Storytelling in the Classroom

2

July 11, 2013 by k. liz

I read a good article this morning on how and why to incorporate storytelling into the classroom. I won’t re-write the article, but I’d like to share a few thoughts with you, and then you can read the article for yourself!

Creating a Storytelling Classroom for a Storytelling World

by Robert E. Jones
English Teaching Forum, Vol 50, No 3 (2012)

In his article, Jones reminds us that we live in a storytelling world. Stories or anecdotes are essential because “of the prevalent role that stories of personal experience play in human interaction.” Because of that, doesn’t it make sense that we utilize storytelling when teaching English, since it is a skill that students will most definitely need in their communications!

Jones leads his readers through four steps for building a storytelling culture in the classroom.

  1. presentation
  2. getting started
  3. improving
  4. listening

In presentation, it is important for the teacher to share the outline or formula of telling a good story, including questions for them to ask themselves such as:

  • who, where when?
  • what happened?
  • how did you feel? what did you do?

Also, in this stage, the teacher needs to make sure that the students have the grammar and language necessary to effectively tell a story.

In the getting started stage, teachers need to model and encourage students to share their stories. Jones shares a great activity called 4-3-2 (developed by Maurice, 1983) meant to help develop fluency. This activity requires students to tell a story in 4 minutes with a partner, then to change partners and tell the same story in 3 minutes, and finally 2 minutes. The goal is to trim down the story and improve it with each retelling. Sounds like a great (and adaptable!) activity to try in class.

The idea of improving stories includes helping students find more creative words and phrases to improve their story-telling. I think this is a great upper level skill to work on, especially to boost confidence that students are able to use and understand more natural language in conversation.

Finally, and very importantly, Jones suggests that we teach listening skills. This includes turn-taking and filler words as well as some other response phrases. I think that this skill is often overlooked, and it’s important to include it if we are going to foster culturally aware and proficient speakers. I think that something that cannot be overlooked here are cultural connections to listening and turn-taking. This will vary in every context, so be aware!

What do you think of these tips? Do you utilize story-telling strategies in your own classroom? If you like these ideas, please check out Jones’ article in the English Teaching Forum.

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2 thoughts on “Storytelling in the Classroom

  1. Bob Jones says:

    Dear K. Liz,
    I’ve just come across the review above that you wrote about my article on conversational storytelling in the classroom. Thank you very much for your kind words and for drawing other people’s attention to it. I hope you have been able to apply some of the ideas. You mentioned 4-3-2. I do strongly recommend it. It can be quite a powerful technique when the students get into it.
    Thanks again,
    Bob (Robert E. Jones)

    • k. liz says:

      Thanks for the comment, Bob!! Glad to hear from you, and I really did enjoy the article. I went to a story-telling conference last year, and I really enjoyed the concept of storying in the classroom. I’m not currently teaching in a classroom, but I’m looking forward to returning and utilizing more story-telling.

      Thanks for stopping by!!

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