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  • M.A. Notaras

Build your school community with collaborative storytelling!

And watch your students reap the rewards.

We often talk about collaboration in schools, but this usually means student–student learning/project outcome models, or teacher–teacher training. But student–student learning is usually within existing classroom groups, and kids don’t see or care about teacher–teacher training, even though it’s very helpful to them.

Collaboration is also an important relationship building skill. However, as the relationship building occurs within the usual student–student or teacher–teacher groups, it’s usually limited in scope. Community, on the other hand, is a group-wide relationship (and often collaborative) skill, that in terms of a school, ideally means building and maintaining relationships across ALL students across ALL grades, and between ALL students and ALL teachers/staff.

Being in close physical proximity doesn’t automatically create a community. A community is a feeling of belonging, of strength, of safety. It’s integral for our well-being as individuals and as a society, and just as important for our little humans. But it’s a skill that needs continuous exercise to be maintained. And like exercise, the more you do it, the more benefit you’ll get from it!

Whether it’s employees, neighbours or students, in every strong community, the results are the same.

A strong sense of community:

· Increases connection to the group, which increases loyalty to, and effort for, the group.

· Increases the positive atmosphere of the group.

· Gives a shared sense of connectedness, and others to seek help from.

· Creates a synergy where all members of the community achieve more.

For the student, this means:

· They make more of an effort to learn, and marks improve.

· They look forward to being at school—attendance increases and behaviour improves.

· An improved sense of comfort and resilience, even when they’re not at school.

· More opportunities, confidence, happiness—and the ability to achieve more goals, acquire new skills and negotiate change more easily.

How do we create this synergy? We commonly build our school community through events (sports carnivals, school clubs, music groups, fundraising, assemblies)—and while these are great, they mostly are limited in interaction across year groups, or between interests or abilities. And, unless you belong to a small school, assemblies are often halved into senior and infant sessions, and from the point of view of the student, are passive (often boring!) rather than integrative.

Collaborative storytelling is a tool that can involve everyone at the same time. And when we involve everyone, it's a shared experience, a commonality that can help build community.

So, what is it? Just what it says – telling a story with everyone contributing, in this case, involving the whole school. It’s fun, and that’s one of the most effective parts!

Collaborative storytelling can be many ways. Through live sessions, where everyone takes part in telling a small piece of the story, or where the whole school shares the experience of listening to the same novel read aloud. Storytelling through the creation of a whole-of-school artwork. Storytelling through action, by creating and watching a school play or musical. Or, in my case, a novel starring the school, the teachers, and the student reader as the hero of an adventure, that all students (and parents and teachers) can read, talk about and enjoy.

The more connections we can build between people in schools, in every direction, the stronger, happier, healthier, more resilient and able to learn, our students will be. It can aid in a greater stability of the teacher workforce, which is also great for kids – and the sense of community. And if we can integrate fun into the learning and relationship building, well, that’s even more effective!

My School Adventure’s exciting novel “The Art Show That Came To Life At [Your School Name Here]” is a storytelling collaboration where the school and teachers donate their names and a few school details to the story, to create a shared story experience for students. Fantastic for building community, encouraging reading, celebrating a school event, and also fundraising. To find out more, please visit

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