Theses Doctoral

Speak, Memory: Oral Storytelling in the High School Classroom

Gentry, Christine

Student stories are a potentially rich natural resource running through the veins of our schools, but this resource sometimes goes untapped. One strategy teachers can use to take advantage of this resource is to formally introduce oral storytelling into the classroom--to explicitly teach students how to choose and craft stories from their lives and then allow them to publicly perform those stories. The Story Shop Community Education Program (a pseudonym) in New York City is a non-profit devoted to bringing the art and craft of oral storytelling to populations that might not otherwise have access to it through series of free workshops.
This research project took place over sixteen weeks of one such workshop at a Title I public high school in East New York, Brooklyn. It addresses the following question: How does an oral storytelling unit affect both individual students and their classroom relationships? More specifically, (1) How do individual students engage with an oral storytelling unit? (2) What is the perceived impact of an oral storytelling unit on classroom relationships? (3) How do students perceive the impact of an oral storytelling unit both on their understanding of themselves as individuals and on their relationships with each other? and (4) How does the teacher perceive the impact of an oral storytelling unit on her individual students and her classroom relationships?
Drawing on an interpretivist/social network approach and grounded in the tenets of narrative qualitative research, this project utilizes mixed methods to investigate whether an oral storytelling unit provided students with opportunities for growth in identity development and deepening of their classroom relationships. This investigation documents how granting students the time and space to bear witness to each other's lives and `go public' with stories that could otherwise go unheard might improve classroom community and therefore student motivation.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Vinz, Ruth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014