Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The art of storytelling brings learning to life for Lao pre-school children

Mr Savansay Kyong (25) practices storytelling to a group of pre-children in Ban Nalek Kindergarten.
He holds a colourful book in front of a group of expectant children in a classroom at Ban Nalek Kindergarten. The young man from a rural village of Saravan province looks nervous. Around him young children – mostly 6 or under – look at him, curiously waiting for the man’s next move. With a big smile, he raises his hands and says “Sabaidee” or hello and the room responds in kind with a warm welcome in friendly, eager voices, “Sabaidee teacher!”

The man is Mr Savansay Kyong or Ot (25). He is from the Lao Theung ethnic group and a village facilitator for Community Based School Readiness Centre “Learning through Play” in Ta Oi district of Saravan province. Today he is practicing how to tell stories to children as part of his training from the Ministry of Education and Sports. After greeting the children, he opens the storybook and starts telling the story using techniques he has learned.  Children are immediately excited by the colourful books, the tone and engaging manner of his storytelling. Nerves slowly melting away and Mr Ot starts to relax into his role.

“When I first arrived at this school and came into the classroom, I felt very nervous because I don’t know how to tell stories well,” Mr Ot says. “The children in this kindergarten look very different from the children in my village, they are not shy and are very active. Thanks to the beautiful storybooks and lesson plans I’m learning. I can attract children’s attention and get them to engage. Now I feel more confident to tell stories to children back in my home village”.

Ms Bin Bouddalavong holds up a My Village storybook
One of the other trainee facilitators attending the training is Ms Bin Bouddalavong (23) a fellow Lao Theung kindergarten teacher from the small village of Ban Pachoudone, also in Ta Oi district, Saravan province. “The training is very good. I’ve learned new techniques like how to prepare before telling the story, how my body language and tone and rhythm can be based on story’s content and how it can most effectively reach young children. I also received seven new storybooks. They’re all colourful with short and simple content. Good for both the children and teacher because it’s easy to understand” says Bin.

Mrs Viengkeo Phommachak 
According to Mrs Viengkeo Phommachak, Director of Early Childhood Education Division of the Ministry of Education and Spots, the new seven storybooks are very specific and purposely easy to understand. This is particularly necessary for young children from ethnic groups and those with learning impairments. The books are based on the TV series ‘My Village’ which UNICEF Lao PDR helped develop and create. It is a children’s Claymation series that debuted in 2013 and was a first-of-its-kind. Before My Village there were no TV shows for children in Laos.

Mrs Phommachak explained more about why the storytelling technique is so important, “the teachers still need advice and guidance on how best to tell a story to children. Our goal is for engaged children who want to come to school. To make as attractive to them as possible. We’ve focused on the techniques of storytelling. And I can say that after the real practice in a kindergarten, our participants today have done quite a good job.  We’re achieving our training goals and most of all encouraging our young teachers to go back to their communities and have fun with children using the new storybooks”.

The Community Based Readiness Centre initiative, “Learning through Play”, is supported by UNICEF Lao PDR.

Story and Photos: Tabongphet Phouthavong, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Lao PDR.

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