The irresistible power of storytelling in a time of a crisis: stories for survival

last one

This post is by Haneen Jadalla, teacher at Asma Prep girls UNRWA school, Gaza

It’s the start of a very beautiful day and the sun spills its rays on the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, declaring a new beginning , new hopes to be spread from the horizon and piles of wishes to touch the clouds above.

Meanwhile, a rich – deep voice starts to tell not breaking news nor a scientific fact but – a story . This story melts the hearts of the people who are  listening  and empowers them to face the hardships of life. Story telling is the art that merges the acts of mind and the acts of heart. It’s how you put your body , your soul and emotions in the context of language.

farah 2


As schools in Palestine are closed because of Corona virus, The Hands Up Project has recently launched daily facebook live storytelling sessions for kids to take part in in their own homes. Here, in this blog post, I would like to talk about the real impact of these storytelling sessions on English language learners at this very challenging time.

ashraf 6

I believe that learning can happen at any place and at any time irrespective of all the obstacles which are placed in their way. When children are free from the classroom walls, from rules, from marks , from pens and pencils, maybe they can travel even more easily by their imagination with the story telling sessions far away. They live the actions of the stories in their mind, smell the aromatic scents of the scenes as if they are really with them, and hear the music in their own silence to cheer their spirits in spite of all the hard times they pass through.


Learning through online stories and being exposed to different styles of storytellers can be immensely effective for the students – maybe even more so than what happens in their regular classes. They learn how to how to use language functionally, and how to be creative and brilliant with it at the same time. Its also about sharing and discussing values, gathering all together and feeling united, sharing cultural aspects and even creating a future generation of story tellers . Moreover , it is a kind of survival for those learners wherever they are. It  helps them to escape from being stuck at home in self – isolation to a more motivating international cultural context.

facebook post 2 - ashraf..

At the end of each live session the volunteers suggest tasks for the kids to do as a follow up. This could be creating  their own videos as a kind of reflection on the stories that have been told, re-telling the story, creating a chant to practise the language or even singing their favourite English song.  Getting students to create things in English is the ultimate goal we wish to achieve with our language learners. It practices new language but also makes their voices heard loudly and clearly  all over the world.

I strongly believe that the hands up project has succeeded in helping these kids to survive every challenge that life throws at them. It helps them put their their hands up high to celebrate their glory while telling them a story.

Haneen Jadalla, teacher at Asma Prep girls UNRWA school, Gaza, March 2020

13 thoughts on “The irresistible power of storytelling in a time of a crisis: stories for survival

  1. Well done Haneen. I have no ideas about teaching and learning in emergencies before . Students were comfortable at the beginning of school closure, but get more bored as they are stucked at home .Here the role of the Hands Up is clear and strong . Storytelling meets kids interest , so they are waiting the sessions regularly to participate. You can’t imagine how happy a child is when he writes ” Hi” in the comments and find the volunteer replying to him “Hi x ” , so they engage more try to get new vocabulary writing how they are pronounced as transcription in Arabic, then go to geogle after the session looking for the good writing in it.
    Yesterday , David had a session in the morning .My 6 year old daughter watched with me . I asked her about the animals she heard , she said all of them and she said that the storyteller had an elephant on his t-shirt.
    And if we go through the situation happened by learners through the online storytelling , we won’t stop mentioning situations.
    Well done Haneen, Mr Nick and all participants in the Hands Up through the closure who make us escape for a few hours from thinking of Corona virus in these hard days

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sahar , thanks for.your wonderful comment.
      I see how are our students are fully immersed in the joy of sessions. and yes , I love this point about the happiness that spreads all over their bodies.when.the volunteer says ‘Hi’ back with their names. They feel it and they enjoy it . It’ a prize!
      I am.happy to hear how smart is your little daughter! Just like her mum🙂
      and this is due to.the brilliant.effect that the hup 🙂


  2. Well written, Haneen. Your post highlights the importance and the power of stories in keeping our children mentally as well as psychologically in the right path to live normally and peacefully. For me, What the HUP volunteers are doing these days despite the very difficult circumstances surrounding them seems heroic. In fact, telling stories while someone is under stress seems impossible, However, i can see that so many volunteers are doing something holy. For this, we as parents and teachers should Take our hats off for every single storyteller from all over the world. Thanks Haneen, Thanks HUP


    1. Thank you very much Ashraf!
      Thanks.for sharing your also.
      You are right . and still those stories have the magical effect on.both the storyteller and the listener too because they take both far away from whatever obstacles the life throws at them..
      Keep.up all.this great work., Ashraf🙂


  3. This has been an extra ordinary experieblnce that gave us the chance to contact with the outside world ,to have fun and learn morals and values…thanks my school…thanks my unique teacher…thanks hands up 🥰❤️


  4. This has been an extra ordinary Experience that gave us the chance to contact with the outside world ,to have fun and learn morals and values…thanks my school…thanks my unique teacher…thanks hands up 🥰❤️


  5. Wow I really felt every word u wrote, it’s touching and real, u did great teacher and it’s really sad that we can’t go to school, have classes, see u and all teachers and meet MR. Nick but these online sessions can give us a feel like we r talking to MR. Nick like we do at school
    Thank u all for ur hard work, u r working so hard for us thank u~💜😍


  6. My beautiful.Rana❤
    I miss our drama class too
    You are the ones .who.make this so touching and great 🙂
    Stay safe , dear🙂


  7. This is one of the most powerful pieces of writing I’ve ever seen on the importance of storytelling. Thank you for writing it Haneen and thank you for everything you do to make young people’s stories heard.


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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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