10.4 Listening to Stories
Every child growing up should listen to stories. On multiple occasions, psychologists and educationalists have recorded that stories play an essential role in a child’s growth and language development.
Teachers should ensure that children get the maximum benefit from listening to stories in English by creating a warm and friendly atmosphere by establishing a storytelling routine that creates a positive learning atmosphere.
- The teacher can rearrange the seating so that the students have eye contact if they all sit down together. Teachers often have their younger pupils sitting on the floor, but it is not important how they sit when they listen to a story. Students are more open to what they are about to hear, and they will benefit far more from the storytelling if they are relaxed and comfortable.
- The teacher might have a storytelling position. They might use a beanbag chair for sitting on when they tell stories to the class. If the lights are on, they could turn some of them off for a calm atmosphere.
- Teachers can use props to make the story more entertaining for younger students. Listening to stories allows children to explore their imagination and to form personal pictures. They have no difficulties with animals and objects which talk – they can relate to them, and the stories can help them come to terms with their feelings. The teacher should not moralize or explain the story, although the discussion is essential.
The formation of stories assists children when they want to tell and write stories that are their own. Many stories are abundant in repetition in themselves. Almost all stories are worth re-telling.
How to practice ‘listening to stories’ activities in the classroom
Let us have a look at the difference between telling stories, creating Stories and reading stories.
If the teacher tells a story, they do not need to have a book in front of them. Telling stories to children at all levels means that the teacher can adapt the language to their level, go back and repeat, put in all sorts of gestures and facial expressions, and keep eye contact for most of the time.
A good example is telling traditional fairy tale stories.
- Traditional fairy tales, like Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks, make wonderful stories for telling. They have a clear structure, with a particular type of beginning, middle, and end.
- Any five-year-old will be able to tell an adult what is a proper fairytale story and what is not, even if they cannot tell the adult why.
- They start with a setting – when and where. The story is told in episodes – events that have consequences. One set of consequences leads to another event.
- There are goodies and baddies, and the goodies win.
- Most fairy tales have good storylines, and people will be able to tell traditional stories from their own country or stories from other countries.
If the teacher is going to tell traditional stories, they should go through the story first and write it down in sequence. Let us use the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, for example:
- The setting is in the woods. Her grandmother’s cottage.
- Episodes: Little Red Riding Hood makes a lunch basket.
- She says goodbye to her mother.
- She skips and sings on the way.
- She meets a wolf
This will make it easier for them to remember the story as they tell it.
(Traditional fairy tales can, of course, be read aloud as they have a version which is simple enough.)
Another exciting form of storytelling that teachers can do from an early stage is to create stories with the children.
- First, the setting: ‘When did the story happen? ‘Once upon a time’ – you need to accept the answer that the students give.
- ‘Once upon a time, there was a country named . . . ? ‘Egg’ ‘Fine. Once upon a time, there was a country named Egg. . . ? ‘Town’ ‘Right. Once upon a time in a town called Egg, there was . . . ?’ And so on.
- This gives a real feeling of a shared story, and the teacher cannot tell how the story will end – but it does, usually rather unconventionally.
- Making up stories with the children at all stages helps them put their thoughts into words and gives them a starting point for their writing. We come back to creating stories in the section on writing.
Instead of telling a story, the teacher can read aloud from a book. This is not the same as telling a story, and in this case, the teacher should not change the story at all.
Children like to have their favourite stories repeated, and they will often be able to tell someone the story word for word – they do not like changes being made. If children like learning stories off by heart, let them. There is sometimes a very narrow dividing line between learning a story off by heart and reading it.
Children of various ages love to be read to. Teachers should try to spend as much time as possible reading to the eight to ten-year-old’s as well as the younger group. For the older group, it is often useful for the teacher to have a continuing story to read a bit of the book every time the teacher sees them.
Some teachers will incorporate a listening corner with listening material that can be on a computer, an iPad, etc. can be listened to during free time. Many learners love to make use of this as it gives them a sense of independence.
Do not forget that sometimes students should listen for the sake of listening – music and poetry or a short anecdote or story all have a role to play in the classroom. The teacher should try to introduce as many different voices in the classroom as possible and remember that pupils need to hear many varieties of language. The more they hear, the better they will be able to speak and write.