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Teaching English through Stories: A Meaningful and Fun Way for Children to Learn the Language

Authors:
  • Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia , Bucaramanga

Abstract

This article presents the results of a study on utilizing stories for teaching English as a foreign language to children in first, second and third grades. It was carried out in a Colombian public elementary school in Bucaramanga, Colombia. The proposal was initiated by a group of student-teachers at Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia, Seccional Bucaramanga. During the research process the student-teachers were required to plan the course syllabus, create their own stories according to the children’s interests and likes, plan the lessons, and collect and analyze data. Although the student-teachers worked in different grade levels, the results of the study present similarities such as the children’s motivation when the stories were told or read, increased participation in the different activities, comprehension of the stories, and acquisition of the new vocabulary. Key words: Storytelling, story, reading, teaching, children Este artículo presenta los resultados de un estudio sobre el uso de historias para la enseñanza del inglés a niños en los grados primero, segundo y tercero. El estudio se llevó a cabo en una escuela pública de Bucaramanga, Colombia. La propuesta fue iniciada por un grupo de docentes en formación de la Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia, seccional Bucaramanga. Durante el proceso de investigación los docentes elaboraron e implementaron una propuesta de intervención, y además recolectaron y analizaron datos. Aunque los docentes trabajaron en diferentes grados, los resultados del estudio presentaron similitudes, tales como gran motivación de los niños al escuchar o leer las historias, alta participación en las diferentes actividades, comprensión de las historias y adquisición de vocabulario. Palabras clave: narración de historias, lectura de historia, enseñanza a niños
95PROFILE Vol. 12, No. 1, 2010. ISSN 1657-0790. Bogotá, Colombia. Pages 95-106
Teaching English through Stories: A Meaningful
and Fun Way for Children to Learn the Language
La enseñanza del inglés a través de historias: una forma divertida
y significativa para que los niños aprendan el idioma
Nohora Inés Porras González
*
Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia
is article presents the results of a study on utilizing stories for teaching English as a foreign language
to children in rst, second and third grades. It was carried out in a Colombian public elementary school
in Bucaramanga, Colombia. e proposal was initiated by a group of student-teachers at Universidad
Cooperativa de Colombia, Seccional Bucaramanga. During the research process the student-teachers
were required to plan the course syllabus, create their own stories according to the childrens interests
and likes, plan the lessons, and collect and analyze data. Although the student-teachers worked in
dierent grade levels, the results of the study present similarities such as the childrens motivation
when the stories were told or read, increased participation in the dierent activities, comprehension
of the stories, and acquisition of the new vocabulary.
Key words: Storytelling, story, reading, teaching, children
Este artículo presenta los resultados de un estudio sobre el uso de historias para la enseñanza del inglés
a niños en los grados primero, segundo y tercero. El estudio se llevó a cabo en una escuela blica
de Bucaramanga, Colombia. La propuesta fue iniciada por un grupo de docentes en formación de la
Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia, seccional Bucaramanga. Durante el proceso de investigación
los docentes elaboraron e implementaron una propuesta de intervención, y además recolectaron y
analizaron datos. Aunque los docentes trabajaron en diferentes grados, los resultados del estudio
presentaron similitudes, tales como gran motivación de los niños al escuchar o leer las historias, alta
participación en las diferentes actividades, comprensión de las historias y adquisición de vocabulario.
Palabras clave: narración de historias, lectura de historia, enseñanza a niños
* E-mail: niporrasg@yahoo.com
is article was received on August ,  and accepted on January , .
96
Porras González
Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Departamento de Lenguas Extranjeras
Introduction
e present study was carried out in order to
implement childrens stories for teaching English
to young learners in a public elementary school.
e study was part of the research project of a
group of student teachers who will become ele-
mentary school teachers with a specialization in
teaching English to young children. During the
research process the student teachers became very
interested in making the English learning process
fun, enjoyable and meaningful for children. ey
found stories to be a great tool for teaching English
in context and developing childrens cognitive and
language skills. Teaching the language through
stories allowed them to use varied strategies from
dierent language methods. is combination had
a great impact on learners because learning became
fun, motivating, rememberable and lasting.
Before starting the process, the student
teachers became familiar with the context through
direct observations, surveys and interviews. Once
they knew the school, the curriculum and the
School’s English program, as well as the classes they
were going to work with, they began the research
process. First they collected data in order to learn
the context; then, they created and implemented
a teaching proposal. During the implementation
of the proposal, the student teachers collected and
analyzed data which helped them improve their
teaching practice. On the next pages there will
be a description of some theoretical bases taken
into consideration by the student teachers before
starting the project, the procedure of the project,
the results and the conclusions they came up with
aer nishing the research project.
The problem
Teaching English in public elementary schools
in our country is a job that has been haphazard.
English in these schools can be taught by people
with no English language prociency, not to
mention any language teaching background. is
situation is aecting the quality of the English
programs in the schools and the approach to
students’ learning of that foreign language.
