September 22, 2011

Storytelling Tricks: Personalizing and Interviewing

Storytelling is an art, and as an art there is no right or wrong. Here I share two more tricks that we have used at school to tell stories to young learners focusing on language acquisition.

Personalizing: this trick can be used whenever you have climax situations in which characters have to make important decisions. You can foster perspective taking through the exploration of different paths and their consequences, as well as talking about what each group member (including yourself) would personally do. Also known as transfer, this technique allows students to connect their lives with stories, putting themselves in the shoes of characters, and to express their individuality in creative ways.

While telling “The Gingerbread Man”, a great moment to personalize is when the crocodile (or the fox in some versions) asks the Gingerbread man to hop on its nose to cross the river. What would you do?

The class can also talk about what absent students would do in a way similar to the remembering circle.

In the case of students with limited language you can let them draw, mime, or speak in their native tongue, so then you can incorporate their answers in your discourse. Another possibility is to give them 4 or 5 different answers for them to choose.

Interviewing: this is a trick that might bring memorable moments. After or while you are telling stories you can ask students which character they identify themselves with the most. Then you can invite students, one at a time, to become their favorite characters for a couple of minutes so then the class can meet and know these better.

We usually start the interview by greeting the character and doing some small talk. Then we might move to some questions to clarify what really happened from the perspective of the character, in which there is usually retelling and usage of new language. Last we have the unusual and unexpected questions, which foster language spontaneity and bring fun to the class, as students have great insights.
After you have modeled, invite students to make questions to the character as well!

I once told a story called “The lion’s whisker”, in which a woman has to get a lion’s whisker to make a potion. She does it by throwing pieces of meat until she is able to get close enough to pluck one whisker.

After telling it to Patrick, who was 10 at the time, he accepted to become the lion.

Juan: How’s life?
Patrick: Good.
Juan: Remember that woman, who used to come here? Do you miss her?
Patrick: No, I don’t miss her. But I miss the meat!

This happened more than 6 years ago and I remember it clearly as if it had happened today. Amazing how education can give us these precious moments!

I wish you great stories!



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