This is Chapter 4 of the Creative Master’s Thesis I completed as part of the requirements for my master’s degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in storytelling. The purpose of this study was to create a role-playing program of the life and times of Christopher Columbus for use with fifth-grade social studies students. It was intended that this creative unit may either be used as a substitute for or in conjunction with a textbook approach. These seven role-plays are also appropriate for grades three and four. The links to all role-plays, tests, and teacher scripts will be included.
Teacher Evaluative Response Form
Twenty classroom teachers participated in session one of the creative presentation on Christopher Columbus. Afterward, 19 teachers completed a teacher evaluative response form entitled Travel Through Time With The Story Genie: Written Survey.
The next question the teachers were asked to respond to was: “Would you be willing to use this technique in your classroom to teach social studies concepts?” Of the 18 teachers who responded to that question, 16 indicated that they would definitely be willing to use this process. Two teachers thought they would like to use it sometimes but were concerned with the amount of preparation time that might be involved in using this process. Some of the explanations of those 16 teachers included:
• “Interest level would be high. Appeals to students on all levels.”
• “Yes, because the students can be involved. They learn more by participation than actual lecture and reading from a book.”
• “This was very clear and repetitious. Certain facts will be learned automatically through hearing and not having to study.”
• “Anything that involves students ‘doing’ instead of just listening will help them learn more easily.”
• “I think it’s great–exciting–there is so much repetition that many things will sink in during the course of the lesson.”
• “I feel that this technique holds the attention of students.”
• “Children learn more from participation and stories than from lectures. It allows everyone to learn at his or her own level.”
• “This technique gives the student the feeling of ‘being there.'”
The next question the teachers were asked was: “Do you think this storytelling technique is an effective learning tool for facts about this particular explorer?” Of the 19 teachers who responded to this question, all answered in the affirmative. A few of their explanations included such responses as:
• “Storytelling tells more than just the social studies book.”
• “I would think students retain the facts longer because they are active participants.”
• “Creativity and hands-on is usually more effective than absorption. Motivation is wonderful for growth and future learning.”
• “This technique creates an interest for the student, thus makes for an effective learning tool for facts.”
• “Gets the listener involved. Learn more because it’s fun.”
• “This is much more interesting than reading, discussing, and taking a test.”
• “Yes–because the story is presented more effectively. There would be better recall of facts. Students love to role-play.”
• “The facts were told repeatedly to help learning. Christopher at nine appears more like a friend, making facts of his life easier to remember.”
The next two questions asked in the survey were: “Do you think your principal/superintendent would allow and approve your use of these storytelling techniques to teach about explorers?” Seventeen teachers responded to these questions and indicated that they believed that their principal would be supportive. Only 15 felt certain that their superintendent would allow the use of this technique in the social studies classroom.
Teachers were then asked to check the parts of the lesson that they viewed as being most effective and those parts that were least effective to accomplish maximum student learning and enjoyment. Nine teachers felt that the pretest and post-tests were very effective for student learning, and four felt that the tests were least effective for maximum student learning and enjoyment. Fifteen teachers felt that the oral discussions preceding and following the units were very effective for student learning, and one felt that oral discussions were least effective for maximum student learning and enjoyment. Eight teachers felt that the set (describing the purpose of the lesson) was very effective for student learning, and five felt that the set was least effective for maximum student learning and enjoyment. Thirteen teachers felt that the introduction to the genie puppet and the part she played was very effective for student learning, and one felt that the genie was least effective for maximum student learning and enjoyment. Sixteen teachers felt that the appearance of nine-year-old Columbus puppet and his story was very effective for student learning, and none felt that the Columbus puppet was least effective for maximum student learning and enjoyment. All 19 teachers who completed a form felt that role-playing by members of the class was very effective for maximum student learning and enjoyment. Nine teachers felt that Columbus’s story of how he got his name was very effective for student learning, and five felt that the story of his name was least effective for maximum student learning and enjoyment. Fifteen teachers felt that the wrap-up: students writing letter to Columbus’s father was very effective for student learning, and one felt that the letter writing was least effective for maximum student learning and enjoyment.
The last question the teachers were asked was to give their candid suggestions and comments in response to the creative Columbus lesson. The writer received such comments as:
• “This is great! I hope you get published.”
• “Once I did a musical-play combination about fourth-grade history characters similar to this. All wore costumes and practiced period songs in chorus plus period dances. The entire learning atmosphere, motivation, and wrap-up promoted more than I’d hoped for. I feel this will do the same easier and simpler. Great ideas. The minute wrap-up and test pictures add interest and removes stress factors.”
• “I think your characters were darling; the presentation was interesting, factual, fun; a neat way for kids to learn.”
• “Some of the techniques used (touching jewel–ex.) may make the older students feel as though they are being ‘talked down to.’ My fourth graders would love it, though. Good job. I think overall it would be very effective.”
• “The interest in the basic story would be great for any grade level if teacher does reading for lower grades. It would be good for college students to see this lesson as another option for presenting material.”
To summarize, the 20 classroom teachers and one college professor all gave very positive oral and written responses to the first of seven creative Columbus sessions. The only negative response was associated with the puppet show about how Christopher Columbus got his name. He was named after the legendary St. Christopher. The religious overtones in the story and the mention of the character of the devil could indeed cause problems with students, teachers, parents, and administrators. This is an optional section that teachers can use at their discretion.
Transcript from the Student Oral Evaluative Response Form
The students from Greene County answered a series of questions in response to the first creative Columbus session. This was the same session experienced by the Advanced Storytelling class. The classroom teacher of these students asked the fifth graders these questions orally and recorded their responses on an audiotape. The writer was not present during this session to ensure that the students would be as candid and honest as possible.