In order to make this situation a little better
for a specic public school and its community, a
group of student teachers at Universidad Coo-
perativa de Colombia decided to implement a
pedagogical proposal for teaching English in
the rst, second and third grades. Although the
fundamental purpose of the proposal was focused
on teaching English in a fun and meaningful way
for the children, it also included the donation to
the school of all the teaching materials used in
the teaching proposal and a workshop for the
teachers in charge of teaching English in those
grades. e proposal was called Implementation of
story reading and storytelling as a teaching tool for
teaching English to young learners.
e main objective of the project was to use
story reading and storytelling for teaching English
to young learners in a fun and meaningful way.
e specic objectives were as follows: to create
stories based on students interests and likes, to
teach the language in context around stories,
and to make foreign language learning a fun and
lifelong process for the young learners.
Theoretical Foundations
Children are considered natural language
learners; according to second language acquisi-
tion theory, they can learn faster and with much
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less diculty than adults, but they should be ex-
posed to natural learning environments, to real
communication situations and to special teaching
practices that make learning a meaningful, enjoy-
able and lifelong process.
Teaching should be focused on children and on
the development of their communicative skills that
will enable them to communicate meanings and
messages in real social contexts. Some outstanding
methods such as Total Physical Response (
TPR) and
Natural Approach help children to learn the language
in such a way.
Taking into consideration that language was
going to be taught to three groups of young learners
at the beginner level, the methods mentioned above
were chosen as the basic ones in this project. e
Natural Approach is based on the following ve
hypotheses: the input hypothesis, the natural order
hypothesis, the acquisition - learning hypothesis,
the monitor hypothesis and the aective lter
hypothesis (Krashen & Terrell, ). For this study
the input hypothesis took great importance since
at the beginner levels, students develop receptive
skills before starting to produce the language.
e quantity and quality of the input children
receive during their rst learning stage is really
important because it helps them to lay the foun-
dation for their future learning. is is the reason
teachers should give them a lot of qualitative input,
which means that children should be surrounded
by lots of listening and reading materials that will
allow them to get familiar with the new language.
is input should be comprehensible, natural and
meaningful, and should be introduced little by lit-
tle. A teacher should help children to understand
the information they are exposed to, and also in-
clude new elements that permit children to ad-
vance in their learning process.
Two main sources from which students receive
input are listening and reading. Storytelling and
story reading become two powerful strategies in
the early stages of language development because
they provide learners with a lot of interesting and
enriching input.
Storytelling
e use of storytelling in the
L classroom
creates a good learning environment and provides
meaningful and comprehensible input. rough
stories, the language acquisition device is activated
and it is easy for children to induce the language
elements from the data provided by the stories
(Krashen, ).
Storytelling has special pedagogical values for
the foreign language classroom, as Rossiter (,
p. ) points out below:
Stories are eective as educational tools because they are
believable, rememberable, and entertaining. e believability
stems from the fact that stories deal with human-like experience
that we tend to perceive as an authentic and credible source
of knowledge. Stories make information more rememberable
because they involve us in actions of the characters. In so doing,
stories invite active meaning making.
Language learners can benet from storytelling
because stories help them to develop the ability
to understand spoken language and engage in
thinking skills. In connection to this, Castro
(, p. ) reports on a study carried out in
Colombia and stresses that “Listening to stories
develops childrens listening and concentration
skills and their ability to receive and understand
information expressed in words. Besides, with the
stories children develop learning strategies such as
listening for general meaning, predicting, guessing
meaning and hypothesizing.
rough the stories, the learners become aware
of cultural values dierent from theirs, sharpen
their memory and develop the ability to predict and
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Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Departamento de Lenguas Extranjeras
infer. Telling stories provides the opportunities for
students to speak the foreign language creatively,
integrate information and knowledge they learn
from other sources, and become more condent
in the ability to express themselves spontaneously.
According to Curtain & Dahlberg (),
storytelling can provide experience with the
interpretive mode for children, even at very early
stages of language acquisition, when the stories
meet the following criteria: the story is highly
predictable or familiar to the children from
their native culture, with a large proportion of
previously learned vocabulary. In early stages it
is especially helpful to choose stories that include
vocabulary representing the home and the school
environments of the children.
e story is repetitive, making use of formulas
and patterns that occur regularly and predictably.
In the best stories chosen, these repeated elements
provide language that children can use later for
their own expressive purpose. Cameron (,
p. ) denes this repetitive pattern in a story
as parallelism. e pattern of predictability +
surprise, or repetition + change is oen reected
in patterns of repetition of the language. is
repeated pattern, or parallelism, creates a way into
the story for the active listener, as well as providing
a natural support for language learning. e
stories are memorable, as the language is repeated,
and this encourages students to participate. is
recycling of patterns incites students to predict
what is coming next in the story and, at the same
time, exercises their imagination. In addition,
Lipton (, p. ) echoes the idea of active
participation on the part of the students by saying
that the ideal story should have a short refrain
that is repeated periodically throughout the story,
so that aer a while the children naturally chime in
and repeat the refrain without being asked”.
