Everybody, young and old, loves a good story. Parents read stories to their children, teens follow the stories of their favourite stars or singers online and adults watch news stories, soap operas and read novels. Stories are so important that they are oftentimes used in advertising or by politicians to make a point and to capture their audience.

We all tell stories every day, whether they are real stories about things that have happened to us, fictional stories or simply telling friends and family about films we have seen or books we have read.

There are many ways to tell stories and use stories in class but there are a few key things we should keep in mind if we would like to use stories with our pupils.

Picking a story

  • Length: Is the story the right length for the group? For young learners it is generally convenient to tell stories that take 2-6 minutes. Young learners have shorter attention spans and do not necessarily respond well to passive listening, so make sure stories are ‘short and sweet’.
  • Values and ideas: Stories can be used to teach language and structures but are also useful to transmit culture and values. Does the story you have picked include a moral or message that can be worked on in class?
  • Adapting language: Young learners will likely not understand every word you say. Help pupils understand meaning by using sounds, gestures, visuals and realia whenever possible.

Telling the story

  • Creating readiness: Choose the right moment to start the story and make sure the pupils are ready to listen. Make sure everyone can see and hear what is going on and communicate to the pupils what is expected of them.
  • Adaptability: If you see that attention is waning, or pupils are getting distracted, the story being told might have to be adapted. Make sure to get the listeners’ attention and keep them with you as the story is being told.
  • Starting and finishing: Use a rhyme, song, sound or action to show pupils that story time is about to begin. Some teachers use special props like a story hat, story jacket or story wand to indicate to the class that story time is about to begin. Similarly, try to make sure that the story has a strong, clear ending. Don’t just let the story drift off or stop. Some teachers take a bow or encourage the pupils to clap.
  • Interaction: If possible, try to provide pupils with the chance to interact with the story. They can say lines that are repeated in the story, do actions for different characters or answer impromptu questions. Props and other material can also be used during the story.
  • Voice: Another way to maintain pupils’ attention is to use different tones and volumes as the story is being told. Using different voices for distinct characters or different speeds can also help.

Following the story

Following the story, find out if the pupils liked the story or not. See if they can share who their favourite character is, what part they liked best or how the story could end differently.

We hope these tips and ideas help! Good luck and happy storytelling!


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