Friday, 20 May 2011

#ELTchat Summary : Storytelling

Once upon a time there were a group of teachers who got together and formed a group of professionals on twitter discusssing topics relevant to ELT. On Wednesday 18th May in the evening session we discussed: The use of ‘storytelling’ in class, (real storytelling, reading stories to our learners, using storybooks with YL and teenagers, digital storytelling). 

I have to say when I saw the topic , I was very excited. I even volunteered to write up the chat before we started, such was my excitement. Although we touched on reading stories to our learners and using storybooks, the main focus, was on how to get students to create, tell and re-tell stories. As usual the pace was fast and furious and I hope that I can do all 43 pages justice!

Storytelling is one of those great lessons where students are mostly in control and have freedom to be creative.

Here are some of the tweets that addressed the question : Why should we use stories in class?

Marisa Constantinides: Stories are extremely powerful when learning and teaching English.
Theteacherjames: I think the joy of storytelling is that it’s universal, across all ages and; cultures.
Marisa Constantinides: Story telling is an essential part of communication in our daily lives so very important to teach the skill of narration.
Shelly Terrell: Getting students to tell personal stories motivates them to use language that is relevant to them.
Marisa Constantinides: I think everyone likes storytelling- from fairy tales to anecdotes, stories from our daily lives.
David Warr: Everyone loves stories, well, good ones.


There were so many ideas; here they are in no particular order:

• Ask all of the students to tell you their favourite word in English and write them on the board. Then get them to write a story using all of the words.
• Play Alibi a classic speaking game where students have to come up with an air tight alibi for a crime. A couple of criminals and a class full of detectives trying to get to the truth.
• Encourage students to tell ‘stories’ of job related anecdotes and episodes.
• Tie storytelling into presentations like student Pecha Kuchas!
• Get monolingual classes to re-tell universal/widely known stories like Red Riding Hood  or what about getting students to write modern fairy tales similar to those of Roal Dahl in Revolting Rhymes.
• Try a chain writing activity where everyone writes for 1 minute then pass papers down the line and continue the stories.
• Try some drama. Create soap opera characters and write scenes for them.
• Give the old classic Consequences a go. Write the first line of a story then pass it to the next student. They read it and then write the next line and then fold it and pass it on.
• Try Speed Story Writing set a time limit so it doesn’t drag on.
• Get hold of a copy of the fantasy/sci-fi prompt cards from Intermediate Communication Games resource pack. They are great as picture prompts.
• Try @SeanBanville’s Breaking News English which is good for topical stories
• Try Lie Detector a fun story-telling game
• Try a story telling competition with a limit of say 50 to 60 words (some given) are great fun.
• Try chain stories on a class blog!
Try using a dictogloss to start off a story. Read the first part and then students can finish the story.
• Get students to re-tell stories from films / books as if they are one of the characters - also less personal than their own stories.
• Try a live listening where students re-tell and finish the story.
• Use true-life magazines. Cut out/scan pictures without text and make story boards, students make up the stories then report.
• Open a suitcase and explore the items within to create a character, the place they are going to and the reason for travel.
• Narrative poems can be good too. Another thing may be to use Kennings. @oliverquinlan used them with his kids
• Expand a story adding verbs adjectives or reduce it getting rid of all the adjectives and leave a telegraph version.
• Try getting children to bring a photo of their pets and use them as characters in a story.
• Make a Gapped dictation - teacher gives scaffolding, students create their own variations - good for mixed ability groups
• Use music to create a story. Choose pieces of different music to represent different stages of the story.
• Try a dictate - write-dictate process.
• Use a few random photos from our photo gallery and tell a story.
• Try ‘modernizing’ folktales
• Give students a bag of objects - they have to guess the story.
• Take well know fairy tales or stories and turn them into dialogue.
• Give students the first and last sentence. They have to get from one to the other
• Try a Dice story 1. Who? 2. What? 3. Where? etc Throw the dice and add a sentence to the story. Then reorganise to make logical!
• Use ‘story’ songs which students re-tell after hearing:
• Show learners a short video & ask them to write either a prequel or the sequel. Example:
• Try to mime a story. Have the words on a PowerPoint and display them when the students guess correctly.
• Give one group 1st half, other group 2nd half of story. They complete the other half, and then compare it to the original.
• Get 1 student to tell a story and a second to add sound effects.
• Another idea for stories using music - start with song lyrics &; expand them into a full story.
• Take stories from c/books &;‘improve’ them, students have something to work with.
• Skull Cinema, an idea from IATEFL - use music to create a film soundtrack. Tell story to your partner.