When stories meet these criteria it is much
easier for students to make meaning clear not
only because the stories are related to their real
life environment but also because the use of
pantomime and body language makes the story
more comprehensible for the students. On the
other hand, stories contain patterns that help
students to get familiar with and internalize the
new language.
Story Reading
Reading stories aloud allows children to make
connections between oral language and the print
that represent that oral language. While reading
aloud, the teacher should point to the word or line
to emphasize those connections. e purpose of
reading stories is to give students oral language
input and a bridge to literacy in the new language.
For reading stories in the early language stages,
the teacher should rst do a lot of pre-reading
work which prepares the learner to be able to
understand the story. is pre-reading work is
focused on building up vocabulary through dierent
kinds of activities such as games, puzzles, matching
activities, songs and other sorts of activities that help
students to become familiar with the new language.
Aer reading the story aloud, the learner can be
involved in a variety of post-reading tasks and
language activities which can make the story more
comprehensible and move them from receptive
skills (listening and reading) to productive skills
(speaking and writing).
A very good tool for reading stories aloud is
the use of big books. Curtain & Dahlberg ()
describe what a big book is:
A big book is an enlarged piece of commercial or student-made
literature, intended to recreate the intimacy and good feelings of
one-on-one “read-aloud” sessions with an entire class. So they
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are large enough so that the entire class can see and share in the
experience. Most big books have a predictable story line with
strong rhythm, rhyme, repeated patterns, logical sequence and
supportive illustrations.
When reading aloud, big books play an
important role since they can be a good source
for teacher and students to make connections
between the pictures and the written text. e
pictures in the big books help children a lot
because they can associate pictures and words
and arrive at a better understanding of the story.
A story is more memorable if it can be related to
a sequence of pictures.
Big books become a very engaging tool for
reading aloud; they are made up of great illustra-
tions that help students make sense of the story as
well as make predictions. ey include short texts
with repeated patterns that allow students to in-
ternalize the new vocabulary and structures in an
enjoyable and unconscious way.
Children like listening to stories over and over
again; this repetition allows them to acquire certain
language items and reinforce others unconsciously.
Using stories allows teachers to introduce new
vocabulary by exposing children to the language in
dierent contexts, thereby enriching their thinking
skills and introducing them to the productive skills.
Also, as noted by Ellis & Brewster (), many
stories have natural repetition of key vocabulary
and structures that helps children remember details
and learn to anticipate what is about to happen
next in the story.
Repetitive stories are particularly easy for
children to memorize. Repetition helps children
learn the patterns and structure of a story and,
eventually, word recognition. Repetition makes
books predictable and helps develop vocabulary
and sequencing. Repetitive patterns can be the
schema for students comprehension of the
childrens story and for being able to predict the
action in the plot and the ending. e recurring
phrases and events can aid their understanding
and memory. In addition, the repetition featured
in the text is a great way for children to improve
their reading skills. It also gives them a strong base
to develop the condence to move on to more
interesting and complex texts.
Research Methodology
is research can be classied as an action
research project. According to Cohen & Manion,
cited in Nunan (), action research can be utilized
as a means of remedying problems diagnosed in
specic situations, or improving in some way a
given set of circumstances; as a means of in-service
training, providing teachers with new skills and
methods and heightening self- awareness. Also, it
can be used as a means of injecting additional or
innovative approaches to teaching and learning
into a system which normally inhibits innovations
and change. e purpose of the project was to
implement a proposal with innovative language
teaching methodologies in order to make the
language learning process fun and meaningful for
children. During this process the student teachers
reected on these new practices, analyzed what
worked or did not work, and made changes based
on the reection.
e research project was carried out by eight
student teachers at Universidad Cooperativa de
Colombia who were divided into three groups.
ey started their research project a year before
its actual implementation. During this time they
became familiar with research techniques, syllabus
design, and story teaching methodology. Once they
became acquainted with the process and theoretical
background, they went to the public elementary
school to familiarize themselves with the context
100
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Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Departamento de Lenguas Extranjeras
and meet the children they were going to share
this research and teaching experience with. Aer
meeting the kids, the student teachers performed
the needs analysis through direct observation, a
survey and a diagnostic test. e test was designed
in order to ascertain studentsprior knowledge in
the foreign language. It examined basic topics and
had two parts: the rst part consisted of vocabulary
games planned for creating a relaxing environment
and making students feel more condent. e second
part consisted of a handout with dierent vocabulary
activities selected according to the grade.
Once the student teachers analyzed the results
of the needs analysis, they started to design the
course syllabus and create the stories, thus designing
the proposal. As mentioned before, the proposal
was made taking into consideration childrens
interests and likes. e stories were created around
characters selected by the children such as cartoon
and fairy tale characters. Aer creating the stories,
the student teachers designed a syllabus around
those stories and then started the planning stage.
