are building their vocabulary. Compared to mainstream school students, Waldorf Students typically have a more expansive vocabulary.
What is important to know is that a child will only imagine a picture in his mind that’s as scary as he can handle. For example: if we tell the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff a three year old might imagine a troll that’s not much more than a blob, where a six year old might imagine a hairy, ugly troll with big teeth and ears. A Waldorf teacher will tell a fairy tale to young children with a gentle, pleasant voice, without over-dramatization. Again this leaves the child’s imagination free to picture the story to be as scary or as benign as he can handle.