• Younger kids are generally more open to storytelling.
• Storytelling is great in lower level high school classes to build emotional connections with course work.
• I’m always willing to tell anecdotes and personal stories.
• Teachers’ voice important part of storytelling with adults and kids .It’s a great source of live listening. The problem is we think Teachers’ voice is bad.
• Little ones can have a lot to say and sometimes adults don’t know where to start from.
• Adults love whodunit type stories.
• I was a great storyteller at school until adolescent self-consciousness spoiled it all &; I just stuttered and glowed red.
• Teachers’ own stories potentially the most powerful form of listening practice, live listening practice . Andrew Wright says we are all storytellers, important to help students to structure their own and give them confidence to share.
• The build up to the telling is quite important.
• Preparation time is the key to storytelling with teens. Let them think it through and practice before going ‘public’.
• My most memorable teacher told us lots of stories about her family life.
• The advantage of collaborative storytelling is that it creates a scaffolded situation. Digital storytelling gives them the chance to do amazing things, comic strips, short films etc. Plus a real audience.
• My students love being taught fancy ways to say, “he said” and; “she said.” e.g. She gasped; he said hesitantly.
• Assessment, I do ‘assess’, I don’t give a grade, just feedback on whether or not they held the audience’s attention
• Accept all their ideas! No idea is silly/worthless.
• Important to remember students often need prompts/a push in the right direction-quite daunting to just be told “ok now make up a story!”
• The more I use my imagination or “open up” the more they seem to follow suit.
• Get them to share OTHERS’ stories- less embarrassment.
• Publishing students’ stories online is a great idea, especially if they are not too personal.
• Storytelling apps I recommend include Story Robe, Story Kit, Puppet Pals, Animoto and Fotobabble.
• Stories can integrate all the language skills really well.
• Peer assessment is great and with no discouragement.
• Encourage drafting process - best possible final product.
• Avoid judging the story. 


• Every picture tells a story
• A list of around approx 50 websites used for a teacher training course:
• This teacher does great storytelling online classes called Pass the plot. Watch the recording
• @cybraryman1: My Digital Story Telling page:
• Storytelling: the language teacher’s oldest technique by Mario Rinvolucri
• @bethcagnol Lamb’s Tales (PD simplified versions of Shakespeare’s plays for kids) are great for lower levels
• Online stories for children from the University of Calgary
• Bilingual stories for younger audience written by ... is another example: Bilingual stories for younger audience written by ...
• Online collaborative story writing:
• Digital Storytelling/Literacy Apps for Kids
• wonderful stories, with lots of activities to be used in class
• All of the warm ups/fillers from ESL-Library are now free on the blog. Lots of ideas for storytelling:
• Love story “fact or fiction” was really fun (how did your parents meet):
• Online stories for children from the University of Calgary
• This is from a workshop at British Council Istanbul Alec Williams told stories for older kids
• Story/ Picture+book+Making
• This is a great website for young kids or English beginners. Story maker
• Paul Braddock’s Mobile Storytime post
• An old favourite book of mine is “once upon a time” Rinvolucri and Morgan.
• Fantastic digital storytelling examples
• Digital storytelling links here:
• Unravel the #IATEFL Story:
• Some ideas on that in a post I did a while ago
• Predict the story based on a list of novel titles:
• Cambridge English Readers, great stories full of suspense
• Loads of storytelling ideas in these ways to support writing from @tombarrett
• Mini sagas in 50 words http://slidesha/
• e Card Flickr - useful for generating story ideas:
• Let’s not forget even if you don’t have web access in class you can find some great ideas for class work.
• Storytelling and drama | TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC
• Pixengos - great for creating holiday-related photo stories: sent by email, retold in class.
• Ways for students to record & develop stories with mobile devices.
• Binyameen’s story
• Use Voicethread for storytelling projects.
• Videotelling by @cheimi10:
• iphone app Storycubes for storytelling

ColorĂ­n, colorado este cuento se ha acabado. I’ve finished. I hope that I haven’t missed anything and that it’s useful. There were certainly a lot of great ideas and links. Thanks everyone.

Post Chat Extras:

Storytelling with Ceri Jones


  1. Great summary, Leahn!I have been missing EltChat for weeks now, kind of got out of the habit... always miss the evening sessions anyway as don't get home til half way through. Thanks :)

  2. Wonderful summary. Thanks on behalf of those who were not able to follow, like myself!
    Take care,
    Bete Thess

  3. Hi Michelle,

    I know what you mean. Missed a lot myself. This one caught my eye and so I managed to take part. I can never make the midday one as I'm working!

  4. Hi Bete,

    Thank you! I hope it made sense.


  5. Hi Leahn

    Thank you so much for the wonderful, action-packed summary!! It contains so many great links and ideas to use in future lessons.

    Such a shame I missed this as I love storytelling and could have contributed a lot to the chat. Hopefully it'll come round another time :-)

    I really appreciate having this excellent summary, and have already added it to my growing ELTChat summaries folder!

    Best wishes


    Ps Hope the new rescued furkids are doing ok

  6. Hi Janet,

    Thanks. New fur kids are fine. Eating, sleeping and playing. How are the kittens?

    Glad you found the summary helpful. I never quite know how to do them.

    It's a shame you missed it. Are you in Oxford or Italy?

  7. Hello Leahn,

    Thanks for so good summary. This is very useful and references.

    I cannot miss your update:)

  8. Hi ysmcu,

    Sorry I haven't had time to reply sooner or find your name! Busy as usual. I'm glad that you found the summary useful. I'm going to try out an activity in class this week.

    Thanks for reading.


  9. HI Leahn, I commented on the ELTchat page, but just to say this is a tremendous write-up you've done.

  10. Thanks David... if only I spent as much time on my own posts!

  11. Hi Leahn

    The kittens are absolutely adorable and I'll have to write a blog post specially dedicated to them soon :)

    I've just posted a feedback post on Storytelling and have mentioned your fab summary!

    I'm in Italy at the moment and enjoying a bit of sunshine!

    Take care