During this stage the teachers chose strategies from
dierent teaching methods such as
TPR, Natural
Approach,
CLT and Whole Language.
e purpose of the proposal was to teach the
language in a meaningful, funny and interesting
way for children. In order to reach this goal, the
student teachers planned classes around the
stories which they wrote and illustrated as big
books. For reading each story, the student teachers
followed the steps of pre-reading, while reading,
and post reading. During the pre-reading stage
they created a good environment to introduce
the story by decorating the room with big posters
about the story. en they did some vocabulary
work through games, songs, poems and matching
activities. Aer that they started reading the story
using body language and pictures in order to help
students understand better. Also during reading,
the students activated their prior knowledge
by making connections between the story and
their life, making predictions about what could
happen next, and answering questions about the
story. rough predicting and questioning, the
student teachers could check comprehension and
determine which students started using the new
language (speaking). Aer reading the story, follow
up activities such as little books were utilized where
guided writing was introduced.
During the implementation of the proposal,
one of the student teachers was in charge of teach-
ing the lesson while the other one(s) observed and
took the eld notes about the process. e next les-
son they exchanged roles. Aer each lesson the stu-
dent teachers met, analyzed the notes in the journal,
discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the les-
son, the activities and strategies that worked or did
not work, as well as the childrens learning process.
Based on this information the student teachers
wrote a reection about the lesson. If they found any
diculties during the lesson related with classroom
management or teaching strategies, they needed to
implement new strategies in order to improve and
get better results next time by reading new bibliog-
raphy or by following their supervisor’s advice.
As a student teacher supervisor and project
coordinator, my role consisted of guiding stu-
dent teachers in the research process and also
supervising the implementation of the teaching
proposal in the school. At the beginning of the
whole process, I helped student teachers locate and
study resources. en I guided them in the design
and implementation of the teaching proposal.
Once the student teachers started implementing
their lessons, I was in charge of supervising their
work and helping them in the reection stage. My
being involved in this process allowed me to get
information and data to systematize the experience.
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Findings
Aer implementing the pedagogical proposal,
collecting data through direct observation and
journals, and analyzing the data, the following two
main categories arose:
Table 1. Categories drawn from the analysis of data
Teaching English through Stories
What helps children
learn in a fun and
meaningful way
What allows children to
comprehend and show
comprehension
. Stories created based
on childrens likes and
interests
. Games and other
kinds of motivating
activities
. Reading process
a. Pre-reading stage
b. While reading stage:
- Connections
- Predicting
- Questioning
c. Post- reading stage
Oral and written activities
What helps children learn in a fun and mean-
ingful way and what allows children to comprehend
and demonstrate comprehension? Each category
will be explained and supported by eld notes
taken from the student teachers’ journals below.
What Helped Children Learn
in a Fun and Meaningful Way
Stories Created Based on
Children’s Likes and Interests
e needs and interests analysis was very
important because knowing studentspreferences
and interests helped to implement a pedagogical
proposal that children found meaningful and
interesting. Children got involved in the process.
Learning was interesting and enjoyable for them
because the teachers took into account their likes
and interests, and also because they connected the
new learning with their real lives.
(O) en Juan Carlos asked the children
:
(T) Do you like the stories?
(O) And the children answered all together:
(Ss) Yes!
(O) And Juan Carlos took the story “Snow White and
the Seven Dwarfs” out and when they saw it, a
girl said: (Ss) Hooray! ey are going to read us
a new story!
Most of the characters in the stories were familiar
to the children. is helped them to understand the
stories because they already had some prior knowl-
edge about them in their rst language. e childrens
schema let them have a better comprehension of the
stories and allowed them to succeed when reading
because they made connections from their previous
experience with the text.
According to Curtain & Dahlberg (, p.
), Meaningful reading experiences in both rst-
and second-language classrooms are dependent on
students oral language comprehension and also
on the students existing background knowledge
and experience. As students develop their listening
comprehension, they begin to make connections
between the oral language and the print that
represents this oral language.
In order to help students have a better com-
prehension of a reading text, it is very helpful to
prepare them by activating their schemata or prior
knowledge, not only in the target language but also
in their rst language. Reading comprehension de-
pends a lot on previous experiences and information
already stored in the studentsmemory. On the other
hand, there must be intensive work through dierent
kinds of oral activities before reading to ensure
students understanding and comprehension of
e samples from the student teachersjournals were gath-
ered in Spanish and translated into English.
e following codes were used to register information in the
journals:
O = Observer; T = Student teacher; Ss = Students; Ss = Student .
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Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Departamento de Lenguas Extranjeras
what they will read. Once the students are familiar
with the new language through oral activities, they
are ready to face the written text.
Games and Other Kinds of Motivating
Activities for the Children
Games were also a great help because while
children were playing, they felt relaxed and com-
fortable and learned easily; games allowed them
to interact not only with the teachers but also with
their classmates, which helped them to develop their
communicative, social, and thinking skills. Curtain
& Dalhberg () state that games and game-
like activities are among the most natural means
available to develop a context for communicating
with children. Play is oen described as a child’s
work, and games form a natural part of the child’s
most important work setting, the classroom, as
shown in the following sample:
(T) Let’s play the wolf, let’s make a circle and sing the
song of the wolf. When I whistle, everybody
comes and makes the circle again.
