Teach English in DahuangshAn Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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In theatre and creative writing classes, teachers will use the “story chain” exercise to invoke creative thinking. A story chain is a game where a group of people improvise a complete story but individual participants can only say one sentence at a time. The first person in the chain says one sentence to begin the story and each person says one sentence to continue the story until the final person ends it. While this exercise is often used for actors or writers, it can also be employed as a tool for teaching English. Storytelling is an important classroom activity for learning English as a foreign or second language because of the stark similarities between language and storytelling. If students can complete a story chain, then they show a comprehension of structure, parts of speech, vocabulary, verb tenses, receptive skills, and fluency. All stories, no matter the format, have a basic three part structure: beginning, middle, and end. The same can be said of sentence structure; the beginning is the subject, the middle is the verb, and the end is the object and/or a prepositional phrase. To construct a proper sentence, a student would also have to understand the different parts of speech and where they belong in the aforementioned sentence. Sentences, by their simplest definition, are a group of words strung together to convey an idea. The same can be said about stories. More detailed stories also encourage English learners to employ adjectives or more obscure vocabulary as well. A fantasy story might use the word “dragon” or a sci-fi story would use the word “laser”. Story-telling requires the use of theme-appropriate vocabulary or tone-fitting vocabulary. A dramatic story wouldn’t use the word “giggle” but a comedy might. Nuance like this is important to learn for different languages and cultures. An imperative rule for writing narratives is to not switch verb tenses mid story. Conversations don’t normally apply to this rule, but recounting an event is telling a true story. It’s important in both scenarios to use the appropriate verb tense. The past tense is the most common verb tense for telling stories, but it’s important for the participants of the story chain to use the same verb tense as the first speaker. This is because a story is the recounting of a fictional event. It either happens in the past, present, or future but not all three. A story chain participant creates a story one sentence at a time, but how does a participant know what to say next? A story is a series of events that normally happen in chronological order. To know what to say next, the participant must listen and understand what was spoken before their turn. This requires the participants to practice listening to and speaking English. If Person A says “Sally went to the beach”, the story won’t make sense if Person B follows with “the dog goes to the moon”. The first speaker only has to prove their fluency by creating a comprehensive sentence. The other speakers must listen to the speaker before them, understand what they said, and then form a comprehensive sentence to continue the narrative. The exercise requires the speaker to have certain level of fluency. A story chain requires its speakers to utilize the six language skills mentioned above, but it also tests more than those six skills. The phrase “comprehensive sentence” means that it has correct grammar, good pronunciation, and clearly conveys information. This exercise masquerades as a game so students don’t feel stressed and allows teachers to gage what their students really understand. Storytelling is done in every culture and language and thus is a great tool to teach a foreign language, like English, in the classroom.