The power of story time for young learners, Part 2


(Read Part 1 here.)

Stories are magic. Most stories tend to have recurrent, predictable themes, yet our enjoyment of them never fades. Last week, we talked about the power of shared parent-child story time for building imagination and vocabulary among young learners. Early exposure to books has a direct impact on school success and encouraging parents–especially parents of English learners–to read with their children, has never been so important.

But story time has all the trappings of a powerful tool in the classroom, too, for students old or young. Matthew Friday has written two posts on storytelling over at Edutopia. In one, he writes that storytelling is the oldest form of teaching. In the other, he describes the qualities of storytelling that make it ideal for learning: we speak slowly and dramatically, we emphasize key words, we use facial expressions and gestures… basically, we make what we’re saying as interesting and engaging as possible. With patterned stories (think “The Three Little Pigs” or any other repetitive children’s story) ELs stand a greater chance of learning key language because the content is repeated and, thanks to our delivery, accessible.

The “secret weapon” aspect of classroom story time, however, is student storytelling. We’ve seen over and over that language learners learn best when they’re doing the talking. And stories are the perfect tool to get students to produce language for a variety of reasons:

  • They have loose rules and are open to interpretation
  • They invite imagination
  • They have a satisfying structure (beginning, middle, end)
  • They can be simple or complex in plot
  • They can be simple or complex in delivery
  • They engage the extroverts but also draw out the introverts
  • Interactive storytelling is a community building activity
  • Dramatizing stories requires the use of the whole body, which improves learning
  • Oral storytelling gives students motivation to write

Do you use student storytelling as a tool in your classroom? How do you do it? If you haven’t tried it before, how can we help?


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