(T) Let’s play in the forest to see if the wolf is there. Is the
wolf there? What is he doing?
(T) I’m taking the shower
(O) [...] Later they started to play Simon Says. e
students had to mime the action Viviana said.
is way, they started the activity.
Games were a very good tool for students to
practice and reinforce the new vocabulary needed
to achieve a better understanding of the stories.
We could observe that the use of games in the
classroom has many advantages: they are a welcome
break from the usual routine of the language class;
they are motivating and challenging; they provide
language practice in the various skills- speaking,
writing, listening and reading; they encourage
students to interact and communicate; they create
a meaningful context for language use; and,
equally important, games involve the productive
and receptive skills simultaneously.
e games used in class also helped the student
teachers to create a relaxing environment. Aer
presenting and practicing the new vocabulary, the
children had the opportunity to use the language
in a non-stressful way thanks to the games in
which they could participate.
What Allowed Children to
Comprehend and Demonstrate
Comprehension
During the implementation of the proposal, the
student teachers followed three stages for reading
the stories: a pre-reading stage, a while-reading
stage and a post-reading stage. ese stages allowed
student teachers to prepare children for reading
the story and checking comprehension.
Pre-Reading Stage
e student-teachers arranged the classroom
for story reading which allowed more interaction
not only with the teacher but also with the text.
Before reading the stories, the children received
interesting and comprehensible input through
teacher’s talk, games, reading and listening activities
which helped them to become familiar with the new
language. During this time, the children did a lot of
vocabulary and syntactic practice through a variety
of activities which prepared them for the approach
of the stories. As can be seen in the following
excerpt, once children identied the new words, the
student-teacher started reading the story.
(O) Amparo continued reading and asking questions
while she was reading the story.
(T) What part of the house is it?
(Ss) Living room, it is a dining room.
(O) Children answered the questions depending on
the part of the house she pointed out.
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In connection to new language we might nd
in a story, Cameron (, p. ) states:
A story can include some new language, but not so much that
the story becomes incomprehensible. e number of new words
that listeners can cope with within one story is not clear cut; it
will depend on how well the pictures and discourse organization
support the meaning of the words, how central the new words
are to the plot, and the overall total of new words, which should
not be too high. In preparing to use a story, new words and
phrases that are crucial to understanding the story should be
pre-taught, and support oered by pictures and context for the
meaning of other new language should be checked to ensure it is
adequate. If necessary, further support can be provided.
Bearing this in mind and in order to facilitate
reading comprehension, the student teachers se-
lected certain words that were essential for the
understanding of the story and pre-taught them
through dierent activities. is step was very im-
portant as it allowed the children to understand
better a given part of the story and get involved in
the reading process. Student teachers worked on
helping students to understand the meaning uti-
lizing a variety of activities such as visuals, puzzles
and games. is made the reading process proceed
smoothly for the children, allowing for involvement,
participation and a more meaningful reading ex-
perience.
While-Reading Stage
In this stage the student teachers introduced
and read the stories. While reading them the
student teachers focused on the following three
main strategies: the connection between illustrations
and written text, predictions, and questions. First,
the student teachers introduced the text, making
comments about the story and asking students
about it in order to assess their prior knowledge.
en they started reading the text. While reading
they pointed to the words and showed the pictures
to make connections between the printed text
and the illustrations. All the stories were written
and illustrated in big books. e student teachers
considered big books a powerful tool to help
children understand because they allowed them
to read the text of the story as well as easily see
the pictures. is connection helped children un-
derstand the story better, as can be read in the
following excerpt:
(O) At the end of the matching activity Viviana asked:
(T) Do you like stories?
(Ss) Yesssss!
(O) Immediately, Viviana pulled out a big book called
e pig who was a hog and showed it to them.
In regards to this practice, Cameron (, p. )
states that “e role of the pictures in combination
with the text to form the story as a whole should
be considered. If the pictures are indispensable, as
is oen the case, then somehow there will need to
be enough copies or they will need to be made big
enough for everyone to see. In the stories, pictures
had a central role to play. ey were a stimulus
for forming hypotheses, predicting, sequencing
and exercising memory. In the stories used for
the project the pictures were closely related to
the text, sometimes even structuring the text.
is supported the childrens understanding and
guided them to the key points of the texts. Also,
the pictures were a useful tool for the design of
activities, especially oral or written ones.
A second strategy used in the project -mainly
for checking comprehension while reading- was
predicting. It involves thinking ahead while reading
and anticipating information and events in the
text. is strategy engages students and connects
them to the text by asking them what they think
might occur in the story. Making predictions
activated childrens prior knowledge about the
text by helping them make connections between
104
Porras González
Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Departamento de Lenguas Extranjeras
new information and what they already knew.
By making predictions about the text before,
during, and aer reading, children used what they
already knew as well as what they supposed might
happen to make connections to the text. rough
the predictions children made during and aer
reading the stories, the student teacher could verify
childrens comprehension of the stories.
