Learning to Play with Stories
Once upon a time teachers taught through stories and their students always learned. When we play with stories we are taken to this very special place in which spontaneity, imagination, confidence, and creativity abound. In today’s post I will share how language learners and their teachers can create, tell, and listen to stories together.
When students create stories they are expressing their individuality, validating their peers, and using the language they know, and learning the language they need. Let’s start with some ideas to play while creating stories:
Bring a box of buttons and discuss about the characters that would wear them, then create situations in which these people meet and a problem arises. Use the other buttons as props.
Play sounds and make students come up with different stories in pairs. You can do the same showing old pictures or postcards.
Give them cuisenaire rods and raffle characters, a situation, and a place for them to come up with a story that they will act with the rods. You might be surprised by an elephant and a fireman playing cards on the moon!
Talking about stories is as important as listening to them. You can have promote delightful and memorable moments when learners talk about the plot and interact with the characters before, during, or after your telling. Here are some ways to do it:
Create a ritual before telling stories by lighting a candle, having a bell, or spreading a colourful rug. Get your audience hooked by talking about similar situations that will happen in the book and then when they appear in the story you can compare it to the stories students have shared.
Get students to predict and act what will happen next, use the characters voices to convey different meanings, share the thoughts of characters, and tell these what they should do. Remember also to get things from the book such as cookies and help characters do things. These interactions bring lots of attention as they are very spontaneous and full of grace.
Ask learners which part they liked the most, what they would change, and who they would like to be in the story. Other playful ways I enjoy a lot are interviewing characters and retelling the story through the perspective of different characters. What is Cinderella’s favorite singer? How would the cookie tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood?
When asked about stories we tend to think about fairy tales and chapter books, but usually the most interesting and relevant stories are our own stories. Please download the activity sheet for some ideas on how to value and play with our life experiences in the classroom. I’ve also got some other ideas for you on the activity sheet to help. Meanwhile, I hope you have enjoyed today’s column. Remember that we are all storytellers. We are constantly telling stories about our past, present, and future. Three, two, one! This post is done!