© Kids Club English 2020
As teachers of young learners and very young learners, we are often told that stories are a useful, if not essential, part of our repertoire. But how do you use stories in the EFL/ESL classroom? I love teaching English through stories and my groups of kids love learning in this way, too. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what works (as well as what doesn’t!) In this post, we’ll look at the benefits of using stories, how to plan a storytelling session, and I’ll share my top tips for the different aspects of a storytelling lesson.
Stories are fantastic tools for educators, in that they can provide the opportunities to learn and develop a whole host of skills. In the context of language acquisition, they are invaluable for several reasons:
There are many types of picture books to choose from. You can broadly divide them into:
Each of these story types has advantages, and I would aim to include a balanced mix across sessions. Make sure that you include some narrative stories, as these are the ones in which the kids can get more involved with the story events and engage meaningfully with the content.
If you don’t have access to a book you’d like to use, one alternative is to put a storytelling video on mute and pause at appropriate points as you tell the story. You can find lots of videos on our Stories page.
There are many types of activity that you could do before the storytelling itself. There are some suggestions below. First, I usually ask myself two questions:
There are endless games you can play with flashcards! Whichever, one(s) you choose, try to have them placed so that the kids can see them during the storytelling. They can be very useful prompts for the children during the storytelling stage. For example, they can use them to predict what’s next or you can prompt them for the words/phrases to join in.
Sing a song together that revises some of the story language or invent your own! Adapt a song you already know to fit in with the vocabulary you want to practise. For example, I adapted Super Simple’s ‘Open, Shut them’ song to include the adjectives from Dinosaur Roar.
TPR (total physical response)
This is obviously a great option for stories that focus on parts of the body and actions. It’s also fun with prepositions. In preparation for We’re Going On a Bear Hunt, we’ve had a lot of fun going ‘over’ tables and ‘under’ chairs!
I love using puppets! Sometimes the puppet or stuffed toy is connected to the story. I have a bear that makes an appearance when I teach stories with bears in them, and a pig and cow that usually come out for farm related stories. They can help engage the kids with the topic of the story. If the puppet is excited to read it, because they’re in it, the kids will get more excited too. They can also play a lead in any games in the role of the teacher, or they can be the student with the kids helping the puppet get the new words right. So many possibilities!
It’s really important that the story doesn’t just end with the storytelling. If you want the kids to acquire language from the story, you’re going to have to help bring it to life. That’s where your post-storytelling activities come in. Depending on the time you have available, these activities might carry over to the next lesson or a series of lessons. Again, there are a lot of different activities you could do, including flashcard games and mini-card games. More often than not, though, most of my learners are ready to do some individual (but interactive!) work and they really look forward to a craft or worksheet type activity. These also serve as a record of work and something to share with families, who can carry on the learning at home. For me, one of the most important things to consider in a post-storytelling activity is how I can include as much story re-telling as possible. These thoughts led me to creating a lot of my own resources that serve to do just that. Below is a summary of some of the main types of activities involved in my worksheets and crafts that my learners and I like to do (more details in future blog posts!)