Storytelling in the Classroom

Storytelling in the Classroom

Gareth Davies is a teacher, teacher trainer and storyteller based in South Wales. He specialises in telling traditional stories from around the world in the English Language Classroom.

We think of stories as being an activity for very young learners but effective storytelling can capture the imagination of students of all ages and help them fall in love with stories. I use traditional folk tales in all my teaching. This blog will look at how you can become an effective storyteller and how you can use stories in the language classroom.

Before you start, decide how you want to tell the story. There is nothing wrong with reading a story but if you can tell it rather than read it, then it is so much more interesting for the students because it allows the teller to improvise and include the students more.  It may seem daunting to learn stories but there are techniques that can help you.

Try this – read the story and try to break it down into seven key points. Then, close your eyes and try to imagine the scene for each of the seven points; really try to picture every little detail. Now try to tell the story to yourself.  Don’t worry when you tell the story if you get details wrong, you may actually be improving the story. The more you tell the story, the more you embellish it and the better it gets.

Jan Blake, a world-famous storyteller, says that storytelling is an interactive process. When she tells a story, the audience is part of it. Prediction is a great way to involve the students when telling a story. It gives the students a personal engagement with the story; finding out if their ideas are right or wrong as they go along.  We often think of prediction as being used as a pre-listening task, but it can be used throughout.

Try this –  before you tell the story, use the title and pictures or keywords to elicit ideas about the story from the students. Then, stop at certain points during the story and ask the students if their ideas were right and what they think will happen next.

Another way to include your students in the story is to find actions they can do while you are telling the stories. For example, if it is raining, I ask the students to clap their knees with their hands. If my character is looking for something, I get them to put their hand above their eyes. If my story has an animal in it, then the students make the noise of that animal. I’ve had a class of Portuguese teenagers doing these actions.

Try this – as you introduce the characters in the story ask your students to say hello to them and then describe them. For example; Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Little Red Riding Hood. Say hello to Little Red Riding Hood. What does she look like? What’s she wearing? Where does she live?

It’s important to follow-up the story with something that allows the students some closure. With adults or teens, you can discuss the moral of the story and how it might apply to modern life. With younger ones, you can ask them to retell the story as a class. You can ask students of all ages to use their imagination.

Try this – put the students into small groups and ask them to think of a different ending to the story. Each group writes their ending and then reads their ideas to the class.

Becoming an effective storyteller and making storytelling activities fun means that storytelling can be an engaging way to motivate your students and helps them to improve their, listening, speaking and writing skills. 

* For short one minute stories that can be used with adults and teens, please go to my YouTube playlist (updated every Monday).

* If you would like to book one of my storytelling shows for your students, I will be in Serbia in April. You can contact me via website www.gareththestoryteller.com.

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Gareth Davies
Gareth Davies Autor

I am Gareth the Storyteller. I bring stories alive for adults and children alike. I specialise in graded stories for English language students. 
I have an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff University and have told stories in the UK, China, Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. You can often find me telling stories at venues across Cardiff and I am a member of the Society for Storytelling.
As well as being a storyteller, I have the DELTA qualification and have worked in English language teaching for over twenty years as a teacher, teacher trainer and materials developer. I've developed materials for Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and the British Council and taught for Cardiff University in Cardiff and International House in the Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal.
As a teacher trainer, I've visited over forty countries and have collected a range of traditional stories on my travels. Now, I am combining my two passions and bringing traditional stories to the English language classroom. 

To find out more about my teaching background please visit my teaching page here.

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