Beyond the Beanstalk: Interdisciplinary learning Through Storytelling

Beyond the Beanstalk: Interdisciplinary learning Through Storytelling by Lynn Rubright.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996. ISBN 0-435-07028-2 $21.00 176 pp.

Lynn Rubright's book Beyond the Beanstalk: Interdisciplinary learning Through Storytelling is a natural follow-up to Tales as Tools. Rubright is well known to the storytelling community for her many years of promoting storytelling in the schools. Since 1971 she has taught storytelling across the curriculum as a graduate course at Webster University in St. Louis.

The aim of this book is to demonstrate how the use of storytelling across the curriculum can not only motivate students to learn, but also enhance the instructor's teaching style. We all know that teachers are required to teach specific skills and cover certain subjects-- to stick to the curriculum. Rubright says that storytelling and the arts can enliven that curriculum for both students and teachers.

In the first chapter she describes how she once told Jack and the Beanstalk to a third grade class with the aim of demonstrating to the teachers and students how storytelling could be used. What happened next was that she and the teacher discovered how different areas of the curriculum could be connected through the use of the story. There was a reading and writing connection as the children wrote their own Jack tales. Paper quilts illustrating the tales led to an art connection. A wide range of math connections were described including determining how much Jack's golden eggs weighed and, using the price of gold, how much they were worth. Another class added up the damage caused by the giant's fall from the beans talk, wrote letters of claim, and proceeded to try to collect for damages. There were also dramatic arts, movement, science, social studies and language arts connections. And that is only one chapter of the book!

Other stories used as springboards were Frog and Toad's Garden, Rosie's Walk, Bellerophon and Pegasus, and Anansi. There are chapters on family folklore UnIts, on history telling, and telling and music.

Rubright uses interviews with teachers to add interest and information, and liberally salts the text with examples from various classrooms. The book teaches the reader by modelling, rather than by instruction. Rubright tells us how various units worked, shows us possibilities, gives us tools, lets us take what we need and create what we will. I could not help but trust the work of one who has so obviously practiced what she teaches, one who knows what life is like in the classroom and what is possible.

Appendices include drama games and movement; a selection of stories retold by Rubright and ready to be quickly learned told; plans for an interdisciplinary family folklore unit; and a chapter-by-chapter bibliography. Although intended for teachers of K-6, many of Beyond the Beanstalk's ideas can be adapted for use with older students.

Second Story Review, Vol 2, No 1 - Mar 1997

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