are a story absorber and a story teller by Andrew Wright
are the sap in the tree
have been absorbing stories from the moment you were born
and it didn't stop when you became a teenager or adult. Stories
are the sap in the tree. People go to war because their stories
are incompatible. The Vikings wanted to make their wild slaughterings
acceptable so they employed storytellers to make the tales
sound good. The royal family has appointed a storyteller (spin
doctor) I believe, to make their story more palatable. And
we all know that Blair and Bush ride on a sea of spin doctors.
Enough! Stories are for all of us, not just for kids.
are a storyteller
every time you tell someone about missing a train or plane
or losing your watch or having a rotten Christmas or having
to cope with the wretched behaviour of another colleague
are telling a story. You cannot tell all the facts
select. You decide what to say first and then next
sequence for effect and understanding. You decide what words
to choose and how to move your body and use your voice
say you are not a storyteller is like saying you're not political
because you don't vote. Not voting is a political act. We
are all storytellers.
Every one of our students, young or old, wants a story. They
may not want them all the time but basically they all need
are largely based on words. Stories give meaning to words
and students want them. Why aren't stories more central to
is true that I have quite a wide view of what stories are.
This understanding ranges from a good old fashioned myth or
fairy story right through to a phrase like, 'The Iron Lady'.
How happy Mrs Thatcher must have been to be called the 'iron
lady' by the Russians! She knew that the image would never
be forgotten. It is part of storytelling without being a full
In the classroom: you as a teller
You are a real person and can choose to share some or many
of your experiences with the students. If you time it reasonably
then this is not only listening comprehension but helps to
establish a special rapport with the class. And if you give
then you are more likely to receive. The students are more
likely to really use English in order to communicate than
merely mechanically practice it. They will probably do this
because they begin to see you as a person and not just a teacher.
And they realise that you think of them as people and not
only students of English. Personal stories can help to bring
about this shift of perception.
You can read and tell stories. Both forms are good and have
their strengths. But do tell stories sometimes. That is the
main way in which you can give something personal to the students.
In the classroom: you as a helper
You can help the students to make stories. In my opinion your
first role is to create an atmosphere in which stories are
valued in human terms much more than in 'learning English'
terms. Revel in their stories and let them see it.
A few suggestions. As a general principle I find that class
and group storymaking enable you to help the individual student
to experience a wide range of possibilities in storymaking
rather than just to be lost in his or her idiosynchratic bits
of memory of stories they have heard. It is certainly helpful
to the less able storymakers and it doesn't do any harm to
the more able.
My main technique is to ask questions in order to drive them
to create the unique and not the general, 'Well it were
know what I mean
you know what I am saying', kind of
sketchy, dull eyed vagueness.
I have worked with very young children from three years and
I have worked with adults, including business people. The
principle is exactly the same. 'Tell me more!' 'But what do
you mean?' 'Tell me how he walks when he is going to work.'
'Tell me how he walked on that particular morning.'
Most student work goes to you and back to the student. Which
is OK if it is 'most' and not 'all'. To experience using English
they must perceive of themselves as people and not as students
of English. Instead of asking them to write a story in their
exercise book for you to mark, show them how to make a book
(zigzag of paper is the easiest) and to write, design and
illustrate a book which is then exhibited in the school lobby
and in the local bookshop and then put in the school library.
You wont have to say, 'Get the English right!' They will be
desperate to do that because their dignity as a whole person
is at stake.
Perform stories: shadow theatre, overhead projector, audio
recording, video recording, masks, make up, etc.
have worked with all kinds of learners in many different places.
Sometimes I get small groups but I am often given huge numbers
(the biggest group was 550 students aged 17 and 18 in Denmark).
I love the work but it is not always successful, of course.
It is essential to say that because you might feel unsure
of yourself! And it is normal to get things right every time.
Brief tips: it is essential to let them know what is going
to happen so that they can adjust their minds. Also make clear
that you are not gunning for grammar but are really interested
in the story.
My two books
Oxford University Press uniquely allowed me to do two books
on the use of stories in language teaching. That shows what
a powerful subject it is!
Storytelling with Children is a book of stories
and ideas for telling stories to students (it says children
in the title but it doesn't make much difference actually).
I put a list of 94 activities you can do with most stories.
Creating Stories with Children offers lots of
ways of helping students to create stories and also to make
books and put on performances.
I hope you found this article useful in some way or another.
If you are interested in having more practical things to do
that is what books are good at!
Gersie and King. Storymaking in Education and Therapy.
Maley and Duff. Drama Techniques in language Learning.
Cambridge University Press
Morgan and Rinvolucri. Once Upon a Time. Cambridge
Rosen. And None of it was Nonsense. Mary Glasgow
Rosen. Shapers and Polishers. Mary Glasgow
Wright. Storytelling with Children. Oxford University
Wright. Creating Stories with Children. Oxford University
has been an author and illustrator for many years and
has written books for Oxford University Press (some of
the reviewed here), for Cambridge University Press (Five
Minute Activities, Games for Language Learning, Pictures
for Language Learning), Longman (1000+ Pictures for Teachers
to Copy). He has been a professional storyteller for fifteen
years and estimates that he has worked with 50,000 student
either telling them stories or helping them to make stories
and books. Now Andrew is based in Hungary where he runs
a language school (ILI International Languages Institute)
with his wife Julia and the intensive LCCI Arels Cert
TEB course with Mark Powell (for teachers of business
English). Andrew cfan be contacted at email@example.com
If you want information about the LCCI Arels course then
please see the ILI International Languages Institute web
an interview with Andrew
the review of Andrew's storytelling books
Storytelling related links on the site:
for the classroom by Michael Berman
or Nomad by Michael Berman
'01 Newsletter with theme on Storytelling
Storytelling - A Manual for Beginners - lesson plan
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