Owocki (, p. ) considered that in order
to predict, readers must activate their prior
knowledge and use it to think about what they are
about to read. In this way, predicting helps readers
connect what they are reading with what they know
already and brings meaning to the text in order to
get meaning from it. Background knowledge used
for predicting comes not only from the reader’s
previous experience but also from meaning that
is built during the reading. roughout the text,
readers continually generate new predictions. By
applying this strategy, students were given the
opportunity to integrate what they knew not only
about the stories but also about the language with
the new knowledge presented in the stories and
then build comprehension of them.
e third strategy taken into consideration for
checking childrens comprehension of the stories
while reading was that of questioning. According
to Owocki (), questioning is an important
strategy because it helps children move deeply
into a text, think more about what they read,
organize their thinking, frame the pursuit of new
understandings, locate specic information, and
think about unstated ideas such as themes, author
goals and intents, and underlying meaning. is
can be illustrated as follows:
(O) Juan Carlos started reading the story and asked
the children,
(T) What color is it? What will happen next? What is
her name?
(O) And the children answered the questions Juan
Carlos was asking. Suddenly a boy said,
(Ss) Teacher I do not understand anything.
(O) And a boy started explaining to him what was
happening in the story.
Questioning was a strategy used before, during
and aer reading a story. e student teachers con-
stantly posed questions in order to verify childrens
understanding. Questions helped children clarify
and deepen understanding of the text they were
reading. is was a very good strategy for the stu-
dent teachers since it allowed them to check com-
prehension. While reading, the student teachers
would stop and ask questions about the characters,
the setting and the pictures. e answers the chil-
dren gave allowed them to verify comprehension.
Post-Reading Stage
Aer reading the text, learners did a variety of
speaking and writing activities related to the text.
Although the speaking and writing production
in these grades is guided, this helped the student
teachers better assess students’ understanding and
comprehension of the reading process.
During the implementation of the proposal,
student teachers observed that children really
enjoyed the lessons and began to communicate
in English. Although they only produced words
and small phrases, they noticed the children
understood most of the input they had received.
Children not only produced the language orally but
also in writing. At the end of each story, children
had to dramatize the story and complete a little
book where they used the language learned during
the teaching process, thus allowing the student
teachers to verify comprehension. In this way, the
student teachers could integrate the language skills
around reading one text; rst with the receptive
skills of listening and reading, then the productive
105
Teaching English through Stories...
PROFILE Vol. 12, No. 1, 2010. ISSN 1657-0790. Bogotá, Colombia. Pages 95-106
skills of speaking and writing. is can be observed
in the following example:
(O) Viviana started to show the ash cards and some
students answered.
(Ss) Sleeping… Having lunch.
(O) Juan Carlos gave some handouts to the children
with the same story Amparo had just read. e
story had blanks that children had to complete
according to the story. e children started.
Although comprehensible input played a great
role in the understanding of the stories, it was also
necessary to engage children in post-listening or
post-reading tasks and language-related activities
in which they talked and wrote about the stories.
Such activities made the stories more comprehen-
sible while helping the children to move from re-
ceptive competence needed for listening and
reading to the productive competence necessary
for speaking and writing.
e variety of activities made the lessons in-
teresting and fun and motivated the children to
participate in an active way. ey wanted to sing,
answer questions, play the games, and be part of
all the activities. e combination of all the ele-
ments mentioned above let teachers observe that
the learning process was really meaningful and
interesting for the children who could make great
progress in learning the language while enjoying
the process.
Reading stories was a very useful strategy for
teaching the language to children for many rea-
sons. First, they knew and liked the characters
in each one of the stories and each caught their
attention and got them involved in the lessons.
Also, thanks to the stories, the teacher could con-
textualize the new language, and students could
get meaning easily and understand the use and
functions of the language.
Conclusions
Based on the diagnosis, analysis, and imple-
mentation of the research process, the following
can be noted:
Teachers should select the appropriate meth-
odology and didactics in order to make learning
interesting and meaningful for children. e use
of stories and the ludic methodology around them
made the language learning process meaningful and
fun for the children. During the implementation of
the lessons, students showed a lot of motivation
for learning; rst, because they loved playing the
games and second, because the stories were ap-
pealing and interesting to them.
When the children were playing games, the
student teachers could verify that when using
well-planned games with a pedagogical purpose,
children learn while having fun. Games also helped
the student teachers to create a condent and
stress-free learning environment where children
felt secure and relaxed during the learning time.
On the other hand, stories became the central
component of the process. At the beginning of the
process the student teachers thought stories could
be a good tool for children to learn the language,
but once the proposal was implemented, they were
surprised by the childrens response every time they
read a story. e children were not only motivated
by the stories but, also, they demonstrated their
understanding of the stories and their language
learning. e great success of using stories was due
to the fact that rst, they were created taking into
account childrens likes and interests; and second,
because the student teachers followed each stage of
the reading process appropriately.
Another important consideration is that in the
early learning stage, children need to be surrounded
106
Porras González
Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Departamento de Lenguas Extranjeras
by a lot of meaningful, interesting and comprehensi-
ble input to help them grow in the learning process.
e great amount of input received by the children
before and during the story time helped them to be-
come more successful while reading and aer read-
ing the stories. It also helped them predict, infer and
answer questions, thereby showing comprehension
and understanding of the stories.
