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Connecting Through Stories


merican mythologist and teacher

Joseph Campbell (1904–1987) told a

story about a colleague who was lec-

turing on the Hindu concept of maya,
that the world is like a bubble or an illusion.
Following class, a student came up to the profes-
sor to express her reservations about the idea.
“But maya, I don't get it-it doesn't speak to

And so it is with stories. A fairy tale is a prop-
er story for children, but for adults, some
changes may be necessary to make the tale
enjoyable as in “The Princess and the Bowling
Ball,” which is featured on our cover.

For different ages, different stories apply. The
maya myth for the university student had no
reality because the world as she knew it was a
place to learn from and deal with. But for those
who have lived long enough to have lost loved
ones and the landmarks (both physical and
mental) that give one bearings, the concept of
the world as an ephemeral bubble seems quite
real indeed.

This issue of the Forum is a celebration of

story. As Pedersen notes in the lead article,

"Storytelling is the original form of teaching.”

Great teachers like Plato, Confucius, and Jesus

Christ used stories to connect with their listen-

ers. In the foreign language classroom, story-

telling can provide a foundation for acquisition

as well as serve as a vehicle for language output.

Stories also offer a cultural experience with fairy

tales dressing timeless, universal fantasies in

national garb, and more contemporary stories

mirroring personal experiences in a particular

societal context. Different story genres will

appeal to different audiences, some being

attracted to autobiographical narrative and oth-

ers preferring the imaginative realms that we

have represented in this issue on our Idiom


The use of stories to provide comprehensible

input is treated in the articles by Pedersen,

McGuire, Stockwell, and Malkina. They discuss

various procedures that teachers can use to make

stories more accessible to their students. A

teacher’s style of presentation, questioning tech-

niques, use of imagery-gestures or illustrations

accompanying a written text, or exploitation of

story grammar as described in Malkina, facilitate

the process by which a student makes meaning

out of a story.

Two creative ways to use stories to enhance

EFL students' productive use of the language are
presented in Hines and Amtzis. Using “Story
Theater,” Hines mobilizes a class to stage its own
production of a short story. Besides rendering a
dramatic portrayal of a selected story, the stu-
dents are responsible for obtaining appropriate
props and determining special effects. The
approach is eminently successful (I have seen
Hines use this approach with teachers in
Thailand) and connects with the whole person
of the learner. Amtzis draws upon stories to give
his students practice in narrative writing. In the
spirit of Lawrence Durell's Alexandria Quartet,
students retell a story from the perspective of its
different characters. Through roleplay and a
series of tasks set down by the teacher, students
become acquainted with the structure underly-
ing short fiction (cf. Malkina's story grammar)
and begin writing stories of their own.

We tell stories to come to terms with the

world. The stories provide a perspective to

understand what has transpired in the past and

what is happening in the present. Stories can

also help us come to terms with language.

Caught up in the characters, aroused by the plot,

EFL students can be energized through story-

telling and make connections with English. This

issue of Forum gives you the resources for stories

to work their magic.


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Mark A. Clarke
University of Colorado

33 Italy. Summer Workbook Project: A Purposeful Way to Exploit Student

Generated Resources Daniela Villani

Donald Freeman
School for International Training

35 Malaysia. Creative Games for the Language Class Lee Su Kim

Else V. Hamayan
Illinois Resource Center

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Ann M. Johns
San Diego State University

38 Russia. Storytelling in Early Language Teaching Natasha Malkina

G. Richard Tucker
Carnegie Mellon University

40 Russia. American Gossip: Authentic Language Material for Engineering

Students Tatiana Slobodina

41 Spain. Designing an Advanced Speaking Course Linda Bawcom

43 United Kingdom. Integrating Grammar into the Teaching of Paragraph

Level Composition Nurdan Özbek

47 United States. Crossword Puzzles: One Way to Improve Communication

Strategies Glenn Wharton

From The Stinky Cheese Man and
Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon
Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith.
Text copyright © Jon Scieszka, 1992.
Illustrations copyright © Lane
Smith, 1992. Reprinted by arrange-
ment with Viking Penguin, a divi-
sion of Penguin books USA Inc.

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Storytelling and the Art of Teaching

E. Martin Pedersen
Universitá di Messina,

Storytelling is the original form of teach- of storytelling, and all other uses and
ing. There are still societies in which it is effects are secondary.
the only form of teaching. Though at-

Storytelling is also a living art. Like tempts have been made to imitate or up- music and dance, it is brought to life in date it, like the electronic storytelling of performance. A story will be altered by television, live oral storytelling will never

the storyteller's background: his/her go

out of fashion. A simple narrative will choice of setting and detail, and the rapalways be the cornerstone of the art of

port established with the audience. The teaching

storyteller's building materials are words, In dealing with stories, learners have sounds, and language patterns. The tools an experience with the powerful real lan

are the voice, face, and hands. The prodguage of personal communication, not

uct is the creation of a shared human exthe usual “teacherese” of the foreign-lan- perience based on words and imaginaguage classroom. Colloquial or literary,

tion. unaffected or flowery—the full range of

Storytelling is an individual art, and language is present in stories. Oral stories

an imposed method or ready-to-use plan develop listening skills in a unique way. will prove inadequate. Beginning storyThe listeners benefit from observing non

tellers must go beyond the rules. They polished speech created on-the-spot.

