The didactic functions of storytelling in the primary school classroom

Term Paper, 2005

13 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Intention of storytelling

3 Concept of this method

4 The didactic functions of storytelling in the primary school classroom
4. 1 Motivation
4. 2 Holistic learning
4. 3 Multiple intelligences and suitable practice
4. 4 Social abilities
4. 5 Intercultural aims
4.6 Listening comprehension

5 Choosing and preparing a story for the lesson

6 How to be a good storyteller

8 Conclusion

9 References

1 Introduction

All over the world stories are told to people and children. This phenomenon is very old. Just think of cave-painting which told stories to others only with the usage of pictures. By and by, following generations shared the same principle. That is the same how it went on with stories and fairy-tales. They bring culture along having a great value according to their contents, texts and language which are authentic. And so they are worth to use them in the classroom to teach a foreign language in connection with cultural features.

The offer of children’s literature covers old-known and new published books all the time that pupils could not be bored of. The teacher can prepare them in a way that the stories suit the children in conformity with their age, mental stage and interests. So stories are still up to date and being loved by the children, providing a familiar context. There are so many that it is easy to find some for the English speaking classroom. The problem of detecting good stories is more likely. By courtesy of knowledge about the children’s interests and the exercise to look over a new book and to know if it is a good one or not, it will be easy to compile a personal bibliography of children’s literature. They are proved to pick up previous knowledge of children in the classroom.

So storytelling has been established by many English teachers as a worthwhile method. That is the reason for lots of material according to storytelling, which can be found in the internet and in educational literature.

In this term paper, I am going to demonstrate the didactic functions of storytelling starting with the concept of this method. Main points will be cognitive aims while learning a foreign language by means of stories. After all, a further point will be the usage of it, beginning with the choice of the story and ending with the telling of it. Another chapter will be about the features that make a good storyteller

2 Intention of storytelling

There are people who say storytelling is “an art … recreating literature - taking the printed words in a book and giving them life.” Asking a folklorist he would say, the principle of storytelling is learning stories orally. A compromise of both could be that: storytelling is a performance by a person before a live audience. The stories are learnt from oral, printed or mechanically recorded sources. One of its purposes is entertainment – “it was included in religious rituals, historical recitations and educational functions”. (Ramsey 2005)

There are storytellers who also collected stories, like the Brothers Grimm. They combined collected stories with their storytelling activities. Stories come from the spoken arts, from real experiences, from watching, listening, reading and cataloguing experiences for future use.

Children have an innate love of stories. They can experience a world of wonder and magic, learn about life and try to develop another culture and its language. In the classroom would be another intention of storytelling, too. The teacher tries to develop a positive attitude for reading and can introduce them to the world of books.

3 Concept of this method

Storytelling is based on the method of “Total Physical Response”, developed by Blaine Ray, which is used to teach foreign languages to children. The English primary classroom follows the orally principle: listening and speaking have priority before reading and writing.

While other methods are directed to get an output from the pupils (the language which is produced), storytelling follows the aim giving them lots of input, before they start to speak. The input is the part of the language which is directed towards the learner. These are stimuli around him, for example sounds, texts, rhymes and so on presented in the English language. The pupils try to understand by decoding the language. This is the intake – the part of the language that they actually understand. They are not forced to say something because it is the opposite of “listen and repeat”. They undergo a “silent period”, having the opportunity to come up with the language and to react non-verbal. The teacher or the native speaker introduces the new story and the pupils listen to the person. So they learn a lot about the language through listening. (Ellis 1997: 20) This “silent period” is often needed by the children to loose the fear of making mistakes or of falling short to the teacher’s expectations. (Sarter 1997: 45 )

How to start with this method? There are three components which describe how to use stories in the primary classroom. They refer to each other and will be introduced one after another.

The first one is the introduction of the new vocabulary. The teacher chooses new words (up to three). These lexical units will be practised by the pupils making use of requisites, pictures, gesture and may be flash cards which are all offered by the teacher who has to try to explain the vocabulary in English to the children. They should listen to the new words very often (up to 60 or 75 times) to remember them. This could be realized with: novel commands (introduced vocabulary in new combinations), play commands (instructions that use the new words in funny combinations) and chain commands (combining two or three new lexical units in instructions) which help to memorise parts of the combinations for a long time. These repetitions are variable and effective.

The second component is the usage of the new vocabulary in the story, giving them a new meaning in a context. The story has to be told by the teacher and not read from the book. This requires that the teacher knows all the details exactly. He or she has to use the voice, feelings and pictures to tell the story lively. Telling the story the first time, it should be very simple to understand the action. Repetitions involve more and more details, like colours, adjectives, names and places. The teacher can use creative techniques like: asking questions, making mistakes which will be corrected by the pupils or using illustrations instead of words. After several repetitions, learners can try to tell the story each other in pair work. The teacher helps them and if the great majority is able to tell the story they can try to play it. Another possibility is to write the story or pieces of it if it is desired.

The last one is repetition and absorption. There a new story can be invented including combinations of old and new flashcards or the class creates a poem or a song according to the story. The teacher could also try to tell a story as a continuation to the original one. (Hobrecht 2005)


Excerpt out of 13 pages


The didactic functions of storytelling in the primary school classroom
University of Erfurt  (Anglistik)
Teaching English in Primary School: Current State of Affairs and Future Developments
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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1870 KB
Teaching, English, Primary, School, Current, State, Affairs, Future, Developments
Quote paper
Heidi Henniger (Author), 2005, The didactic functions of storytelling in the primary school classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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