Storytelling in the EFL / ESL classroom

Here are some tips and suggestions to keep in mind while telling stories in the EFL classroom – my students love stories (well, most of them anyway).

 1. Keep it simple. Simplify the language – think about changing the linguistic content depending on the level of your students:

a) less common vocabulary, eg. stool = chair

b) Long sentences, eg. The princess, who had a kind heart, agreed to the marriage. = The kind princess said yes.

c) Idioms, eg. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. = Don’t panic

d) Tenses, eg. He had been swimming = He swam.

2. Maintain eye contact. Move your eye contact around, try not to focus on just one person.

3. Think of a hook for the start of the story, eg. Imagine a world without leaves (for introducing photosynthesis )

4. Find a theme for your story, eg. the bus story linked to advice.

5. Change your voice / position for different characters.

6. Use vivid, colourful language that your students can understand, eg. They use every part of the animal, their eyes, bones and brains. / My dad’s got fingers like sausages. / Apple green.

7. Think when/how to use pauses.

8. Use movement/mime to help clarify meaning, eg. to describe the enormous vats to render the dead animals.

9. Try to appeal to all the senses, not just visual – use language to describe smells, sound, touch.

10. Invite interaction/invite questions. Encourage students to offer predictions, as once they’ve made a prediction, they’re more inclined to listen as they have a stake in the story.

11. Create the “Well I never (knew that) ”/ “You don’t say” moment. Even with mundane things, eg. There are 7 times more chickens than people in the world (world population is around 7 billion and there are an estimated  50 billion) .

12. Create sound effects, eg. tapping on the window/ scraping the box that contained the pet.

13. Repetition. Have a key part of the story/catchphrase – invite the students to repeat it, eg (you)“And what did we say?’ (students) “Puppy, puppy...”

14. Tell the story in Spanglish.

15. Think about props. Bring something to the classroom to stimulate interest, eg. wear a storytelling jacket.

16. Choose a story you like and not one you think your students will like. You’ll enjoy telling it more and you’ll transmit this to your class.

17. Think about how to end your story...

Storytelling workshop for English secondary teachers at CARLEE, Zaragoza

Storytelling workshop for English secondary teachers at CARLEE, Zaragoza