1. What did you really think about the first Christopher Columbus session?
• Boy: It was a good one. It was better than reading a book because you don’t have to sit there and . . . read.
2. Do you think using storytelling and role-playing was a good way to learn about Christopher Columbus. Why or why not?
• Girl: Yes, I think it was a good way to learn about Christopher Columbus rather than reading, because most children don’t really understand by reading because there’s so many hard words to learn.
• Teacher: Okay, that’s good. So if you get it taught to you by watching it or getting to look at it, it’s a little different, isn’t it?
• Boy: Well, I like it because when you read and everything, you got to sit there and you know, study for a test and everything or have homework and everything but this way all you have to do is just listen and learn.
• Teacher: Listen. Okay.
• Boy: I think that storytelling, you learn it better because when you’re storytelling . . . uh . . . when you’re reading, you got to imagine the pictures but when you’re storytelling, you can see the pictures.
• Teacher: That’s very good. Okay.
• Boy: Reading is dull. When you get to listen, it’s fun and better.
3. Do you think you learn more about Christopher Columbus using storytelling and role-playing, or do you think you learn more the usual way that you learn social studies?
• Girl: I think you learn more by role-playing because you can learn better that way.
• Girl: I think you learn more by storytelling because people, they don’t pay attention when you read.
• Boy: Sometimes the social studies book will give you facts and information about it, but storytelling, it makes it fun.
• Teacher: Okay. That’s good.
4. Did you have fun? Did you pay attention and learn something?
• Girl: Yes.
• Teacher: I think that basically, the whole class wants to agree that it was fun.
• Yes! (All voices.)
5. Those of you who got to play a part, did you enjoy it and feel comfortable?
• Girl: Yes.
• Boy: Yes, I felt comfortable.
• Girl: Yes. I had fun doing it.
• Teacher: You had fun while you were doing it. Good.
6. Okay, those of you who didn’t have a turn, would you like to have a turn? Do you think you would enjoy it and feel comfortable?
• Teacher: How many of you want to? (All apparently raised their hands.) Okay. Basically, the whole class that did not get a chance yet would like to do it? Right?
• Class: Yes!
7. Do you think other fifth graders would enjoy this program?
• Boy: Yes. I think this is more educational, because they can’t comprehend all that they’re reading.
• Teacher: Comprehension. Good, it teaches comprehension.
• Girl: Yes, I think they would have a good time learning by storytelling because it’s fun.
• Teacher: I think that this broadened our knowledge on Christopher Columbus because really in our social studies book, it didn’t have a very big section on him. Did it?
• (Several children talked at once.)
• Teacher: . . . and where he went and how he went.
• (Several children talked at once.)
• Boy: I think it was real good because it could make you feel like you was bringing someone from the past to the future.
• Teacher: Very good.
• Boy: When you read, it just tells you information that you need to know; when you have a play, it tells you things that you’d like to know like how his favorite things and stuff and the book only tells you facts.
8. Would you like to see anything happen differently? What changes would you like to see be made?
• Boy: No.
• Boy: No.
• Boy: You mean what happened to Christopher Columbus or the program?
• Teacher: The program. Would you like to see anything different?
• Same boy: Oh, no.
• Teacher: Okay. I think that when Miss Debbie comes back, she’s going to, the next time, because this was only the first time, she’s going to put even more onto it so we’ll learn about him even more.
9. Were the stories interesting?
• Class: Yes!
10. You can answer as a class, did you like the Story Genie?
• Class: Yes! (A very loud “yes”)
• Girl: Very much!
• Teacher: Okay, very much! I told you all I thought you would have.
11. Are there any comments you would like to make?
• Teacher: Anybody? How many of you want her to come back? Miss Debbie, you can’t see this, but I’m talking into the tape recorder and everybody has their [sic] hands raised.
The students of Glenwood School continued to be enthusiastic for the entire time that the writer went to work with them. They had an intense curiosity about every aspect of Columbus’s life.
They all indicated they were learning a great deal. They begged the writer to come back next year and do the whole process again. Even though almost all students had indicated on their social studies attitudinal survey that they disliked reading textbooks, they all told the writer they did not consider the playlets as reading, and they all vied to play as many parts as possible. The writer found that even the students who had trouble reading aloud loved to come up to the front of the room and role-play. They did not seem to be bothered if they frequently had to have a word identified for them. Most of the students were able to read the playlets with ease, with the exception of the strange names of people and places.
Of the 19 students from Glenwood School who began the creative study on Christopher Columbus, only 18 completed the study. One girl had moved after the first Columbus session. Her pretest score was not calculated in with the class’s mean and standard deviation scores. Additionally, there was one student absent on the day of the pretest administration. Therefore, when comparing difference scores, the writer has only reported the testing results for the remaining 17 children.
The students took a 20-question pretest on Christopher Columbus.
After the seven sessions, the writer returned for an eighth visit to administer the posttest. This test was identical to the pretest. Every question was scored exactly the same as before. All 18 students were present for the administration of this test. The 18 students’ posttest scores ranged from 49 to 100. The mean posttest score was 76.8, and the standard deviation of the class’s posttest scores was 14.8.
From the time that the students took the pretest to the time that they took the posttest, the difference of the pretest scores from the posttest scores ranged from 4 to 61 points. All students made a positive improvement from the pretest scores to the posttest scores. The class’s mean difference score was 34.3 and the standard deviation of the class’s difference scores between the pretest and the posttest was 15.2. The paired t-test value for the difference between the scores for the posttest and the pretest was 2.3. The p-value corresponding to this t-statistic was between 0.01 and 0.05. Therefore, the mean score for the posttest was significantly higher than the mean score for the pretest.
Since there was a significant difference for the mean scores between the posttest and the pretest at a 0.05 level of significance, the null hypothesis was rejected.