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Teach English in Dashetai Zhen - Bayannao'er Shi — Bayan Nur
Language has many uses in our society: to communicate messages and alerts, to spread information, and to create connections. Something that accomplishes all of this and so much more is storytelling. Humans have always been drawn to the art of storytelling, and nearly every culture has ancient traditions of oral histories. As universal as this method of communication is, it is severely under-utilized in language courses. In this essay, I will explain why storytelling as a method of teaching a forienge language is crucial to language acquisition and retention, different ways it can be utilized in lesson planning, and finally some examples of activities that incorporate storytelling which I have found to be useful in my own classes. The textbooks that I have worked with, both as a student of a foriegn language and as a teacher, have used some storytelling techniques to guide the lessons. But these fall pitifully short of a compelling narrative that interest students. One of the major benefits to using storytelling in the classroom is that it helps to invest students in the objectives of the lesson. Games do this in the short run by providing small rewards for when the students succeed, but creating a compelling narrative throughout the curriculum and structure of the class can teach students several valuable lessons. The first of which is to remind them of why language is important. Many of my students are currently struggling in class because they are unmotivated and unconvinced by the material that we teach that they will ever need or find a use for the English language. However, stories remind us on a primitive and practical level the value of shared language. It will also demonstrate natural English and it’s uses. It is ok if your story uses grammar and strategies that the students haven’t learned yet because it will help them learn the language through context clues and guessing, which is how we all acquired our first language. Mimicking natural language acquisition is ideal, but difficult to replicate in a classroom without frustrating adult learners. Gentle encouragement with the reward and motivation of a good story can do this without isolating students. The final reason that storytelling should be used in the classroom is that it can be a way to give agency of the learning back to the students. They become much more engaged when they have the tools of the lesson and can create their own stories and narratives. There are many methods of storytelling that can be used to give this agency to the students while still allowing the teacher to monitor the class and make sure everyone is still on the right track. Storytelling can be used at any stage of the lesson planning, and can be incorporated as much as a teacher desires. However, it should be noted that while other methods can be used periodically, the best way to hold a single narrative thread through the class is by frequent repetition of an activity that students are already familiar with. Some examples of how repetitive storytelling can be used in class regularly are as follows. As a warm up engage activity, introduce a character that the students are familiar with, either in popular media or of their own creation, and elicit new facts about them using review grammar or the new grammar points. Drawing pictures on the board and demonstration can also help with understanding. After the grammar point has been taught, students can be given a short reading of a text or shown a video that is a continuation of a story that they have been reading over the course of many lessons. This text should have some of the grammar points in it, and can be modified to either be a fill in the blank exercise, a worksheet with questions to answer at the end, or a reading exercise that will be used later to check understanding. This would all be considered under the umbrella of a study phase. As an activate stage, storytelling may be the most useful and important, as this is when students can really have the freedom to create their own stories and narratives. This is when such activities such as role play games, picture storytelling, and other similar creative endeavors can be used to encourage the students to utilize the language that they have learned up to this point. It should be stressed that the main goal is not perfection, but communication! Lastly, storytelling can be used in a review activity at the end of a unit to make sure that the students have retained and understood the material up to this point. This can be a simple passage reading, or something as elaborate as a narrative board game, where the students correct answers will advance the hero’s, or incorrect answers will advance the villains. In conclusion, storytelling is a vital part of every teachers curriculum and daily lesson planning. It reminds students of the utility and importance of learning a new language and gives them invaluable, practical experience with that language. It can be used at any stage of the lesson but frequent repetition of familiar practices is preferred to create an engaging and exciting narrative for the students to participate in.