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Chatteris uses stories to support our students learning
11 Mar 2020

Learning English Through Storytelling

Chatteris’ own Aarohi Narain discusses the Story Writing Competition, an initiative to support our primary school students learn English through storytelling

A few months ago, the Chatteris Educational Foundation held a story writing competition for tutors. Tutors crafted short, moral stories that shared elements of their culture with primary school children.

“The beauty of Chatteris is that we have tutors from all around the world, which allows the students to experience cultures that they might not be able to experience otherwise,” says Chloe, a judge in the competition.

And sure enough, the simple prompt – to write a moral story appropriate for young children – yielded tales with varied themes and set in colourful contexts. Each story is deeply inflected by the cultural backgrounds and experiences of global tutors.

While some submissions uncovered life lessons in treasured childhood memories, others, like mine, sprung forth from a desire to shift dominant cultural narratives.

“The main lesson weaving through my story is not to be disappointed when life doesn’t give you what you expect: to always look for the bright side and see the beauty in life. I chose to tackle this theme because it has been the biggest lesson I’ve learned in life and I think at some point we are all faced with this dilemma and need to appreciate the things that are great,” says Elly, a tutor and competitor in the competition. “My story involves a lot of personal references and symbolises things that are important in my life such as family, home, learning, being unique, as well as old childhood memories that I cherish.”

Chatteris uses stories to support our students learning
Chatteris uses stories to support our students learning | Image by Chatteris

Meanwhile, I chose to tackle the theme of cultural diversity. In my experiences as a tutor and through living in Hong Kong, I’ve noticed that there’s often a lot of fear, lack of awareness, and misinformation regarding marginalised populations – as is the case elsewhere in the world. 

Because I truly believe in the transformative power of narrative, I am eager to do my part in interrogating and eliminating discriminatory attitudes as an educator, and South Asian woman navigating the complex cultural space of Hong Kong. My story, I hope, is a step in that direction.

All three of us agree that stories carry immense potential – the power to shape young minds. “Stories can expand young children’s minds in so many ways,” says Chloe, noting how stories can not only help improve vocabulary, model sentence structure, and introduce writing styles, but also reveal new places, perspectives, and realities.

Stories are how we make sense of the world, so the kinds of stories we encounter shape us as people on a fundamental level. I hope my story gives young students the space and time to rethink ideas regarding people different from them. Sometimes engaging with multiculturalism, recognising one’s own prejudices, and identifying their wide-ranging political stakes, is difficult and painful, but I want to encourage young children to think critically, and apprehend the world in its fullness – as a place made better by diverse identities and experiences, and enlivened by our collective capacity to imagine, and create equitable futures.

“We all face challenges in life and I believe teaching children these key life lessons through simpler texts is really powerful. I hope that my stories and illustrations will remind children about the importance of their development in becoming members of a community, of being young and having fun… that children will be inspired to travel and see as much of the world as they can.”

“After all,” Elly asserts, “the world is the biggest and best classroom for anyone to learn from.”

Eager to help young people learn through storytelling like Aarohi? Click here to find out how you can join us as a tutor.

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