How to Use Storytelling in Language Teaching
Offering natural and ideal listening materials, storytelling in language
classes is an effective tool which provides learners with necessary useful
contexts. Considered one of the oldest techniques language teachers use, it
continues to garnish language learning with colorful and interesting materials
students enjoy the most. Naturally, language teachers and even parents have
their own distinct styles which educators continually improve.
Ways of making
the audience more captive to lessons is one thing teachers work on throughout
What is storytelling?
Storytelling is an art of using colorful words with some actions to reveal
the elements of a story. Often done to bring joy and enjoyment, it subliminally
gives wisdom to the audience. Stories often contain morals and a lesson for
readers to learn. Since the use of images and actions are limited, storytelling
compels the listeners to create their own mental image and expand on their
interpretation of the topic. With the enjoyment it brings, retention of the
message is enhanced.
Storytelling is an interactive art as it involves both the listeners and the
storyteller. The way stories are told and the actions and facial expressions
used by the storyteller enhance the story. Often involvement from the audience
in encouraged, and it serves as a great opportunity for working on new
vocabulary. It also takes many forms and inspired by daily activities that can
teach lessons through the use of an easily understood sentence structures.
Culturally speaking, it has been utilized to educate the young on the values of
a social group they are in with the expectations that those shall be carried on
to younger generations.
Why use storytelling
The use of storytelling in language teaching is an effective way of exposing
students to the target language. It is an essential tool in conveying messages
to students of diverse interests. Considered the oldest education practice, it
has made passing of beliefs, traditions and appreciation of history to
Here are some points supporting the use of storytelling in
1) Can be
integrated in the curriculum
With many subjects taught best by
elaborating on examples, storytelling is an effective way to teach variety
topics. Though mainly considered an essential part of language curriculum,
storytelling can actually be used in teaching history, society, and the arts.
Listening to stories helps inculcate values in the studentsí minds, helping them
become even more motivated, driven and inspired to achieve things by learning
from the mistakes and victories of the characters.
Students Listening Attentivelty During a Language Class
Simple listing of information
lessens the processing time for understanding of the general ideas, but
storytelling makes information easily remembered. Storytelling in language
teaching simulates real use of words and phrases.
2) Caters to students of diverse backgrounds
Since storytelling is present
in almost all cultures at any given time, it can help bridge cultural gaps in a
diverse classroom. It also teaches cultural sensitivity by developing the
studentsí knowledge of their social roles and expectations. Telling stories from
countries where your student came from creates awareness, deeper understanding,
and appreciation of their differences. When students have deeper understanding
of their individual backgrounds, creating a cooperative classroom with diverse
cultures can be made easy.
With cultural knowledge, it is easier to foster
understanding on what was actually meant by a student during discussions as some
cultures are direct but some indirect.
3) Fosters understanding of the humankind
In the age of technology, economic
race, and self-sufficiency, storytelling can help students understand the true
essence of the human experience. Characters in the story are excellent sources
of lessons for learning and building desirable behaviors and character a person
needed in order to live fuller life. With the listenersí emotional involvement,
it can be utilized to teach not just language but the practices of a culture
where that language is used.
It exposes students to the kind of language use in
a certain territory.
4) Helps enhance listening skills
An interesting story keeps the students
hooked. As they are eager to know the next part of the story, they do not only
develop concentration but also sharpens listening skill. It helps students
associate listening with getting information and understanding of the over-all
contexts of stories.
Since listening is considered an essential language skill
that facilitates learning, storytelling opens the studentsí perspective on the
act and widens their opportunity to maximize learning.
5) Improves imagination
Listening to stories stimulates thought processes.
When teachers make use of storytelling, students are challenged to draw
conclusions by creating images for characters as they are presented in the
story. Judgment and inferences can often be based on the learnersí experiences,
so they are likely to interpret stories by making use of their realities.
Telling a story enables the listener to immerse himself into the plot and start
seeing things from the perspective of the character. This helps them develop
imagination on both life and linguistic experiences.
Make Storytelling Engaging: Creative Ways to Follow
It can never be denied that despite being in a language classroom, some
students, especially younger ones, lack motivation to learn. Most find no
meaning in acquiring a new language and eventually become non-achieving. The
teacher then is tasked to critically choose stories that will not only encourage
listening but language learning. When interest in a topic is aroused, attitudes
towards learning the language are changed, making it enjoyable, meaningful and
comprehensible to students.
