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Why And How To Use Stories To Motivate Speaking In EFL Classes

“Storytelling” … Why?

As we all know, stories have always played a significant role in children’s growth. Stories not only help in stimulating children’s imagination and understanding of the world but also in developing their language ability and appreciation of literature. So, I highly recommend storytelling in EFL speaking classes, and here are my reasons:

Firstly, motivating and immensely interesting stories can best attract listeners and promote communication.

Secondly, stories are an enormous language treasure. For hundreds of years, thousands of stories have been created and passed down. Many old stories are regarded as models of language and treasures of the culture. Learners at various language levels and age groups can find suitable stories to read and tell. It would be a waste and pity if they are neglected in the course of EFL/ESL. In addition, stories are easily accessible and storybooks can be found in bookstores and borrowed from libraries or friends. Today, the most convenient and quickest way to find stories is from the Internet.

Thirdly, the lively atmosphere and real-life environment created by stories encourage students to talk and discuss with each other. When telling and listening to a story, the learners will easily plunge into the scene and the plot which will, to a great degree, relieve their nervousness.

Fourthly, storytelling helps EFL learners become more self-confident to express themselves spontaneously and creatively.

Fifthly, stories can solve the problem of having no time to meet with partners to practice dialogues. Sometimes, partners are dispensable to practice storytelling though it is better to have an audience.

How to Use Stories?

At first, if students are not confident in their speaking skills, it is recommended that they are given enough time to prepare. As students build their confidence and their classroom language becomes more free and active, the teacher can gradually increase the difficulty and make the game more versatile. To motivate and encourage students, points and prizes are granted to good tellers and groups each time.

Warming Up

Students listen to some stories downloaded from the Internet and repeat them as they listen. This gives them an opportunity to improve their pronunciation, stress and intonation. They are offered three stories each time and required to practice the one they like best. A competition is held every two weeks. Every student is required to tell one to three stories naturally and expressively. When they do so, they will feel much more confident in telling stories in English than before.

Activity 1

Divide the students into groups and each group prepares a story. Each member of the group tells two to three sentences and the next one continues until the end of the story. The length of the story could gradually increase from two or three minutes to four or five minutes. Before the lesson, students could divide their tasks in advance and practice their own parts. The teacher moves among the groups and chooses two or three groups to present their stories before the class. Because students have enough time to prepare and work together, this helps them build confidence and create a lively and brisk atmosphere.

Activity 2

Ask each student to prepare a story (about two minutes long) in advance. Divide the students into groups with four to five members in each group and ask them to tell his/her story in the group. Each group selects the best storyteller to compete for the best storyteller in the class. The class selects the best and the second-best storyteller. Since the performance of each storyteller is connected to the score of everyone, students will be greatly involved in the whole process and listen to the stories attentively, which will in turn promote the performance of the storytellers.

To avoid the few best storytellers dominating the activity, the best storytellers will be arranged in the same group next time. They will have to work harder in order to win again. This will make the winners stronger, increase the opportunities for others and promote the whole class’s participation.

There are many ways to use stories in speaking classes. I also advise encouraging students to find more interesting stories and create different ways to use them. Besides, in the course of looking for, rewriting, and completing stories, their reading, writing, and imagination can be further developed; teamwork and friendship will become stronger by working in groups. So let stories be there in your speaking classes.

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