Storytelling is one of the popular forms of learning in elementary schools all over the world. In Saudi Arabia, storytelling is an integral part of the syllabus for elementary school children. It is considered an important tool useful in improving the imagination of learners within the classroom.
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Its interactive nature makes it easy for the teachers to determine the capacity of individual learners. Recent studies have strongly suggested that storytelling is the best way through which learners can have a better understanding of vocabularies. According to Mansour and Shorman (2011), schools in Saudi Arabia are now using storytelling as a technique of teaching learners new words as a way of improving their mastery of the language.
It is important to conduct a research to determine if it true that storytelling techniques indeed improves one’s capacity to understand vocabulary. Language is a powerful tool not only in the field of education but also the normal life of an individual. Irrespective of the language that one is striving to learn, the most important process of understanding that language is by mastering its vocabulary.
For instance, one most have a basic understanding of basic vocabularies used in English or Arabic in order to communicate effectively in these two languages. It becomes even more critical if the language is used as a mode of communication when teaching other subjects. In this study, the researcher will be interested in investigating the effect of storytelling on vocabulary for elementary school students in Saudi Arabia schools.
Understanding the concept of storytelling
Story telling is one of the oldest forms of passing knowledge, advice, and cultural practices from one generation to another through the word of mouth that has remained popular to this generation. Sofi (2015) defines storytelling as “The interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination.”
This definition brings out fundamental aspects of storytelling that makes it easy to understand this concept. In this definition, storytelling is referred to as an art. It means that it requires some mastery to tell a good story. It requires some skills, just as those needed in other art disciplines to bring it out in its purest form.
Storytelling must be interactive. The audience must stay as active as the storyteller for the process to be a success. In this interactive art, the storyteller will be using words to create images that the listener must interpret in order to understand what is being talked about. Finally, the definition states that storytelling encourages imagination. Both the listener and the story teller must be very imaginative for a storytelling session to be successful.
The storyteller must use his imaginative skills to bring out a powerful story that will capture attention of the audience (Eckert & McConnell, 2013). His or her choice of words must be carefully selected to bring out the right image in the mid of the listener. On the other hand, the audience must be imaginative when listening to the story. He or she must have the capacity to create the events the narrator is talking about in his or her mind. The events must be live and must closely relate to what the narration is all about.
Storytelling still remains a popular concept in elementary schools all over the world. According to Mansour and Shorman (2011), the art of storytelling has been in existence for so many years and in almost all the communities around the world. It was and still remains one of the most popular forms of entertainment.
It was the primary source of fiction that is currently defining the field of entertainment both for children and adults in the modern society. Jacobs (2010) notes that storytelling in the modern society has become more popular in the entertainment sector than in education sector.
However, it is important to note that storytelling has been a critical component of learning process. In the olden days when reading and writing had not been invented, Jacobs (2010) says that the society relied heavily on storytelling as the only way of passing knowledge from one generation to another. It was a better tool compared to proverbs that needed abstract thinking to come out with proper meaning.
Impact of storytelling techniques on vocabulary learning
According to Soltani, Hamid, and Azizmalayeri (2015), learning English vocabulary is one of the most important aspects of learning the language, especially among English as second language learners. These learners on what they hear to understand the basic of this language and to be fluent in speaking it.
A research by Eckert and McConnell (2013) found out that learning of the vocabulary is one of the most challenging tasks for elementary school children who already have learnt their first language. Understanding the meanings of some vocabularies and how they can be applied in a sentence properly become challenging.
Some of them end up using the language in a wrong manner because they do not understand how to fit in the new word into their knowledge bank. For a person learning the language for the first time, especially at elementary level, learning of vocabulary is very important but challenging process.
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The best way of enabling elementary learners to understand the language is to come up with ways of enabling them to understand the vocabulary. Storytelling is one of the best ways of doing this. According to Soltani, Hamid, and Azizmalayeri (2015), storytelling enables learners to understand the meaning of new words in a practical context. Based on the way a given vocabulary is used in a sentence, a learner is able to deduce its meaning without necessarily going to the dictionary.
Storytelling promotes imaginative thinking among the learners. As Sofi (2015) says, learning of vocabulary requires some form of imagination. A learner can only deduce meaning of new words during storytelling if they have the flow of the story in their minds. This means that they must be imaginative enough not only to follow the story, but also get meanings of new words by closely relating it to the context under which it is used.
Elementary school children always find storytelling sessions very interesting (Soleimani & Akbar, 2013). They, therefore, properly concentrate during such sessions, improving their ability to learn new things. It is at such moments that they should be taught new vocabularies that will enrich their spoken and written English.
Saudi Arabia, like most of the other Arabic countries, uses Arabic language in most of the elementary schools as the basic mode of communication. Sofi (2015) says that Arabic is the official language that is popular among the locals. When they go to Madrassas, the language they use is Arabic.
They also learn to read and write for the first time using Arabic. This makes English language completely alien to them. Currently, some primary schools have started offering English as one of the primary subjects that a learner must take. However, a good number of the Saudi students are exposed to the language for the first time when they are in high school. They spend only four years learning the language before joining university where English language plays a very critical role in one’s own success.