Stories were an ideal tool to utilize in learning
the language as they were the central axes of the
whole process. Stories made the childrens learning
the foreign language more interesting, amusing
and memorable. Students have an amazing ability
to absorb language when activities are familiar
and enjoyable to them. Hence, teaching foreign
language using stories as a basis creates a learning
environment that is both familiar and fun.
Finally, it should be stressed that research is a
very important way for teachers to improve their
pedagogical practices. rough this project the
student teachers could reect on their practice,
be aware of what works or does not work when
teaching the language, as well as discuss, analyze and
nd ways to create better lessons. All of the above
helped them to improve their teaching practices by
nding better strategies in order to help children
become successful in their learning process.
References
Cameron, L. (). Teaching languages to young learners.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Castro, M. (). e magic world of storytelling: Some
points for reection.
PROFILE, Issues in Teachers
Professional Development, 3, -.
Curtain, H., & Dahlberg, C. A. (). Languages and children:
Making the match. Boston: Pearson Education.
Ellis, G., & Brewster, J. (). Tell it again: e new
storytelling handbook for primary teachers. United
Kingdom: Pearson Education.
Krashen, S. D. (). Second language acquisition and
second language learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Krashen, S. D., & Terrell, T. (). e natural approach:
Language acquisition in the classroom. Hayward,
CA:
Alemany Press.
Lipton, G. (). Practical handbook to elementary foreign
language programs. Lincolnwood,
IL: National textbook.
Nunan, D. (). Second language teacher education.
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Owocki, G. (). Comprehension “Strategic Instruction
for K-3 students. Portsmouth,
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Rossiter, M. (). Narrative and stories in adult teaching and
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About the Author
Nohora Inés Porras González holds a BA in Languages from Universidad Industrial de
Santander, Colombia, and a Master’s degree in Education from Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey –
Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga, Colombia. English Coordinator for the language teaching
program at Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia for years, she currently works for Lexington
School District in South Carolina, USA. Her interests include issues related to World Language
Teaching Methodology.
... In other words, pupils would overcome their insecurities in a foreign language when they were involved in a storytelling process and learning was enjoyable for them. The results of Wood's [7] study were confirmed by Martinez [6] and Gonzalez [8], who investigated the impact of storytelling on primary school children's interest in learning English. ...
... Gonzalez [8] asserted that telling stories motivates learners to use a foreign language more creatively than what is required by standardized textbook tasks because stories are interesting, engaging, and imaginative. Storytelling gives more freedom to use spontaneously received knowledge. ...
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This article presents the effects of sequence and storytelling methods on an adult beginner learner’s English language development. Being a powerful and natural way to learn, convey, and retain information, these methods offer a number of benefits, such as improving learners’ language proficiency, increasing learner participation, providing learners with cultural experience and encouraging creativity. The following research questions guided the study: 1) How do sequence and storytelling methods motivate an adult language learner to improve English? 2) What linguistic aspects do sequence and storytelling methods develop in the learner’s English? A qualitative research approach, specifically a case study, was used to investigate these questions. The findings demonstrate that sequence and storytelling methods of teaching EFL positively contribute to English speaking proficiency and empowerment by motivating the learner. The participant of this case study appreciated the benefits of sequence and storytelling teaching techniques as they addressed her individual needs and increased her learning enjoyment, cultural awareness, and language ability.
... Similarly, Gonzalez (2010) undertook a study to delve into the effect of storytelling on language learners' motivation. While undertaking the study, the researcher asked the student teachers to plan the course, plan the lessons, create stories based on the children's interests and preferences, and collect and analyze data. ...
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The use of storytelling on students’ first language literacy and development were extended to foreign/second language learning, and a large number of researchers interested in the field attempted to use storytelling and story reading strategies in teaching oral language skills to foreign/second language learners. Despite the existence of a number of studies on the impact of storytelling on English language skills, the number of studies on the impact of storytelling and story reading approaches on pre-intermediate EFL learners’ oral language production and comprehension seems to be scanty. To do so, a quasi-experimental study was employed. Ninety Iranian language learners, from 6 intact classes (each consisting of 15), were divided into three sub-groups: storytelling, story reading, and conventional groups. To one group, stories were told, one group only read the stories, and the third group received no stories. The data were collected through researcher-developed oral language production and comprehension tests. One-way-ANOVA test and three independent samples-tests based on Bonferroni test were employed to analyze the data and locate the sources of the differences. Findings revealed that storytelling outperformed story reading groups on both production and comprehension tests. The story reading group outperformed the conventional group. It can be concluded telling and reading stories are effective techniques for improving EFL learners’ oral language production and recognition.
... Regarding story selection, teachers should focus on the features germane to their students, such as their language level (Yang, 2009;Willis, 1996), and the overall message of the story. In the case of language, as we have discovered in the Colombian context (Barreto, 2009;Porras, 2010;Vanegas, 2001), storytelling is a powerful tool to develop language learning and communicative competence (Mora, 2015b). Concerning the story, teachers need to seek stories that promote quality values, as story time becomes an important moment for students to learn about them (Sulistiawati, 2014;Thompson, 2011). ...
