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Reasons Why Stories Important in Early-Childhood ESL Teaching

Reasons Why Stories Important in Early-Childhood ESL Teaching | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Why is the incorporation of storytelling and singing vital when teaching English to young learners? When a teacher is faced with the – sometimes daunting – task of teaching English to young learners, he or she must pause and consider a few things. First of all, if it is the first time a teacher is confronted with young learners, they must adapt their teaching approach. As with any new course, the teacher must evaluate his or her teaching approach. Who are the learners? What level are they at? How do I, as the teacher, reach the student, gain their attention and trust?

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

Introduction to productive and receptive skills in English

When teaching young learners, the implementation of storytelling will be the key to success. Young learners may not have learned to read or write in their native language. Therefore introducing reading and writing in English should not be the first step. It has been my experience in teaching young children (pre-school and kindergarten) that the teacher must possess specific requirements to meet the needs of the children. First of all, frontal teaching will not work. The teacher must gain the children's attention through songs, stories, and also an engaging personality. I believe that storytelling and singing can and should be used together within the same lesson.

For example, if the teacher reads the book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?" to the children, they can begin by introducing colors – what colors do the children know? Do they know the names of the colors? Then the teacher should read the book to the children – preferably a large book so that all of the children can see the pictures. It is not necessary at this stage for the children to read the words. The teacher can slowly read through the book as an introduction to the class. Then, the teacher can sing the words to the level, encouraging the children to sing along. The children here are learning listening comprehension as well as the first attempts at pronouncing words in English. Short storybooks like "Brown Bear" can be read and sung repeatedly, as the young learners enjoy repetition. What is important here is that the children have a frame of reference. They see the pictures in the book and hear the corresponding words. Then they sing the words along with the teacher. Singing alone is fun – but it will not have the same learning effect as the combination of reading and singing.

Grammar structures and Vocabulary

Another critical aspect of storytelling in young learners is that they can unknowingly learn proper grammar or know if something is said correctly or incorrectly. Early childhood is far too young to learn about grammar in any language, especially a foreign language. When listening to stories that the teacher reads aloud, the young learners hear English appropriately spoken and are then more prepared as they progress in their English learning. They can decipher what is correct and incorrect in the spoken language and can more easily apply it to the language rules as they get older.

Fluency and correct pronunciation

Storytelling further allows for an earlier fluency in regards to pronunciation. When the young learner hears stories read aloud to them by a native English speaker, they enjoy more ease when speaking out loud because they have listened to how the words are supposed to sound. I highly encourage teachers to read simple stories more than once or tell stories with recurring characters. The children will benefit from the repetition and are more likely to retain what they have learned if they hear it repeatedly. This is not to say that the teacher should stand in front of the classroom and make the children repeat words over and over again. Using songs, for example, is an excellent way to teach specific topics. In a small class I taught, I introduced the word "snow" to the learners – "it's snowing," "snowflakes," "snowman," etc. Then we watched a video of the song "Snowflakes," which showed snowflakes falling to the ground. We sang "snowflakes, snowflakes, snowflakes are falling, falling, falling…" and motioned the word "falling." The children left class that day with several new vocabulary words and visual enhancement. We sang the song repeatedly throughout the winter on snowy days at the beginning or end of our class. This repetition enabled more long-term learning.

Are you ready to teach English abroad or online?

When teaching English, or any other 2nd language, the teacher must be prepared to engage their pupils at their level to young learners. This does mean reading, singing, and often being silly. The engaged pupil will have much greater success than the unengaged pupil. The implementation of storytelling and singing will significantly aid both the teacher and the pupil.

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