must know their personal strengths and While listening to stories, children develop a sense of structure that will later develop their own unique style. As master velop a sense of structure that will later storyteller Ruth Sawyer (1951:26) puts it, help them to understand the more com

“The art of storytelling lies within the plex stories of literature. In fact, stories storyteller, to be searched for, drawn out, are the oldest form of literature.

made to grow.”
Through traditional tales, people ex-
press their values, fears, hopes, and Selection
dreams. Oral stories are a direct expres-

Selection requires an ability to evalusion of a literary and cultural heritage;

ate stories and to discriminate between and through them that heritage is appre

those that meet your learners' needs and ciated, understood, and kept alive.

those that do not. Stories in the affective realm

1. Read, read, read. Although learning

stories directly from other storytellers is Through a story, listeners experience a

the traditional method, you will learn most vicarious feeling for the past and a one

stories from books. Wide reading gives ness with various cultures of the present as they gain insight into the motives and authority to your telling. Read all types of

traditional stories and literary fairy tales, patterns of human behavior. However,

modern tales, picture-books, action stomany storytellers feel that cognitive en

ries, romances, fantasies, juvenile fiction, richment is not the primary aim of their

nonfiction, and biographies, etc. Read art. Stories have numerous affective ben

different versions of the same story. efits for social and emotional develop

2. Choose stories you like. You can ment. A story session is a time to share feelings. A relaxed, happy relationship only effectively tell the stories that you

which have between storyteller and listener is established, drawing them together and build- meaning for you. Choose stories that you ing mutual confidence. Stories help chil

can tell—beginners should tend towards

folk tales for their simplicity of structure dren to know themselves and to know others so they can cope with the psycholog

and language, and shy away from com

plex literary tales. ical problems of growing up. As Augusta

3. Choose stories appropriate for your Baker and Ellin Greene (1977:17) assert,

learners. Find stories they will like, and Storytelling brings to the listeners

that match their age and language level. heightened awareness-a sense of wonder, of mystery, of reverence for Fairy and folk takes, which blend fantasy life. This nurturing of the spirit-self and reality, and use repetitive language, comes first. It is the primary purpose are good for beginners. Contemporary

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stories which treat problems of personal in preparation and storage of tales, but
identity with more elaborate language are should not be used in telling.
better suited for more advanced learners. 3. Control the story's length. Long sto-

4. Choose stories with a simple struc- ries can be simplified or serialized, but not ture. Look for a single, clearly defined excessively modified or censored. Time theme, a well-developed sequential plot, yourself during practice. A “story hour” a consistent style, standardized character- should probably include a mixture of acization (except perhaps for the protago

tivities: reading storybooks, listening to nist), conflict resolution, dramatic appeal, story tapes, reciting poetry, singing songs, unity, interesting subject matter, and playing games, etc. besides the oral story strong emotional content. Avoid stories itself. with long explanations or descriptions,

4. Control the story's vocabulary. A flashbacks, subplots, and other literary rich vocabulary, with carefully chosen addevices that break the flow of a story.

jectives and adverbs, gives color and tex5. Choose stories with positive values.

ture to the telling. However, you need to I prefer to tell stories that implicitly ex

be comfortable with your use of language press joy, compassion, humor, resource

and not try too hard to get things "right" fulness, and other positive aspects of

or the story will come out flat and nerhuman nature. On the other hand, psy

vous. Don't worry if the listeners don't chologists tell us not to be excessively con

already know every word; guessing is part cerned about violence, fear, anger, hatred,

of language learning. lying, etc., in stories.

5. Refine your storytelling style. Tell 6. Study the story's background. Know

the story aloud to listen to your voicesomething of the cultural, social and his

your instrument—which you can exer-
cise, train, and even change. A pause and

Don't worry if the torical background of the story and the

dropped voice are often more effective country of its origin. If you can't put the

listeners don't than shouting. Take poetic passages story in context, and its contents are not

slowly; report conversation at natural know every word; universal, consider choosing another. 7. Test your selection. Final selection speed; tell narration more rapidly, build

guessing is part is done through trial, ultimately through ing toward the climax.

6. Practice, practice, practice. Practice the positive or negative reactions you get aloud to yourself, your family or friends.

of language from your audience.

You could practice on audio or even learning Preparation (prevents

video tape. Practice in front of a mirror to

eliminate poor gestures and facial expresforgetting and flopping)

sions. Some say practice makes story1. Learn the story. Learning the storytelling artificial and studied, but it is esmeans to make the story your own. Read sential to the beginner. it from beginning to end several times.

7. Relax before telling. Warm up as Read it out loud. Master the structure of

the situation allows with breathing, the story: the beginning (introduction of stretching, and vocal exercises. characters), the body (building of conflict), and the climax (resolution of con- Presentation flict). Visualize the succession of scenes.

A story should be presented in a way Work on creating sensual setting and that emphasizes the “what” of the story character descriptions. Note unusual ex- and not the "how" of the telling. pressions, word patterns, rhymes, and di- 1. Start on the right foot. The beginalog.

ning introduces the characters, sets the 2. Outline the story. Storytellers agree scene, establishes the mood, defines the that memorizing word for word is not conflict or predicament of the protagouseful. Learn a story incident by incident, nist, and arouses pleasurable anticipaand prepare notes that will help you re- tion. Then the narrative carries the acmember this structure. Typed skeleton tion. It is sometimes essential for outlines stick in the minds of visual comprehension, before beginning a tale, learners. Cue card outlines are also useful to make some background comments on


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