Once upon a time there was a group of teachers who were wary of using authentic story books in the classroom. They complained about everything. To start with, they said the vocabulary wasn’t of the bland, pre-packaged variety found in ELT books, the students wouldn’t understand it. (Yes they will.)
The subjects are archaic they howled, The Elephant and the Bad Baby is even older than us, and features a grocer’s and a barrow boy. ( The details may date, but the themes are universal.)
Stories even have the gall to use language we haven’t yet presented in class, they moaned, or that doesn’t even exist, like “fee fie fo fum”( When reading about the aforementioned elephant and baby “going rumpeta-rumpeta-rumpeta down the road”, not one pupil asked me what it meant, not once, ever.)
Also the teachers worried about financing these new projects, one book won’t be enough for the class. (Yes it will.)
The teachers were afraid pupils would find stories babyish. ( I’ve read Giraffes Can’t Dance to a class of 15 year olds and they loved it, some were in tears.)
This is not the place for the WHY of stories, but the HOW, so here are some suggestions:
- How to incite Interest
When I come into class with the story bag (a funky shopping bag in which I put all the realia, worksheets, books and stuff we use in story time) the whispering and nudging starts.
- Write the title and ask the students to predict keywords or the whole story.
- Show an object and ask about its part in the story
- Show an image from the story and encourage comments
- Write up Key words (or vocabulary you want to pre teach, ask students to make sentences using the words.
- Draw the new vocab on the board, then read the words out and ask the students which word they think refers to which picture.
2. How to keep up interest
Many people suggest a comprehension activity to ensure students pay attention, but I’ve never found this necessary, and I think it detracts from the whole storytelling activity, we don’t give our kids sheets of words to check of while we read to them at night.
- Stop frequently and ask questions – Who? What? Where? and most importantly Why do you think? and How do you know that?
- As for updated predictions as the story develops
- Use gestures and mimes – this helps the students follow, and will help them recall the story later.
- Ask the students to “read” along, especially the parts that are repeated, “Oh Grandma, what …. you’ve got”.
- Be really mean and plan your lesson so the end of the lesson falls at a crucial moment, for example ” The elephant stopped and said you’re a bad baby because…” Homework can be to guess the ending.
3. What to do once you’ve read it
The hardest thing can be keeping up interest after the end of the story. That’s where post-reading activities come in.
- Make a book,they don’t have to be long, or rectangular either.
The idea for this one came from the fantastic British Council publication “Tell it Again”, which you can download for free.
2. Depending on the story, pupils can write a letter, recipe, instruction list to accompany the story.
3. Make a story box
4. Draw a map of the location.
5. Encourage personalisation and individualisation by allowing students to make their own versions.
6. Write the sequel.
5. Make a film or a short play.
7. Invent a new character and his role in the story, or imagine you were in the story, what was your role? Did you meet Little Red Riding Hood in the wood? Did you see Jack swapping his cow for the magic beans?
The teachers took some of the ideas above and added them to their own amazing creations, and everyone lived happily ever after.