Teachers as Storytellers



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”I actually think one of my strengths is my storytelling”.
Quentin Tarantino

Last week we talked about storytelling at ELTChat and Leahn summarised the chat on her blog. You can find many interesting ideas and links there.

While chatting I realised the chat is more focused on students’ telling or writing stories.I attended the winter warmer at British Council Istanbul and listened to Carol Read and Alec Williams and amazed how powerful their stories were and then I had another chance to listen to a great storyteller, Jan Blake, at Istek Elt. It didn’t stop there and luckily I attended Michael Berman’s IATEFL talk and I’m very much interested in telling stories in efl classrooms at the moment.


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I’m not a good storyteller. I invented stories for my kids but I must confess I was not a master but as they were ready to hear my stories, they used to listen to me attentively. Yet, listening to all these wonderful people I mentioned above, I decided to tell a story to my grade 5 students. I chose a story with a lot of repetition and rhymes. I found some drawings for the animals in the story, prepared a handout to pre-teach vocabulary then instructed some very easy tasks for while listening and after the story finished, we found other rhyming pairs together and they wrote their own stories.

Last week at BESL 2011, Prof. Sy-ying Lee suggested preparing power point for the images in the story. The alternatives to tell stories in the classroom are almost endless.

I usually find my students’ stories very dull and I’m sure you also complain from time to time that those stories lack imagination. Recently, I put some of the blame on teachers. Students cannot tell stories if they don’t hear stories. I’m sure there are wonderful teachers telling stories in their classrooms but I’m pretty sure that there are others who are mainly concerned with the curriculum. Teaching is role-modelling. If we do something with great enthusiasm, our students will also follow us. I go back to the 1st plenary of Istek Elt and remember Jan Blake, she just led us to the amazing world of stories.

What kind of stories we can tell in the class?

  1. Real stories, our stories to make them realise that they also have stories to tell.
  2. Stories with a lot of repetitions and rhymes to teach certain grammar point or vocabulary.
  3. Fairy tales, cultural tales to encourage critical thinking and discussion.


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Some useful links for storytelling

Alec Williams in Istanbul
Jan Blake at Istek Elt and more Jan Blake on youtube.
The magic of story time
 Story telling for preschoolers, guidelines and how-to tell a story
While writing this post I came across with this wonderful post, Fairy tales continued on  The Hedghog Blog.
‘Stories in Language Teaching’
And don’t forget to bookmark Leahn’s wonderful summary with lots of ideas and links for the production stage. http://earlyefl.blogspot.com/2011/05/eltchat-summary-storytelling.html