Follow these steps to make storytelling more engaging for students:
1) Choose the right material
Even a veteran storyteller needs to upgrade to
new techniques, and eventually new materials that fit the interest of this
generation. There is no generic formula of what is the perfect material for
storytelling as it should be chosen based on the needs and interests of the
audience. In most cases, we choose materials that we personally treasured and
loved to listen to as kids. This would generally include fairy tales and
With the availability of fresh story books in the market, teachers are
provided with many choices. When these materials donít seem to fit the kind of
audience in class, giving old stories a fresh approach can do the job. Try
modifying some elements of the story you love without dropping its original
message. Better yet, ask students what they wanted to listen to for the
storytelling sessions by making storybooks available in the classroom.
2) Characterize the content
Bringing the characters in the story to life
makes storytelling fun as it enables the audience to see, feel, and hear exactly
what the character wanted them to. Remember that without emotion, stories become
basically dead. It is then important that the teacher knows the stories by
heart. When the teacher knows the content of the story and the message embedded
in it, it is easier to characterize. Read and internalize the characters and
practice them even just in front the mirror. Convey how the characters feel by
making use of body language, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice.
When the character is angry, make the audience see and hear it. Know when to
shift actions and voice to help the audience distinguish between characters.
Making your content interesting help foster your studentsí interest in the
3) Maximize opportunities for literacy
Even the most reluctant reader or
learner can be motivated to listen to an interesting story. Considered as one of
the ways to address literacy, storytelling helps develop studentsí competencies
in all areas of the language by modeling oral skills, writing, and
comprehension. Storytelling exposes the students to reading and listening, and
post-storytelling activities help develop speaking and writing. Teachers who
utilize storytelling should choose materials that fit the needs of the students
and of the curriculum.
These stories should provide variety of messages, often
with pictures or flash cards, to help get the message across to solicit studentsí attention.
Storytelling is one effective method in transporting students back in time and
history. This helps shape the way they see the world.
4) Use props
most children learn through visual representations, using props in storytelling
sessions foster deeper understanding and appreciation of
materials. Props help liven up the lines and hook the students making them
concentrate more. Handy props are the most popular to use in classrooms. This
can range from flowers, ball, doll, or a piece of cloth. The use of props in
storytelling extends a child's attention span and increases their learning
Additionally, it makes lessons less boring and easy to remember. It
is best to know, though, that props should be minimized to a level not
distracting to students. When there is too much of them, students may be tempted
to focus on them rather than to the story the teacher reads. The most widely
used props are those that generate sounds for effect at a certain part of the
5) Involve the students
As storytelling relies on the collaboration of both
the teller and the audience, it is best practiced with student participation.
Tell story the way that excites students to talk and interact. Involving
students can be as simple as making them repeat some lines you wanted to
emphasize. Alternately, you can check studentsí comprehension by asking them to
act out some parts of the story. For younger learners, this can even be done by
animal sound reproductions. After telling the story, the teacher can ask
students for the possible ending or solicit questions for other class members to
Some students can even be assigned to alternately serve as co-tellers in
the beginning of the storytelling sessions. For more advanced students,
retelling the story in front of the class the next day can be practiced.
Involving students in lessons do not only develop their cognitive skills but
enhances confidence in speaking and motivation to learn.
Studentsí experiences are best molded with descriptive and language skills
development. When students enjoy learning, they are not only creating a
collection of knowledge but are constantly looking for ways to know things that
interest them. With their curiosity for learning comes their perspective of the
world. Studies reveal that storytelling is an effective way for increasing the
literacy level. This is because it enhances all the language skills- reading,
listening, speaking and writing- all in one. Because storytelling is
participatory in nature, students have greater exposure to language use.
Storytelling provides an environment of rich linguistic and cultural
learning. For children, it serves as a meaningful way of modeling language use.
In fact, most of early education curriculum focuses more on story-based lessons.
When materials are properly chosen and with teachers equipped with skills to
convey stories in a more engaging and interesting ways, meeting the objectives
of literacy programs are easily achieved. Being able to facilitate development
in comprehension, storytelling is a great way to start teaching language
students to construct meanings.
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