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Connecting Through Stories
turing on the Hindu concept of maya,
And so it is with stories. A fairy tale is a prop-
For different ages, different stories apply. The
This issue of the Forum is a celebration of
EFL students' productive use of the language are
We tell stories to come to terms with the
Mark A. Clarke
33 Italy. Summer Workbook Project: A Purposeful Way to Exploit Student
Generated Resources Daniela Villani
35 Malaysia. Creative Games for the Language Class Lee Su Kim
Else V. Hamayan
Ann M. Johns
38 Russia. Storytelling in Early Language Teaching Natasha Malkina
G. Richard Tucker
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
Storytelling and the Art of Teaching
E. Martin Pedersen
Storytelling is the original form of teach- of storytelling, and all other uses and
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.”
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
stories which treat problems of personal in preparation and storage of tales, but
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-
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