Storytelling comes in as an important tool of learning the vocabulary because they have limited time to learn the language. Using dictionaries to improve their vocabulary is still important, but storytelling makes it possible for the learners to know so many things about the vocabulary.
It makes it possible for the learner to know its meaning, the context under which it should be used, its relevance in a sentence, and pronunciation. Under normal circumstances, it may take a while for a learner to have all these aspects of a vocabulary when using books. That is why the current curriculum emphasizes on storytelling among elementary school students (Soleimani & Akbar, 2013).
Research Questions and Hypotheses
When conducting a research, it is always important to come up with research questions that will help in guiding the process of collecting both primary and secondary data. The questions help the researcher to avoid collecting data which are not relevant to the study. In this study, the researcher had specific research questions that will define data collection process. The following is the main research question for the research project.
What is the effect of storytelling technique on vocabulary learning for elementary school students in Saudi Arabia schools?
The above research question will be supported by a number of other research questions. They include the following:
How often do elementary school teachers use storytelling technique to teach vocabulary?
How effective is storytelling technique when it comes to teaching vocabulary among elementary school students?
Based on these questions, the researcher developed the following open and explanatory hypotheses:
H1: Storytelling technique has a positive impact on vocabulary learning for elementary school students in Saudi Arabia schools.
H2: Teachers are using storytelling technique more often in teaching vocabulary.
H3: Storytelling is an effective way of teaching vocabulary among elementary school students.
The researcher will use primary data to address the research gaps that exists in the findings made from the literatures. Primary data will be collected from sampled participants. In total, there will be 60 students who will take part in this study. The first 30 students will be used as control group. The other thirty students will be the experimental group. The participants will be sampled from local elementary schools.
The two groups must be in the same class but different streams in order to enhance the validity of the study. Ensuring that the participants are in the same class was important because the learners were expected to have same capacities. The participants will be aged 12-14 years. Language teachers in the chosen classes will also take part in the study.
To facilitate this study, the researcher will use a number of instruments. The research will use questionnaires for the pretests and posttests do determine changes brought about by the storytelling session. The research will involve the use of videos and written materials about specific stories relevant to the learners. Videos will help in testing their listening skills while written materials will test their reading skills.
The researcher will identify a specific local school and seek for permission from the administrators and relevant teachers. The researcher will explain to them the relevance of this study. The language teachers in the classes identified for the study will be allowed to be present when the researcher will be using videos and written materials to tell stories to the learners. Before the test, both the control and experimental groups will be given pretest to determine their mastery of the vocabulary.
The researcher will use 6 lessons to subject the experimental group to stories meant to improve their vocabulary. After the 6 lessons, the researchers will once again be subjected to posttest to measure the effect of the independent variable (storytelling) on the dependent variable (vocabulary learning). Data will then be collected and appropriately analyzed.
Data collected will be analyzed quantitatively. The researcher will use the collected data to respond to the questions set above. The quantitative data analysis will involve simple mathematical tools such as excel spreadsheet to process the data and present the findings. The findings will be presented using tables, graphs, and charts for easy understanding of the information.
The researcher has reviewed literatures conducted under related topic in other countries, and from the facts presented it is possible to make some conclusions. It is anticipated that the study will confirm a close relationship between storytelling and improved vocabulary among elementary school students. The study will confirm that indeed storytelling technique has a positive impact on vocabulary learning for elementary school students in Saudi Arabia schools.
The researcher knows that during collection of data may be affected by a number of factors especially given that the process will involve engaging elementary school students aged 12-14. Some of the students may fail to take the experiment seriously. The control group may also fail to remain neutral because they may end up discussing with the experimental group what was shared with them in class. These two challenges may completely distort the data completely.
To avoid these problems, the researcher will promise the participants a reward by the end of the experiment to ensure that they remain focused and disciplined throughout the process. The researcher will also ensure that the control group does not have access to the materials used by the experimental group. The books and videos used will be unique and will be kept away from access by the students as soon as they have been used.
Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of disseminating knowledge to learners. It was used in the olden days when writing had not been discovered, and it is still in use today. Studies have shown that storytelling technique helps in learning of vocabulary among elementary school students. When the vocabulary is used in a story, it becomes easy for them to understand its meaning and the context under which they should be used. This enables them to master the language better. This study seeks to determine if this claim is true.
Eckert, P., & McConnell, S. (2013). Language and gender. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Jacobs, H. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Mansour, N., & Shorman. A. (2011). The effect of teacher’s storytelling aloud on the reading comprehension of Saudi elementary stage students. Journal of King Saud University 23(2), 69–76.
Sofi, L. (2015). Teaching English in Saudi Arabia Through the Use of Multimedia. Journal of Education 39(1), 1-91.
Soleimani, H., & Akbar, M. (2013).The Effect of Storytelling on Children’s Learning English Vocabulary: A Case in Iran. International Research Journal of Applied and Basic Sciences 5(1): 104-113.
Soltani, N., Hamid, H., & Azizmalayeri, F. (2015). The Effect of Pictorial Storytelling on the Development of Vocabulary Learning of Iranian EFL Primary Learners. International Journal of Educational Investigations 2(1) 239-248.