Tips for Teachers: Storytelling in Elementary School

January 20, 2023

Reading stories has long been a key resource for learning English because it provides a natural, interesting context for it. When we read to children, we do much more than just teach them English. We develop their imagination, explore other cultures, and educate our students. Listening to stories and playing them out also develops a range of linguistic, psychological, cognitive, social, and cultural skills.

There is an incredible number of wonderful stories for children these days, but not all of them are appropriate specifically for language learning. Before choosing a story to work within the classroom, we suggest reviewing the characteristics to look out for first:

  • repetitive words and expressions;
  • rhyming;
  • easy-to-follow sequencing;
  • illustrations that help you understand the text;
  • interesting characters;
  • humor and a variety of events;
  • a gripping denouement with an appropriate conclusion;
  • the appropriate length for the age group and level;
  • a theme and content that is appropriate or related to the curriculum.

How to Generate Interest

If you aren’t passionate about the book you’re reading, your students won’t be either, so always show enthusiasm. You can even write my essay yourself and then read it in class. By the way, a book, essay, or story can be presented in many ways. For example, you can tell about the book by hiding it before class and asking students to find it. Or you can hide it in a brightly colored box in the form of a gift and unwrap the “gift” together with the children.

Of course, children need to be prepared before reading the story, to provide them with so-called language support. To do this, you can, for example, show young students the cover and ask them what ideas they have about the story, judging by the picture on the cover. You could also prepare pictures or cards and learn the most used words or expressions in the story. If the children have already read or heard about the story, you can ask them to remember as many facts as they can about the main characters and the like.

How Stories Can be Used

1. Story Sequencing

Goal: Students should illustrate the key stages of the story and retell it to their classmates.

Instructions: In groups, students identify the key stages of the story they are going to illustrate. Give each group a piece of paper and ask them to draw lines to divide the sheet into blocks of equal size. So, students will need one block for each key step in the story, so if the group has more steps, it is best to give them several pieces of paper so they have enough space to draw (or you can prepare a ruled sheet of paper in advance).

In each block, students draw something that presents the key steps of the story. Depending on the level (grade level), students may even write sentences under each drawing. They take turns retelling the story to participants in the other group based on the drawings they created. Students could be asked to find someone to write their paper and then cut off each block separately and take turns retelling the story, showing their drawings in the correct order, after dividing the pieces among the group members.

The drawings can be collected and stored for later use in class.

2. ‘Lift the Flap’ Book

Goal: In this activity option, children explore the meanings of words in context by creating illustrated stickers to replace keywords in the story.

Instructions: Divide the class into several groups and prepare one copy of the story for each group. Each group member selects a word from the book page and copies it on a piece of paper (post-it note). As the teacher, you can supervise the words the students choose to make sure they are easy to illustrate and understand. Also, one of your tasks would be to make sure that all students have different words.

Students should prepare small illustrations of the words they have chosen and stick their stickers in place of the printed words in the story. Next, the groups exchange their “encrypted” texts and try to read the stories by guessing the glued words.

3. Storyboarding

Goal: To create “living” illustrations for the story.

Instructions: After reading the story briefly aloud, give the children instructions. They should choose between 5-10 key moments in the story and then act out those scenes using their bodies and facial expressions or other props (if your class is very large, you could choose more key moments and give roles to each student).

Take pictures of each scene, upload the photos to your computer, and print them out. Students can share the images and retell the stories using their own photos. Alternatively, students can write a brief description under their photos. You could also create a book at the end of the story with your own pictures instead of illustrations.

Using stories in English lessons is an incredibly useful method of language learning. If you’ve never tried it or have tried it but lacked the enthusiasm to continue, we hope these techniques will come in handy.

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