We often give stories to our students to read, but how often do we tell them a story? This article looks at the benefits of storytelling and gives advice on performance skills

Storytelling - benefits and tips - literature article
  • What can storytelling offer?
  • Storytelling and intercultural understanding
  • Other benefits of using storytelling in the classroom
  • Commonalities of cultures around the world
  • Performance techniques
  • A last word

What can storytelling offer?

Children have an innate love of stories. Stories create magic and a sense of wonder at the world. Stories teach us about life, about ourselves and about others. Storytelling is a unique way for students to develop an understanding, respect and appreciation for other cultures, and can promote a positive attitude to people from different lands, races and religions.

Storytelling and intercultural understanding

There are a number of ways in which storytelling can enhance intercultural understanding and communication. Stories can…

  • allow children to explore their own cultural roots
  • allow children to experience diverse cultures
  • enable children to empathise with unfamiliar people/places/situations
  • offer insights into different traditions and values
  • help children understand how wisdom is common to all peoples/all cultures
  • offer insights into universal life experiences
  • help children consider new ideas
  • reveal differences and commonalties of cultures around the world

Other benefits of using storytelling in the classroom


  • Promote a feeling of well-being and relaxation
  • Increase children's willingness to communicate thoughts and feelings
  • Encourage active participation
  • Increase verbal proficiency
  • Encourage use of imagination and creativity
  • Encourage cooperation between students
  • Enhance listening skills

Commonalities of cultures around the world

Stories reveal universal truths about the world. Through stories we see how very different people share the same life experiences and how human nature can transcend culture.

Performance techniques

Telling a story can captivate an audience; that is, with the right techniques and a little practice.

Remembering and retelling the plot:

  • map the plot as a memory technique
  • use story skeletons to help you remember the key events
  • think of the plot as a film or a series of connected images
  • tell yourself the story in your own words
  • create your own version of the story (adapt and improvise)
  • retell it numerous times until it feels like a story

Performance skills

Remember to...

  • vary the volume, pitch and tempo of your voice (enunciate clearly and exaggerate expression)
  • use your face, body and gestures (let your body speak)
  • make your body and face respond to the tale
  • have a clear focus and maintain concentration
  • maintain engaging eye contact with the audience/ individual listeners
  • create a charismatic presence (make the audience believe in you)
  • use different, exaggerated character voices
  • use your space/ be dynamic
  • remember to pace yourself
  • always remember to regain your style as a narrator
  • use silence and pauses to add dramatic effect

A last word…

Young Learners share a remarkable variety of personal experiences, values and ways of understanding. The language they learn in the classroom is the tool they use to shape their thoughts and feelings. It is more than a way of exchanging information and extending ideas, it is their means of reaching out and connecting with other people. Stories can link not only between the world of classroom and home but also between the classroom and beyond. Stories provide a common thread that can help unite cultures and provide a bridge across the cultural gap.

Adapted from a workshop by Paula Stoyle, British Council, Jordan

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