Speaking and storytelling

In a recent post, I outlined a collaborative writing activity for consolidating past simple and past continuous tense use. In that post, I briefly mentioned a possible follow up activity, using learner generated content and focusing on selected elements of spoken narrative. Since then, I’ve done just that with my pre-intermediate learners, and found it worked well, so I thought I’d share what I did with it here…

Time: 45 minutes (depending on class size/group size)

Materials: Cut up structural elements of spoken narrative and their linguistic realisations. (See example here ) (With higher levels, previously, I’ve cut up all the chunks individually but with my pre-ints I cut the chunks up in groups, so they had to match groups of chunks with the function rather than individual chunks, to provide more scaffolding)

Focus: Chunks of language used to structure stories when told orally (rather than written).

As I mentioned, I did this as a follow up to a lesson focusing on consolidation of past simple and continuous. For homework, I asked learners to prepare a story to tell a small group of their classmates at the start of the next lesson. Some of them hadn’t done the homework, but I grouped them so that in each pair/small group, at least one person had done the homework, meaning there was student-generated content to work from.

  • Give learners a few minutes to tell their stories to their pair/group. Give some delayed feedback on language use.
  • Tell the learners that the aim of the next part of the lesson is to look at the language often used in storytelling.
  • Hand out the cut-up chunks of language and functions; ask learners to match them.
  • Give learners each a copy of the handout as it was before you chopped it all out.
  • Do some pronunciation work, so that they can get their mouths around the chunks and experiment with intonation.
  • Get them to think about how they could integrate the language into the stories they told at the start of the lesson.

(Some of my learners had written out their story, some hadn’t; the activity worked in both instances: learners were looking closely at their writing, or discussing what they had said, and matching parts of it to the various functions, to decide which chunks to include. I monitored and guided them if they were using a chunk inappropriately.)

  • Once learners have finished, either regroup them and let them re-tell their stories to a new group/partner, using that new language and follow that up by letting a few tell their stories to the whole class, or, as in the case of the second class I tried this with, if you only have a small number of students, if they have practiced their story in their groups, you can skip straight to the whole class stage and let all of them have the opportunity to show off!

(My students automatically gave each other questions to answer before re-telling their stories, in the first class which tickled me!)

The next part of the sequence uses Headway Pre-Int 4th edition’s picture story of a flight attendant, Stephen Slater, who gets hit over the head by a passenger taking their bag out of the overhead compartment before the plane had stopped moving. Slater goes crazy and opens the emergency exit/slide, slides down and is arrested. Based on a true story! The book sequence is a series of newspaper articles related to the story and the picture story forms part of an opening activity. However, any simple picture story would do here!

  • Get learners to tell the story in the pictures, using the storytelling language that they’ve just been working with.
  • Tell the learners that same story (in my case I did it from the point of view of one of the other passengers on the flight!), of course using some of the target chunks.
  • Learners listen and tick the chunks they hear used.
  • Follow up with a discussion about how the chunks can help them in listening/understanding as well as speaking, and how speakers use those chunks in storytelling to help the listener follow what is being said: when we tell stories, we want the listener to think it’s as funny/crazy/<insert adjective we feel the story is> as we do, so we want them to follow what’s happening.

As the sequence in the book uses newspaper articles (it’s a reading sequence), I might in the next lesson draw attention to how events are ordered in newspaper articles compared with telling stories orally…

It worked well, but of course it was also a bit back to front really – the learners heard me telling the story as one of the last parts of the sequence. It was a nice way to finish (I set the book reading activities – question answering – for homework) but logically it should have happened earlier in the lesson. But on the other hand, the learners got there successfully without it, using their own stories and the language/functions met in the lesson. They did upgrade their stories really well, and using the chunks helped them in terms of fluency. I could perhaps have told a story of my own earlier in the sequence, to illustrate the chunks in use – perhaps before getting the learners to edit their own stories. Perhaps next time I will! What order should you do it in? Up to you! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Speaking and storytelling

  1. Pingback: Speaking and storytelling | TeachingEnglish | S...

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