- Middle School
You might have done a double-take if you passed Natalie Beals’ Grade 7 Language Arts class earlier this week. All around the classroom, students could be seen facing the walls, talking and gesticulating to themselves.
But, Ms. Beals assures us, it’s all a normal part of the folktales and storytelling mini-unit that students are currently working on.
“Facing the walls helps students focus on their delivery without feeling self-conscious about others watching them. The wall can’t judge you if you try out a funny action or voice,” she adds with the knowing smile of someone accustomed to working with middle-schoolers.
The mini-unit on folktales and storytelling centers on legacy, as later this semester, students will have a substantial writing unit where they will focus on a global issue that they would like to see changed in their lifetime. Before students jump into a discussion of the legacy they want to leave, however, they’re thinking about the legacies that have been left to them.
Kicking off the mini-unit, students begin by researching their own culture's myths and folktales, selecting a story from their cultural heritage that resonates with them. Charting out the story's main events, they are free to embellish the details - that’s how folktales develop over time.
Students practice identifying cultural values in their stories, which teaches them how to identify themes in literature, one of the standards on which they will be graded. This mini-unit also helps them develop the SSIS Core Values of Sense of Self and Respect for All.
To spur their creativity and ideas on engaging their audience, students have watched an award-winning middle school storyteller to see how voice changes, body posture, and miming can enhance a story.
So, next time you pass a Grade 7 classroom where students are facing the wall, talking to themselves, you probably look at it differently, knowing that it is just another step in creating confident, globally-minded leaders of tomorrow.
Thank you to Ms. Natalie Beals for her collaboration on this story.