Friday, 23 October 2015

All You Need to Know About Storytelling

I have always enjoyed telling stories to children, probably because my main field is philology and teaching foreign languages. I truly feel that songs and stories are the best means of teaching English to speakers of other languages and this reflects in the way the children in my group react to these types of activities. They’re always happy to hear that “It’s story time!”.

Stories engage children and are a unique tool for teachers of foreign languages.

Here are some of the benefits of storytelling in EFL activities:
  • Stories stimulate children’s imagination and creativity;
  • Storytelling improves children’s listening skills, if the stories are appropriately chosen;
  • If read/told in a fun, creative way, stories instill a love of reading and motivate kids to learn a foreign language;
  • Storytelling improves kids’ oral and verbal language – they learn to express themselves not only through words, but also gestures;
  • Stories improve kids’ comprehension, sequencing, and cause-effect reasoning;
  • Some stories are moralizing and teach children how to behave;You can use stories to help children develop emotionally;
  • Through drama and acting, children take an active role and develop their creativity;
  • By being engaged and playing different roles, children will grasp new notions better, learn basic vocabulary, as well as remember what they have learnt for a longer time. Emotion and learning are connected – when a child has positive emotions in relation to an activity, she will learn effortlessly and will be able to remember what she has learnt.
  • A great thing about telling English stories to children who have different mother tongues is that they learn the language while used in meaningful context – not only will they learn vocabulary, but also be exposed to grammatically correct sentences.
  • Reading stories from around the world will arouse the children’s interest in other cultures and countries.
 Photo of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle - it has very easy vocabulary, nicely colored images, a cute character, and a lot of craft and song ideas to go with it.

Tips for choosing appropriate stories for kindergarteners:
  • In choosing a story for your children, take into consideration their level of comprehension;
  • Don’t introduce too many new words, because they might not be able to pay attention to the content of the story;
  • Stories with rhymes or with repetitions, predictable words and phrases, will help children engage in the storytelling process;
  • Choose stories with relevant themes for your learners – themes that have to do with their interests (favorite toys/cartoons/sports) and their close environment (family, friends, kindergarten).
  • Friendly and polite characters will help children model an appropriate social behavior;
  • Choose books with nicely colored pictures, not too bright or too busy;
  • Pop-up books, touchy-feely books, or interactive books will make children more curious and eager to explore;
  • Choose books that you love, because they will like them more if you are enthusiastic about the stories;
 Photo of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" (Eric Carle)  - pop-up book with CD.

Photo of "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" (Pam Adams) - one of my all time favorite.

Tips for developing children’s love of reading:
  • Use props to act the stories out – stick puppets, hand puppets, finger puppets, sock puppets, costumes, images…the possibilities are endless;
  • Don’t be afraid of adapting the story to suit your children’s level – take characters out, add characters that your children can relate to, adapt dialogues (especially when assigning roles for the children, make sure the lines are not too difficult), change the ending if you feel that it’s not appropriate;
  • Make use of paralinguistic elements; use facial expressions and gestures to convey meaning;
  • Children learn better when all their senses are involved in the learning process – when you teach the story involve all of their senses. For example, when you teach “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” you can taste and smell porridge (hot, cold, just right), sing a song about the three bears (hearing), act the story out (seeing), paint a bear with foam (touch), etc.
  • Be as funny as you can – humor helps create a friendly, relaxed atmosphere; You could even use sound effects!
  • Use different voices for each characters – it will make it easy for the children to understand and the voices will give characters their own personalities. Also, the children might find it easier to choose the character they identify with.
  • Use music to teach the lines; 

You can make stick puppets by laminating photos of the characters, then attaching them to popsicle sticks or straws.

I hope that these tips will help you transform storytelling into an enjoyable and fun activity with your little ones!

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