Audio stories kindle imagination

Issue: Volume 98, Number 14

Posted: 16 August 2019
Reference #: 1H9x1G

Two new audio products offer teachers access to read-aloud stories, which can help improve literacy by strengthening listening and reading comprehension and expanding vocabulary and grammar in an accessible and enjoyable way.

A review of I am Jellyfish on HeiListen was enjoyed by children from St Michael's School.

Storytime, Radio New Zealand’s online audiobook platform, features stories by New Zealand authors such as David Hill, Witi Ihimaera, Janice Marriott and Joy Cowley. When the audiobook platform was being developed, teachers said they wanted a resource that would encourage quiet time, creativity and fill the last few minutes of a lesson away from screens.

There are several reasons why a teacher might want a learner to listen to a text being read aloud. As part of a shared reading activity one teacher may have specific instructional objectives guiding the activity, whereas another teacher may wish to model fluency by reading aloud.

“Storytime is really exciting and will be a welcome resource for reading groups or as a whole class. Listening to stories is a superb way of getting exposure to a wide vocabulary, listening to the rhyme and rhythm of text, developing a sense of wonder and creativity, and of course, the pure enjoyment of just listening to a story. Comprehension and oral language development are also part and parcel of this experience, too,” says Shelly Wilson, a reading recovery teacher.

Storytime allows users to step away from the screen and actively listen, leaving young brains free to imagine and hands free to create. RNZ hopes children from throughout Aotearoa will share drawings and videos inspired by their Storytime adventures to RNZ via Facebook and Instagram. @radionewzealand #RNZStorytime

Children’s own stories

Hei Listen! is funded by NZ On Air and offers stories and snippets covering a variety of themes. The free collection is written and read by children from across Aotearoa and examples include a mystery story by George, aged 6, and an item about celebrations enjoyed by the Chinese community by Fion, aged 11.

Produced by Prue Langbein, a former producer of children’s audio for RNZ, Hei Listen! encourages primary school age children to appreciate the role that sound can play in engaging and sparking the imagination. The resource comes with teacher notes that give ideas for fitting an active listening component into their teaching and learning planning.

Dale Gyton, from St Michael’s School in Lower Hutt, uses Hei Listen! with her class and says there’s a lot of material to use.

Listening helps creativity

“It’s a really good resource because I choose the stories where there aren’t pictures so the kids have to use their own imagination and it helps with their creativity. I think having to listen to a story increases their concentration, imagination and attention span.”

“I just have a listen to the stories and flick through the app on my phone until I find something I want them to listen to,” she says. She also finds the search bar in Hei Listen! useful for finding resources that support her classroom programme.

“For example, the children enjoyed listening to a book review of a New Zealand book called I Am Jellyfish. After the review the author was interviewed about her inspiration for the book. Another popular interview was with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, talking about her childhood,” she says.

A section called ‘Snippets’ features children talking about things they are interested in such as a boy from St Michael’s talking about playing his cello.

“I was able to put this on and immediately the children went ‘Oh! I know that voice!’ They wanted to listen because they knew the voice belonged to a boy from our school; they could put a face to his voice.”

Prue is excited about the potential that Hei Listen! offers schools. Feedback from teachers who have used it in their classrooms has confirmed how much children have loved hearing their own work and voices.

“In an increasingly visual world, I love the special place audio can play. Oral language is one of the foundations of early literacy. Listening taps into a part of the brain that reaches deep into the imagination. I believe listening and the opportunity to express themselves vocally have a huge amount to offer our tamariki.”

Prue will run a workshop at the New Zealand Literacy Association’s Conference – ‘The Arts as a Bridge to Literacy(external link)’ – later this year in Christchurch.

New oral history podcast series

At one time, the book The Runaway Settlers by early New Zealand children’s author and peace activist Elsie Locke was on the bookshelves of almost every home in New Zealand. The NZ Society of Authors has a new oral history podcast(external link) series that includes an interview with Elsie Locke.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:03 am, 16 August 2019

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