Storytelling in the classroom
Telling stories offers powerful methodology to support all learners – from young children to adults, in schools, universities or Business English classes.
Teachers who tell tales in their classes know the almost magical effect it has as the atmosphere subtly changes, the classroom walls fade and a world of real language captures the learners. It not only enriches their listening experience, it also leads to a wide range of activities in which learners extend their own active language abilities.
But teachers wanting to use storytelling methodology are faced with two questions:
- How to tell a story without reading a text
- How to activate the class
These workshops provide the answers.
- Learn how to tell freely at least two folk tales in English
- Practise a range of classroom activities they can use in their own teaching
Typical contents of teacher-training workshops:
For teachers of teenage and adult learners
More workshop information
- Increases student confidence and oral fluency (an example exercise is The Old Woman and her Pig)
- Provides a structure to generate their writing to practise a wide range of grammar and vocabulary (an example of written work at the end of the first year of English is The Old Woman and the Skeleton)
The methodology is varied, but above all uses the unique power and fascination inherent in storytelling.
As I am both an English teacher and a professional storyteller, I have evolved this didactic approach during my more than 30 years teaching English in German schools.
As in many school systems, German pupils may understand grammar, be proficient in textbook exercises, but less so in speaking and writing English freely. This is where storytelling helps!
Workshop target group
- Language teachers
- University students
These workshops are aimed at teachers who do not see themselves as experienced tellers but who wish to develop their storytelling skills for use in school. Most participants of the many sessions I have led throughout the world have been teachers of English (either as a first, second or foreign language), but teachers of other subjects have also attended.
Workshops vary in length from 90 minutes to three days.
As a result, I have become very flexible about fitting content into a limited time or splitting a workshop into two sections.
For example, at conferences I can offer a two-hour workshop on practical storytelling techniques and a second two-hour workshop concentrating on methodology.
However, experience shows that a storytelling workshop involves participants in learning and practising more different skills than may be the case in other types of teacher-training sessions. So if participants are to profit from a meaningful workshop – i.e. to feel comfortable in the role of a storyteller and to have a basic grasp of methodological possibilities – a one-day session is the minimum.
This is flexible.
Since many of the phases involve partner and small group activities, a workshop can be run successfully with groups of more than 50 and still remain a practical, hands-on session.
Once there are more than around 60, as often happens in a university session, whilst there are still plenty of opportunities for partner work, it does become more of a lecture event.
So choose what you need.
Participants receive a handout on paper to use during the workshop. A far more extensive handout is also available to download as a .pdf file, containing many skeletons of stories to use in the classroom.
There are no technical requirements; neither do I need a microphone with a large group.
A room with a circle of chairs is sufficient (tables are not welcome).
In certain phases, two to six participants disperse to work in small groups. Ideally participants go outside the workshop room because they will return there when their partner phase is finished: if others are still working there, those returning disturb those telling. However, years of experience conducting this workshop show it is invariably no problem for partners to find a quiet corner in the main building to enjoy 20 minutes of intimate telling and listening.
Feedback – read participants’ accounts
- Free and fluent speaking through storytelling – feedback from the 61 participants of a 7-hour workshop (Masters students, PH Karlsruhe)
- Tales to wonder at: Ein Workshop beim Storyteller Richard Martin
An article in German from Der Fremdsprachliche Unterricht Englisch (2013) on attending a one-day workshop in Cologne.
- Feedback e-mails sent over the years.
Two articles on storytelling in school
Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling
Read an overview of my methodology in practice
“Close your books and I’ll tell you a tale”
An article about using storytelling in bi-lingual religion teaching
Workshop feedback: read what participants and organisers say
Details of previous workshops in Germany, Italy, England, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and the USA
Downloadable workshop details in Chinese (2-page pdf)
Go here for tales to watch
Go here for a list of all tales included on this site
Go here to receive an e-mail notification when new tales are added
Permission to tell outlines my views on copyright
For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling