Stories can be a very versatile and powerful teaching tool.
- Stories are fun and motivational.
- Stories allow students to be creative and imaginative.
- Stories give students a sense of achievement.
- Storytelling gives students a chance to practise oral fluency and extended discourse.
- Stories introduce language in a comprehensible and meaningful way.
- Stories are authentic.
- Listening to stories can develop important skills such as prediction, guessing, hypothesising and message decoding.
- Storytelling can provide valuable cultural input.
- If the students know the story in their L1 they can use this knowledge to help them understand or tell the story in L2.
- There are lots of different fun activities that spin off from stories.
Possible sources of stories
- you and your life
- students' lives
- books, magazines, comics, Reader's Digest, newspapers
- the internet
- folk stories, fairy stories, Disney films
- local stories and legends
- urban legends
- creating your own stories using words or pictures
Choosing and preparing
- You need to find stories that are interesting to you and your students.
- The stories should have values that are acceptable to you and your students.
- You will need to decide which key words may need to be pre-taught.
Activities that you can do
- Sharing personal life stories. Get students to divide a sheet of paper into four boxes and then get them to draw pictures about one of the following or similar topics:
- my life story
- my family story
- my last holiday
The students then tell each other their story based on the pictures they have drawn. This works well if you model this on the board by drawing your pictures and telling your story first.
- Tell a short funny story, joke or anecdote. Try this at the beginning of class as a warm up and ask the students if they have any funny stories or jokes that they would like to tell you.
- Stories and pictures. Get students to bring in cut-out magazine pictures of their favourite stars. Then write different words on the board, such as love, jealousy, fame, travel, murder, marriage, luxury hotel, boat, fast car, money, big dark house, family, friends, accident, disappearance, theft, adventure, suspicious, secretive, treasure, jewels, fortune, etc. Then tell the students they have 10-15 minutes to make up an interesting story about their favourite stars. Tell the students they can use any vocabulary or grammar that they want to but that they must use at least five words from the board. Students then make up their stories and tell them to the rest of the class or other groups.
- Tell the students a simple urban legend or a ghost story. Then get them to tell you one that they know. Using pictures to help you tell a story is always a good idea even if it is just stick figures drawn on the board as you are telling the story.
- Give students a picture of someone or a picture of a face from a magazine. Write various questions on the board for students to discuss in pairs or groups. Afterwards students can introduce and present their character to another pair or group.
- What does this person look like?
- What do you think their name is?
- Do you think they're happy? Why?
- What do you think they're doing now? Why?
- What kind of house do you think they live in?
- What kind of lifestyle do you think they lead?
- What do you think their family is like?
- What do you think their job is?
- Do you think they like their job?
- What do they do in their free time?
- Do they have any secrets?
- What would a typical day their life be like?
- Story dominoes. Students work in small groups. Write a selection of key words onto a set of cards (one word per card) and give each group a set of cards. Tell them to divide the cards evenly amongst the group. The aim of the activity is to tell a story in domino fashion.
- Student A puts down a card and starts the story. Then student B puts down one of their cards and continues the story. Then student C continues, and so on, until all the students have used all their cards and the story is complete.
- Students then re-tell their story to another group and listen to other groups' stories.
- You can easily make up your own story dominoes on other topics such as sci-fi, urban life, football, Harry Potter, etc., or if you are artistic you can even draw pictures on your dominoes instead of words. This set is for a fantasy story:
- Modern children's tales. Write the names of popular children's stories on the board such as Goldilocks and the three bears, Peter Pan, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the beanstalk, etc. and ask if the students know these stories and can tell them to you.
- Once the students have told you the rough outline of the stories, put them into pairs or small groups. Now tell the students that they have 10-15 minutes to recreate one of these stories in a different genre, for example as a horror story, a detective story, a love story, an adventure story, etc.
- Tell the students they are free to add in new characters or events if they want to and that at the end of the activity they will vote on the most original and creative story.