Andrew Wright

These notes are for use in a workshop. They are intended to help you to find activities to use with stories you want to read or tell. 

The text handouts for teachers have  boxes around information to be worked on in the workshop…I dont know how to do this with wordpress…so you may find gaps which have no apparent justification for being gaps…that is where the lines of the boxes were!

What is a story?
Actions to overcome difficulties in order to achieve desires in the form of…
1 Myths, legends, parables, fables, fairy stories…
2 Fictional stories.
3 Stories from ‘real life’: personal, regional, national, contemporary, historical.

Why stories for language teaching?
1 Engaging.
2 Excellent for developing fluency in the four skills.
3 Great for recycling known language.
4 Good for introducing new language.
5 Leads to lots of useful offshoots.

What is a good story?
1 Is it likely to engage the learners?
2 Does it contain values which I feel are OK?
3 Can it be understood by the learners through its language and/or through supporting actions and pictures which I can provide fairly easily, etc.?
4 Are the language items, the language skills associated with the story and the possible activities likely to be relevant to the learners overall development?

5 Is the language simple without being simplified?
6 Is it the right length OR can it be divided into sections of the right length?
7 Will I feel comfortable telling it or reading it?
8 Is the factual information and are the concepts in the topic of the story appropriate for the learners?
9 Does it offer a lot related to the preparation and time I must put into it?

Telling or reading?
Both have their advantages. If you can bring yourself to tell the story then, probably, on balance that is better: more engaging,  easier to adapt to the students needs. But reading is OK!

Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs!
Dear, devoted language teacher! In your anxiety to help the students to develop their language proficiency you might ruin their joy in the story.

Now that would be a disaster in so many ways! The goose of the story offers the students the golden egg of a rich experience of language not an opportunity to study it.
If you think an activity might destroy experience, don’t do it!

Your preparation before the lesson

1 Key language unknown to the students. Note down the vocabulary items which are essential for the students to understand but which are unknown to them. Decide whether to teach them before the story or during the story: the flow of the story makes them understood; using mime; using pictures; saying the words in the mother tongue ; they know the whole story in the mother tongue already. Alternatively, find simple alternatives without losing too much richness of language. Take into account that a significant proportion (15% my quick invention of a proportion, dont take it too specifically!!) of the language of the text SHOULD be unknown to the students in order to help them to develop practical fluency skills capable of surviving unknown language poured out by a native speaker.

2 Language for active use. Decide on the language you want the students to make their own (active use).
3 Language for comprehension. Decide on the language which is important for them to understand but not necessarily learn to use. (In order to develop listening skills they must be able to cope with the presence of language they are not familiar with without feeling the need to ‘translate’ every bit of it.)
4 Story length. Decide if you want to tell or read the whole story at one go or to divide it into parts.
5 Learn it. If you are going to tell the story…learn it but not word by word!
6 Rehearse it. If you are going to read the story…practice reading it aloud.
7 Rehearse the whole presentation. Practice the whole event or telling or reading and showing pictures, miming, etc.
8 Story readiness. Decide how you want to focus the students minds on receiving the story (creating story readiness). Decide on how to focus the students minds on the topic, ideas, feelings, etc of the story so that they get their ‘meanings’ ready:   a) chatting (telling/questioning) about the topic b) showing the book cover and illustrations c) drawing on the board d) miming, etc.
9 Prediction. The above idea is closely related to arousing theirpredictive skills. You might want to specifically activate their predictive skills…what might happen…what might be said…etc.

In class: the story and student activities
Here are lots of activities you can use: before, during and after the story.
Note: Different tellings. You can tell or the read the story many times.

Each time you might involve a different activity for the students to do.

Normally , during the first telling, it is enough for them to try to understand AND to find their own meanings and not do another activity.

Before you tell the story

Why do you want to do an activity before reading or telling the story?
1 No activity at all
…straight into the story.
2 Create story readiness (Show the book, show pictures, play music, wear special clothes, show objects, special place to sit, etc.)
3 Focus the students minds on the topic and ideas of the story.(Discussion. Pictures. Objects.)
4 Teach new language important for an understanding of the story.  (Translation. Pictures. Games.)
5 Encourage prediction (Show the book. What did you think the story is about?)
6 Set a task (I am going to tell the story. If I make a mistake tell me!)

