Origami Storytelling in Elementary School Education – Language and Problem Solving Benefits Reviewed

Melissa M. Taylor

Storytelling in elementary schools improves children’s language skills by providing students with a valuable opportunity to practice auditory comprehension, a vital component of early childhood education. The ability to understand spoken language involves so much more than simply hearing words and figuring out what the speaker intends the words to mean. Nonverbal cues of vocal pitch, tempo, and tonality are essential in effective communication. In face-to-face interactions, the additional nonverbal elements of body language, gestures, and facial expressions form up to 80% of expressive language. But how, in our multitasking, screen-dominant learning environments, can teachers capture and hold the attention of their distraction-prone students?

Why not try using the Japanese paper folding art of origami to help focus students’ attention during language arts activities? When an unexpected curiosity like origami is added to a storytelling presentation, the educational benefits for elementary school students are increased. Origami models and other interesting objects add visual stimulation and grab attention, so that young learners are focused and motivated to pay closer attention. Another advantage to adding origami to stories is that origami is created one step at a time. As a story progresses scene by scene, an origami model can also be constructed, fold by fold. When the story ends, the origami model is also created. This specialized storytelling technique is called Storigami. Storytelling + Origami = Storigami.

Watching and listening to stories illustrated by the progressive folds of origami models enables students to imagine the visual details of the scenes and characters described by the words, but also gives students experience with analyzing the symbolic representations of the paper shapes and folds that are paired with story characters or actions. The ability to understand how the shapes relate to the story and then imagine possible outcomes are key elements of successful problem solving, one of the most important goals of elementary education.

How can teachers and other educators learn how to use Storigami to build problem solving and language arts skills in their elementary school classrooms? Fortunately a Mid-Western educational publisher, Storytime Ink International, has published several collections of origami stories, such as Nature Fold-Along Stories: Quick and Easy Origami Tales About Plants and Animals. This book and other fold-along storybooks describe how to use the technique, step by step. The Storigami books are available in most public libraries and from several online sources, including http://Amazon.com/ and http://Storytimeink.com/

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