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5 Ideas on How to Implement Stories into Your ESL Teaching

5 Ideas on How to Implement Stories into Your ESL Teaching | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Stories provide a natural and relevant context for the exposure to English language and storytelling built on the children’s innate capacity for fantasy and imaginative play, making it an essential aspect to be integrated into language lessons. Beyond just language skills, students are also able to acquire critical thinking skills such as predicting, hypothesizing, categorizing, sequencing, and inferring meaning through various storytelling activities. Stories are also used to enhance children’s concentration skills and develop moral and emotional intelligence by teaching students to empathize with the characters in the story. Storytelling can be extended to include activities for children to retell, act out, and create their own stories. Therefore storytelling has an impact on various aspects of children’s development and multiple intelligence.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Pearly T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

This essay will explore how teachers can choose the stories, tell the stories, and plan story-based lessons to tap on multiple intelligences. Gardner (1983) proposed the multiple intelligence theory that intelligence can be differentiated into specific modalities (linguistic-verbal, interpersonal, and intrapersonal emotional skills development, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic, visual-spatial, and naturalistic). Various classroom activities through storytelling that I’ve tried in my practice will be shared. These activities have been designed to have an impact on Gardner’s multiple intelligence and language development. The design of classroom activities using storytelling also tap on various aspects of children’s development such as thinking skills and creativity.

Choice of Stories

The type of stories chosen must be suitable for the age and language level of the children that are intended for. Teachers have to consider the language objectives (whether teaching adjectives, types of nouns, tenses) and choose content that is of relevance to the objectives. For young learners, stories need to be interesting, visually appealing, and memorable. Stories that have a repetitive discourse pattern also helps in the memory of new words and promote participation. The type and theme of stories chosen should be varied to enhance motivation (fables, biographical stories, stories about feelings, manners, and different cultures).

Also Read: Parents Part in Children’s Educational Process

Planning Storytelling Lessons

When planning our stories, we have to first decide how to present the stories in various appealing multisensory ways (whether mime, puppet, or actions). Before we start to tell the story, we can start with a “warmer” activity, depending on the theme or title of the story. For example, if the story is about animals, we can start with an animal song or Pictionary guessing the animal. If it is a book about Christmas, we can learn to sing various carols first. Next, teachers can encourage predicting skills by asking students to read the title and predict what the story is about and what is going to happen. It is best to have a semi-circle arrangement and have full eye contact with the students before we begin storytelling.

During storytelling, teachers have to modulate voice and intonation for various characters in the story. At various junctures of the story, teachers can pause and give students time to participate, comment, and respond to questions to check their understanding and to sustain their motivation. Difficult words can be written on the board and explained. Mind maps, semantic maps, or character maps can be used to explain the words or illustrate the story events and characters. These mapping strategies can bring the students attention to important details or language points of the story.

After the storytelling, it is important to invite a personal response to the story by asking students to evaluate if they like the story, the characters, or have had feelings or experiences like those in the story. Stories can be further extended by asking students to produce different endings to the story or dramatizing aspects of the story to reinforce the language points learned. Below are some of the specific classroom activities using storytelling. Five classroom activities will be illustrated.

Also Read: Comparing Foreign Language Learning in Japan and Canada

1. Act out a story with puppets

Age: 4-10-year-old

Title of the story: “Should I Share My Ice-cream? By Mo Willems (2011). This story is about an Elephant thinking hard whether to share his ice cream with his good friend, Piggie.

Language objectives: adjectives for food such as awesome, yummy, sweet, super, great, tasty, nice, cool, happy and sad

Multiple intelligence: bodily-kinesthetic(creating puppets, acting out with puppets); interpersonal emotional development (empathizing with character and friend, sharing and caring)

Materials: Two puppets (elephant and pig)

Procedure: * Divide the class into pairs. Assign a role to each child (either elephant or pig) * Get the children to make puppets * The teacher demonstrates by telling the story and acting out elephant and pig using different voices * Children get in pairs and retell the story. The use of puppets in storytelling provides a useful framework for turn-taking and physical manipulation of the puppets helps kids to stay engaged and attentive.

2. Character profiling and mapping

Age: 5-10

Title of the Story: “My Dad” by Anthony Browne (2000) or “Disney Princess” by Jun (2018). These two stories illustrate the character traits of dad and various Disney princesses.

