This article has been published in Enabling Education Review 5
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The role of storytelling in inclusive education in Palestine

Abeer Issa Thaher and Ayman Qwaider

The Tamer Institute for Community Education, a non-profit organisation which develops locally-appropriate pedagogy, was established in 1989 and operates across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It promotes a learning atmosphere which develops each child’s ability to think, analyse and be creative. It wants to develop personal capacities, not just measure academic achievement. In this article, Abeer and Ayman explain the use of storytelling as a key tool in the development of inclusive education.

The Tamer Institute’s ‘Safe and Inclusive Education Opportunities’ project promotes inclusive education among parents, teachers and children. Inclusive education means every child has the ability to learn. We believe that we should not compare people through assessment, or by screening them into classes based on academic attainment.

School libraries
The Tamer Institute runs workshops in schools and libraries, and awareness-raising initiatives in communities. We focus on the role of the school library in creating an educational shift in schools. A library plays a key role in motivating children to read and write, so we have encouraged the creation of a reading club in each school library with which we work.

The Tamer Institute has teams responsible for different aspects of storytelling. They include folk performers, artists, a drama team, a book discussion team, a storyteller and a poetry reciter. We hold sessions at school libraries every month in which we tell and discuss stories, choose songs, and rehearse theatre roles.

Through these activities we attempt to find a ‘hook’; something that children like about school. We emphasise this as a reason for children to come to school and learn, offering activities which engage their auditory, visual and sensory memories.

Stories have the ability to change and develop: they offer natural ways of thinking and learning through connections with the surrounding environment. Stories can help children become more prepared for the situations they face in real life.

A storyteller uses gestures and moves, and changes his/her voice to make the story easier to understand and remember. This method is especially useful for children who need extra help to understand. It also creates a bridge between teacher and child, encouraging enjoyment and active engagement.

Library storytelling sessions promote analytical communication, encourage discussion of controversial issues, and develop children’s skills for persuasion and justification. Stories are chosen to stimulate discussions about inclusive education, equality and acceptance of others.

Sitting a child who has lots of energy at a desk for long hours can feel confining. Drama engages both teachers and students in lessons that are a ‘living environment’. Drama is a useful, active tool in education, but traditionally teachers have only made limited space for it in the curriculum.

Using participatory approaches, we train teachers how to develop stories and expression through writing plays, and using drama across the curriculum. These plays promote inclusive values. The training helps teachers expand their understanding of how they can strengthen children’s learning and participation.

Working with parents
We also use storytelling approaches in community awareness sessions, where we build parents’ understanding of inclusive education and the importance of engaging actively in their children’s education. Through narrative and storytelling approaches, we explain the concept of inclusive education and how it relates to children’s learning difficulties and behaviour.

These sessions with parents give them space for imagination, creativity and discovery. This in turn improves their ability to make decisions in the community about education and inclusion.

Abeer Issa Thaher is Education Officer at the Tamer Institute.

Ayman Qwaider is a consultant for EENET.