The Magic of Storytelling: The Gateway to Literacy

Early Childhood Education - Discover Playful Ways to Engage Children in Storytelling
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  • Lectures 13
  • Length 1 hour
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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About This Course

Published 9/2015 English

Course Description

Literacy begins with telling our story! Discover playful and creative ways to engage children in speaking and writing about their lives through imaginary play.

This course follows the research of Vivian Paley, examining our adult perceptions of children's learning and the value of imaginary play. We will examine the work of Vygotsky and Dewey as they describe the child as a social learner, becoming knowledgeable within the context of group work. Finally we will encourage teachers to take a leap of faith in modeling storytelling based upon the real stories occurring in your classroom.

This course includes over 60 minutes of quality classroom video and pdf article downloads.

What are the requirements?

  • Basic understanding of child development.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Introduction to Fantasy Play
  • The Work of Vivian Paley & Boston Public Schools
  • The Role of the Teacher
  • Be Courageous & Bold

Who is the target audience?

  • This course is designed for Early Childhood educators, leaders and policy makers.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Course Overview

The Magic of Storytelling: The Gateway to Literacy

"You are watching the only age group in school that is always busy making up its own work assignments. It looks and sounds like play, yet we properly call this play the work of children. Why? That is what you are here to find out.”

Paley, Vivian Gussin (2009). A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play (p. 1). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

Research demonstrates that imaginary play is the highest form of play learning. If that is true, then play based programs should embrace imaginary play and teachers should be encouraging imaginary play in the classroom. How might a teacher accomplish this task?


The Magic of Storytelling: The Gateway to Literacy

Section 1: Welcome!

Lecture 1: Play!

Lecture 2: Curriculum Overview

Section 2: Introduction to Fantasy Play
Lecture 3: Types of Children Play

Lecture 4: Research Supports Learning through Play

Lecture 5: The Work of Lev Vygotsky

Section 3: The Work of Vivian Paley & Boston Public Schools
Lecture 6: What Vivian Paley Learned from Observing and Responding to Children's Stories

Lecture 7: Boston Public Schools

Section 4: The Role of the Teacher
Lecture 8: Open Ended Materials & Storytelling

Lecture 9: Strategies to Guide & Extend the Play

Lecture 10: Documentation & Assessment of Children's Learning

Section 5: Be Courageous & Bold
Lecture 11: Transformation in Early Childhood Education: What is Required of Teachers

Lecture 12: Share Your Experiences with the Author

Section 2: Introduction to Fantasy Play

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning." Fred Rogers

Cooperative play is the highest form of play. Learn how recognize the types of play occurring in your classroom.


Cooperative Play includes:

Competitive Play, Physical Play, Constructive Play and Socio-Dramatic Play


If we believe that learning in early childhood settings should be playful, if we are advocating for play-based classroom environments - then we must examine why play is so important. What are children learning through play?

Libraries are full research on play. This is a brief overview of the best of known research.


Lev Vygotsky was a Russian developmental psychologist in the early twentieth century. His research in child development led to what is now called, the Constructivist Theory. The belief that we all learn by constructing knowledge over time. Vygotsky differentiated between immature and mature play - calling dramatic play the highest form of learning.

With academic demands and push toward rigor in preschool and kindergarten classrooms teachers are finding the need to advocate for playful formats.

Section 3: The Work of Vivian Paley & Boston Public Schools

Vivian Gussin Paley taught preschool and kindergarten for 37 years in Chicago. She has written numerous books on children's play and we invite you to read, " A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play. You can find this and her other books at fine bookstore and online at Amazon.

What is Paley getting at when she says, "As I continued to record the children's dialogues, my own mind began to open. I felt ready to risk the role of storyteller". Paley (2009)

How comfortable are you at telling a make-believe story?


Find out how Boston Public Schools implemented the research of Vivian Paley.

How might you implement storytelling in your classroom? In your school? Boston Public Schools implemented change by engaging the teachers first in the discussion and program design. Teachers were supported with on-going professional development and mentoring. This model transformed their teaching.

Section 4: The Role of the Teacher

Open-ended materials are materials that can be used in multiple ways with no preset definition. We see children use objects in open-ended ways all of the time. River rocks become people in the block center. Sticks become tepees in the sandbox. Water in a pot becomes a bowl of soup at the water table.

Environments are the reflection of the teacher's imagination. As you put materials out in your classroom, ask yourself how children might use these materials to create stories.


Drawing stories out from children is really about mastering the art of asking questions. It requires a patience to wait for young children to process your questions and respond. We place interesting materials in front of the children and ask them to create something. As the child creates, we engage them in conversations, writing down their words.

In Reggio Emilia classrooms, the most important voice is the voice of the child. Our job, is to draw our their stories.


Rather than testing children, teachers take responsibility for learning assessment by documenting children's work and words every single day. They use the documentation to inform and engage parents. Moreover, they use the documentation to inform their teaching practices. When we document children as part of our daily work, we see them clearly. As teachers, we gain insights into what they are thinking, what they are struggling with and where their interests lie. In this knowledge of the child, we create curriculum that is responsive to in the individual needs of the children in our classrooms.

The documentation process follows a circular format of the teacher observing the child in play, documenting the child's play and words, modifying the curriculum with new materials, books and such that reflect upon the child and then beginning the observation cycle once again. The documentation drives the curriculum in the classroom, the learning in the classroom.

Section 5: Be Courageous & Bold
4 pages

Make-believe play is the fantasy world children create with others. It is highly social in intent. In these imaginary worlds children's creativity soars, their language expands and their social skills develop. Research shows that highly developed play contributes significantly to children's social skills, emerging mathematical abilities, mastery of language and self-regulation.

Teaching children how to play has often been limited to children with special needs. Yet we know that for most young children, make-believe play never reaches a high level of maturity. The disappearance of multiage groups, the increase in time children spend in adult-directed activities after school, and limited time for free play during preschool hours has ushered in dramatic changes to early childhood (Leong & Bodrova, 2012).

Early childhood programs that stake the claim of being “play based” can use assessment of children's play to scaffold the learning. In this the documentation informs the teacher of the level of learning accomplishment - driving modifications in the curriculum. It becomes a circle of learning for both the teacher and the student as the documentation drives changes in the classroom. Please see resources attached to this section.


I am interested in the strategies you are employing in making storytelling a part of your classroom experience. Write to me at:

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Instructor Biography

Mary Ann Biermeier, Early Childhood Curriculum & Instruction M.Ed.

Mary Ann Biermeier is the Director of Professional Development at NAEYC accredited preschool in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is Director of the INSPIRE Early Childhood Leadership Series providing educator workshops and online courses in the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. She began her teaching career in education in 2000 after a 20 year career in software design and development.

She currently serves on the board of directors for Arizona's VSAEYC as Vice President of Public Policy. She has served on the executive board of All-Star Kids Tutoring, an Arizona non-profit providing volunteer tutors that mentor children in grades 2 & 3 struggling with literacy and reading fluency. She is also former board chair of Communities In Schools, an Arizona non-profit providing community resources within schools to help young people successfully learn, stay in school and prepare for life.

Mary Ann Biermeier holds a Masters degree with distinction in Early Childhood Education Curriculum & Instruction from Northern Arizona University and a B.A. in Political Science & Economics from the University of Minnesota.

Deep learning is always connected to enjoyment. Teaching and learning ~ all things with joy!

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