While you tell the story
Why do you want to do an activity while reading or telling the story?
1 Listen and enjoy it! Don’t ask the students to do anything except listen and enjoy the story.
2 Comprehension. Finding out if they are understanding the story is OK but ‘testing their comprehension’ is potentially destructive of the golden egg. Ask questions in L2 or L1 but with an aura of the concern of a fellow listener NOT the concern of the language teacher as tester.
(Other techniques: arranging pictures or texts in sequence, miming, completing a gapped text, filling in a flowchart, drawing map, miming, acting out, etc.)
3 Prediction. Arousing predictive skills through guessing and discussing. (What is going to happen now?)
4 Analysis. Heightening objective response. (Why is he doing that?)
5 Expression. Heightening subjective response. (Drawing. Miming. Acting. Chanting. Imagining particular things re the fives senses. )
6 Task. Carrying out a task which you set before starting the story.

After you have told the story
Why do you want to do an activity after reading or telling the story?
Perhaps just let the students enjoy the story with no follow up tasks at all! They won’t believe their luck!
1 Comprehension. Minimise teacher testing and maximise interpersonal sharing and enquiring. Let them show their comprehension through the response to the story in the ideas below. OK some traditional exercises BUT imagine being asked to do traditional comprehension activities after a highly personal exchange with someone you love (that is what story sharing can be!). Be careful!
Re-telling a week later is reasonable…re-telling immediately afterwards is just excruciating testing. (re-telling, sequencing texts or pictures, acting out, writing the story, discussing the story, analysing the story, flowcharting the story, relationship diagram, drawing on a map, drawing a picture or picture strip, questions and answers)
2 Analysis and reflection. Developing the students feeling and understanding for the world of experience is a huge potential offered by the world of stories. A balance must be found between analysis and reflection.

Analysis means examining, identifying and explaining.

Reflection means thinking deeply and widely and without necessarily doing anything as a consequence but letting the concepts seep into and saturate the mind as they will. A butterfly with a pin through its thorax and its latin name below is not a butterfly anymore. (Evaluating through choice of rating, comment on aspects of the story)
3 Expression. Opportunities for the students to respond creatively to the experience of the story through any of the arts. (Drama, book making, painting, singing, writing a poem or a chant, writing letters between the protagonists, writing a journal, writing a story within the story, interviewing a protagonist eg the wolf, re-telling from a different point of view, re-telling set in a different time or place, re-telling in a different medium)
4 Topic and concept linked activities. The Hungry Caterpillar becomes a butterfly. You might like to link this to an exploration of the idea of ‘change’. The students might begin the project with the story of The Hungry Caterpillar and then go on to explore other examples of change,for example, animals and people growing up. This would link very naturally with, ‘can’ and ‘can’t’. (researching aspects of the content ofthe story eg geographical, historical, cultural, mathematical, food, clothes, animals, etc.)
5 Publishing and performing. (For the class only or for other people: books, website, leaflets, postcards, posters, plays, audio tapes, video tapes, mask plays, shadow plays, puppets, mime, song and chant, etc.)

A summary larder of activities

1 List/talk about the key moments.
2 Add detail to a key moment.
3 Write 2 above with you as the protagonist (or object!)
4 Continue the story…a sequel.
5 Learn to tell the story.
6 Make the story into a shadow play/sound recording play/video play.
7 Make a book out of the story.
8 Pairs write the story in 10 sentences on 9 Strips of paper and ask other pairs to put them in the right order.
9 Pairs write 10 questions about the story for other pairs to answer.
10 Gapped text. Jumbled text.
11 Condense the story into five lines.
12 For and against debate eg the case for the wolf.
13 Write letters between the protagonists.
14 Draw a likes and dislikes diagram.
15 What would you like to ask the protagonist/antagonist. (Writing, hot seating, drama)
16 Experiment with improving the story…maybe just the beginning.
17 Write a poem or a song. Perform.
18 Draw pictures to illustrate the whole story to be displayed in a frieze.
19 Draw a storyboard for the story.
20 Divide the story into five parts and the class into five groups. Each group acts out one part of the story.
21 Re-tell the story: in a different place or time; from one protagonists point of view.

The ideas in these notes are based on,

Storytelling with Students
published by Oxford University Press.
This book contains 32 stories and lesson plans and 92 different activities you can do with any story.

Creating Stories with Students

This book contains many ideas for creating stories.


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