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Teacher educators often come to this role as former K-12 teachers and need to negotiate and transform their own identities and self-efficacy. This insider-outsider reflexivity offers considerations for teacher education and in-service English education programs that strive for an emphasis on literacies theory and practice in their curricula. In this chapter, Mora, Cañas, Rodríguez, and Salazar share their auto-ethnographic and collaborative ethnographic accounts of how they used a literacies graduate seminar as a springboard to transform their own practice in elementary and higher education. The authors provide perspective on transforming literacies theory into second-language contexts and enhancing self-efficacy of in-service teachers through encouraging teachers to pursue master’s and even doctoral degrees in second-language education. The authors believe that the change of perspective around literacy helps address the need for an extended reflexivity toward transformative teacher education practices.
... Those with repetitive and predictable formulas and patterns help learners develop cognitive and language skills (Porras González, 2010). Hence, instead of presenting a language through isolated chunks, teachers can design a variety of activities including vocabulary, speaking, listening, reading, writing, and other type of activities such as games, songs, and drama through stories which provide meaningful, interesting, contextualized and rich linguistic input with repetitive and predictable patterns (Çubukçu, 2012;Enache, 2015;Haznedar, 2010;Lwin, 2016;Porras González, 2010;Yenici, 2003;Yıldırım & Torun, 2014). In addition, as Sipe (2008) assumed, children's meaning making might be frequently engaged via the front endpapers in terms of predictive purposes to be prepared for the story. ...
... The absence of a difference between the two experimental conditions may be due to the comparable activities across these conditions. An important and shared foundation in both approaches is the presence of follow-up activities that stimulated the children to develop their understanding of stories (González 2010). These play-based activities were incorporated within the broader framework of a storytelling approach. ...
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Adults as well as adolescents create exceptional groups of English language learners with their specific expectations. At present text books are the main source used to teach English. Although it is undisputable that they provide a syllabus, and a range of language activities, taking into account communicative purpose of a language, it is advisable to enrich English language lesson in supplementary materials. These materials should include neurobiological aspects in foreign language learning, the way foreign language is acquired, and personality factors such as multiple intelligences and affective factors. Hence, the author of the present article discusses the reasons why teaching English with the application of textbooks only is not enough, and subsequently suggests additional activities in the form of teaching through culture, stories, poems, songs, and games.
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Stories are an essential part of children’s life. And they are a means for parents, teachers, caregivers and educators to take care of children and their cognitive, emotional and communicative development. This book presents resources, strategies and techniques that can support storytelling activities for an informal, involving and enriching approach to English as a foreign/second language for children. It addresses teachers, student teachers, educators, parents, caregivers, librarians and volunteer narrators interested in storytelling with children in English L2. The book and its open access set of resources (Online Companion) are based on the experience of Let’s Tell a Tale, a collaboration between the teacher education section of Udine University (Italy) and the Udine Municipal Library ‘V. Joppi’. https://forumeditrice.it/percorsi/lingua-e-letteratura/all/lets-tell-a-tale/lets-tell-a-tale/libro_view
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The theory and methods of the natural approach to language acquisition in the classroom are described. The natural approach is based on the theory that language acquisition occurs only when students receive comprehensible input. The emphasis is on reading and listening comprehension for beginning students. The seven chapters cover (1) language teaching approaches, (2) second language acquisition theory, (3) classroom implications of the theory, (4) how to begin using the natural approach, (5) oral communication development through acquisition activities, (6) additional sources of input for acquisition, and (7) testing and classroom management. Curriculum organization, classroom activities, management of classroom activities, the role of reading in the natural approach, homework, vocabulary, and error correction are also discussed. (RW)
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About the book: Recent years have seen rapid growth in the numbers of children being taught foreign languages at younger ages. While course books aimed at young learners are appearing on the market, there is scant theoretical reference in the teacher education literature. Teaching Languages to Young Learners is one of the few to develop readers' understanding of what happens in classrooms where children are being taught a foreign language. It will offer teachers and trainers a coherent theoretical framework to structure thinking about children's language learning. It gives practical advice on how to analyse and evaluate classroom activities, language use and language development. Examples from classrooms in Europe and Asia will help bring alive the realities of working with young learners of English.
Languages and children: Making the match
  • H Curtain
  • C A Dahlberg
Curtain, H., & Dahlberg, C. A. (2004). Languages and children: Making the match. Boston: Pearson Education.
Comprehension "Strategic Instruction for K-3 students
  • G Owocki
Owocki, G. (2003). Comprehension "Strategic Instruction for K-3 students". Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books.
The magic world of storytelling: Some points for reflection. PROFILE, Issues in Teachers' Professional Development
  • M Castro
Castro, M. (2002). The magic world of storytelling: Some points for reflection. PROFILE, Issues in Teachers' Professional Development, 3, 52-54.