How stories build emotional intelligence?

इस ब्लॉग को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए, यहाँ क्लिक करें।

हा ब्लॉग मराठी मध्ये वाचण्यासाठी, येथे क्लिक करा.

“Animals don’t tell stories. Plants don’t tell stories. Rocks don’t tell stories. They don’t need to. They know who they are in the food chain and the pecking order of their pack, or herd, or hive. Humans tell stories, because we need to. They tell us who we are in this world by giving the world a structure. Stories transform us into heroes, villains, victims and martyrs. Without stories, we have no identity; we are just animals with imagination. Neuroscientists and psychologists around the world are finally appreciating the value of storytelling in human lives”, says Devdutt Pattanaik in his article On stories we tell.

Stories are central to human cognition and communication. Stories build and bring ideas and imagination to us. We engage with others through stories, and storytelling is a lot more than just a recitation of facts and events. As human beings, we naturally adapt to stories because we see ourselves reflected in them. We can interpret the meaning in stories and understand ourselves better. While looking at stories and finding meanings in them it is also fascinating to see how stories and the world of social emotional learning function together.

What is Emotional intelligence? 

Emotional intelligence (also understood as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.(Source-

How stories help in building emotional intelligence in children?

Storytelling offers many opportunities to practice SEL, such as expressing the breadth of one’s emotions, connecting with others different from oneself, and more. Written essays, spoken word, performance art, and digital production are all forms that students are using to share their voice and personal stories today. The Power of Storytelling as a Tool for SEL highlights what storytelling can help achieve. 

  • Grow empathy and compassion.
  • Enhance connection and deepen relationships.
  • Elevate student voice and give power to lived experiences.
  • Help students understand and evaluate things that have happened.
  • Preserve and honor cultural heritage and family histories.
  • Break down barriers between individuals or groups.
  • Create a sense of belonging and build community.
  • Empower and build confidence. 

Stories have been ingrained in Apni Shala’s work since our inception. They have created diverse possibilities for our  students of all ages to develop their social and emotional competencies. 

Self Awareness

In a session on managing emotions with a 5th std. class with a partner school the facilitator did a check-in of emotions using the book ‘Tiger Days: A Book of Feelings’ by M.H. Clark. Tiger Days gives children new tools to understand the range of their emotions and express themselves to family, teachers, friends, and themselves. After reading the book out loud the facilitator asked students to draw what kind of animal day they are having? They drew fish, snakes, and monkeys. After this they shared what emotions these animals represented.  A student shared “I drew fish because bhaiya it is raining a lot recently and water is logged everywhere  so I feel like swimming”. Another added, “I drew a snake because I feel lazy and the only thing I want to do is roll like a snake on the ground”. Said the third one, “I drew a monkey because ever since school has been shut, we are only jumping”.

These sharings from students highlight how the story offered opportunities for students to recognise their own emotions and build better relationships with those emotions.”

 Self Management

In an exploration of what we do when we feel different emotions we read The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell and Charles Santoso, in one of our sessions. As a little girl discovers what she does when anger visits her, with some help from her friends and her teacher she learns what she has to do differently when she has this visitor again. In the reflection after listening to the story participants  shared how they engage with such visitors. “I go away to a place to be alone for sometime. Then when I come back I feel better” said one participant and another shared “I get scared when it’s a little dark and my parents are not there in the room, so I look around to see if my grandparents or anyone else in my house is  around me and once I know that I feel less scared.”  The facilitator also did a follow up discussion around creating collective strategies for when anger visits us. The Snurtch helped make it easier to talk about feelings that may sometimes visit children and be overwhelming to process otherwise.

Social awareness

Two examples of how social awareness came up in our sessions are based on two books we used. ‘Nani’s walk to the park’ by Deepa Balsavar is a beautiful book with illustrations that bring Nani and her grandson Venky’s neighbourhood alive. It is a great starting point to build awareness of our surroundings, the places that hold significance around us and exploring our relationship with the world around us. In a session to explore Social awareness the facilitators spoke to the participants (of mixed ages) about the places around their homes that they see and what they like or dislike about these places. Just the way Nani has special names for the different roads and localities participants also came up with names for roads, nooks, localities in their surroundings. 

Another great story that our facilitators have found useful in talking about social awareness is ‘How to be a Lion’ by Ed Vere. Leonard the Lion and Marianne his friend, the duck, take us on a journey of discovering and appreciating diversity and cultivating empathy. In a fun session with students from 4 to 9 years of age, students shared how there could be so many different ways to be a Lion- When engaging with the questions “What kind of a lion are you?” a student shared “I can be fierce but I can also be gentle”. Another child asked “But doesn’t the Lion HAVE to be fierce and strong?”

This acted as a great conversation starter for the group and opened up explorations on ideas of gender as well. Social issues can sometimes seem daunting to talk about when working with children but stories like these can support such conversations really well. 

Relationship skills

While talking about relationship skills, in a session with a group of diverse ages at our session – Kahaani Time, we learned about ‘Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge’ in the book by the same name by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas. Wilfred realizes that his favourite person Miss Nancy (from the old people’s home next door) is having trouble with her memory and in his effort to offer help takes the reader on an adventure of discovering memories together. In this session the facilitator explored what we have done when we found that a friend needed help or when we needed help. Another interesting conversation in this session was around what memories we hold from the different relationships we have with each other. All participants created a little memory basket/bag with objects around them that had memories associated with them. A student shared “This is a picture with my sister. We had gone on a trip together and I had a lot of fun with her. I miss that and wish we could do that again.”  

Another story called ‘the Fog’ by Kyo Maclear and Kenard Park explores the changing environment through the eyes of an unusual pair of friends – a little girl and a bird. In a sharing a participant said “I am friends with my dog!” following which another shared “I think trees are also such nice friends. You can tell them anything and they will just listen to you.”

Books such as The Fog and Wilfred Gordon present opportunities for children to find windows into new ways of looking at relationships while also validating their own lived experiences thereby supporting them to nurture healthy relationships with the people around them. 

Responsible decision making

The Curious Garden’ by Peter Brown became a lovely entry point into the intersection of responsibility and social awareness in one of our sessions. While reading about a little boy who decides to bring more greenery to an otherwise concrete-filled neighbourhood we were able to talk about how we take responsibility to look after our surroundings. Does responsibility always look like a really big act or could it be smaller little things we do? A 3.5 year old student shared “I remember to turn off the switches of lights and fans when we don’t need it or when noone is in the room”  

The conversations that you read above come from our sessions in Kahaani time and Apni Shala’s SEL workshops and there are many more such stories waiting to be told  in all our classrooms, homes and communities. Stories are just that powerful, and sometimes, sharing them and making meaning of these stories with others, helps add another layer of magic and learning. We invite you to join us in this exploration of stories as a means to build emotional intelligence. Here’s a few ways to help you start:

For more student conversations from our classrooms, visit Apni Shala Classroom Conversations. 




2 Comments Add yours

  1. Thankyou so much for sending me this article. It was very helpful and enlightening one. Thanks a ton!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s