Language Objectives: Verbs and adjectives from My Dad book (jump, walk, eat, swim, strong, happy, big, soft, wise, laugh, brilliant and fantastic)

Verbs from Disney Princess: kind, smart, caring, brave, polite

Multiple intelligence: logical thinking, verbal, intrapersonal and interpersonal

Materials: photocopies of the character maps Character Description Action E.g Snow White Kind Cares for dwarfs

One can draw a circle diagram too.

Procedure * Read the story about Disney Princess or My Dad. * Draw a picture of one of the characters and make notes about physical descriptions, character and various actions in the story * Divide the class into pairs * Extend the story by asking children to fill up the character diagram with one member in their family or their friend and share in pairs.

This activity encourages children to think about different aspects of characters, verbs, and adjectives and their ability to describe people.

Also Read: My Personal Experience Moving to Beijing to Teach English

3. Storytelling and drama or mime

Age: 4-8

Title of the story: “Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell (1982). This story is about writing to the zoo to send a pet and various animals were sent with various traits. Ultimately the puppy was the best.

Language objective: animals (elephant, giraffe, lion, camel, snake, monkey, frog, puppy), adjectives ( big, tall, fierce, grumpy, scary, naughty, jumpy, scary)

Multiple-intelligence: bodily-kinaesthetic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic

Materials: picture cards of animals or sticky notes

Procedure: * The teacher tells the story to children using mime and gesture (the word sent back can be illustrated through the use of shooing each animal away using the back of the hand; mime the adjectives fierce and grumpy using facial expressions) * Tell the story again but this time get children to mime and use gestures * Cover each adjective in the book with sticky notes and kids guess the adjective * Get picture cards of animals and write various adjectives and play a matching game (matching the right animal with adjectives) * Children can act out as various animals

Through the repeated telling of a story using various modalities, children can remember the language in the story.

Also Read: Grammar: How to Teach Nouns

4. Story Sequence and categorizing

Age: 6-12

Title of the story: “Tortoise and Hare’s Race” based on Aesop’s Fable by Zoe McLoughlin (2013). This story highlighted the importance of exercising and how Tortoise won the race and not the Hare who was lazy and ate junk food.

Language objectives: categorizing junk food and healthy food; learn words such as muscles, bones, exercise

Multiple intelligence: intrapersonal (to take care of oneself with healthy food, not to be lazy), verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical (sequencing)

Materials: strips of card, each with a sentence from the story; drawings with various sections of the story

Procedure * Read the story to ensure children understand the structure and sequence, understand the meaning and moral of the story * Divide the class into fours * Distribute the strips of card or pictures with sections of the story * Children arrange the sentences to fit the order of the story * Children then read their sentences and retell the story to the rest of the group. * In the end, children can choose to change parts of the story or predict what happens if Hare practices for the next race and stop eating junk food * Stories can be extended by asking children about differences between healthy and junk food

This activity develops sequencing and categorizing skills and facilitates listening and turn-taking skills and raises awareness about health and self-care.

5. Story chants, actions, and art (multi-sensory)

Age: 4-8

Titles of books: “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle (1997). This story describes various animals and actions. “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister (2002). This story tells how a rainbow fish was initially hesitant in sharing his beautiful scales but ultimately at the end of the story, he started sharing his scales with the other fish and made friends. “Homes Around the World” by Judy Ling (2005). This story is about homes around the world from various cultures.

Multiple intelligence: Visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalistic, musical, artistic, interpersonal

Materials: Art supplies

Procedure * Read the book From Head to Toe with actions “I am a penguin and I turn my head. Can you do it?” * Ask the student to name the animal and to do the corresponding actions. * We can add a tune to the words and ask students to sing. * Read the book Rainbow Fish and get children to understand the importance of sharing * Draw and create a rainbow fish and retell the story * Read the book Homes Around the World and for students to understand how various cultures have various homes. * Extend the story by asking students about their home preferences, about their culture and environment and to imagine the kinds of homes they like to live * Design and draw the home and describe

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Therefore, various enjoyable classroom activities can be designed with storytelling for children of different ages. Classroom arrangements can also be varied whether in pairs or groups to enhance concentration skills and rapport when children collaborate to complete tasks. By extending storytelling through art, music, kinesthetic learning, and drama, these classroom activities also tap on and promote multiple intelligences and creativity in the classroom. These activities ultimately improve language development and children’s confidence and motivation in using a new language. Storytelling as a method in education can thus be used in diverse ways to help children to interact and learn the world around them.

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