IV.1 - Introduction to theory

1.1       The folktale – definition and subtypes

The term ‘folktale’ covers a range of story types based on oral traditions around the world. Margarete Misch (2008) identifies several categories:

·         folktale – can include religious, imaginary and mythical elements, depicting sometimes everyday events

·         legends – describe the lives of people said to have accomplished extraordinary feats

·         myths – describe events in which supernatural beings are the protagonists, and explain origins. Fables are a subset of myths, populated by animals and providing a moral lesson

·         parables – stories with a moral lesson attributed to Jesus Christ

·         allegories – stories with a double meaning that have a moral or political message beneath the surface of the main story, eg Gulliver’s Travels

·         fairy tales – stories relating the adventures and fortunes of a hero or heroine, containing elements of magic.

1.2       The value of folktales in the classroom

There is a reason folktales endure across all cultures, and that has to do with their structure and plot, which have particular appeal to children:

[They] are involved easily in the story, they are identified with the characters and the situations that have been recounted, and as a result the story that is developed via the verbal speech, is transformed into experiential reality (Grammatas, n.d.)

Such engagement in the story, naturally promotes concentration among children, but also models creative thinking for them, and provides an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills.

Folktales can boost inclusion in the classroom. The fact that folktales are a part of all cultures, makes them a universal vehicle for learning. Any child can ask a family member to tell a story, or look one up online, and be able to bring that to the classroom. Immediately, all children are included in the lesson, and have something valuable to contribute.

In terms of language and communication skills development, folktales have an important role to play. Reading aloud has been found to have a number of language, literacy and cognitive benefits, both for children (Duursma, Augustyn, & Zuckerman, 2006), and adults (Hardach, 2020). For the diverse classroom, where a range of languages are present, there is an opportunity to promote literacy development in every child’s home language (L1). The benefits of this apply to bilingual pupils with L1 other than the dominant language of the classroom (eg Arabic), as well as to pupils whose L1 is the dominant language of the classroom.

Where bilingual children learn to read and write in their L1, this supports academic progress generally, as well as literacy learning in the dominant L2 (Branum-Martin, et al. 2010, Cobo-Lewis, et al. 2002, Thomas and Collier 2002, Kenner, et al. 2008). There is also evidence that bilingual pupils’ literacy engagement with their L1 supports general literacy learning of their peers, including dominant language monolinguals (Chin, Daysal and Imberman 2012).

In terms of the focus of DIVERSE – to promote inclusive education and the inclusion of newly arrived migrants – structured use of multiple languages in the classroom, including migrant children’s home languages. can contribute to important social and emotional outcomes, including:

·         self-esteem and emotional well-being (Bougie, Wright and Taylor 2003, Combs 2005)

·         respect for one’s home culture (Conteh 2007)

·         family cohesion (Wong-Fillmore 1991)

Such affective outcomes are further enhanced by encouraging parent-child interaction in the home language through stories (Costigan and Dokis 2006).