Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Why Stories?

by AJ

My students may wonder, why do I tell stories in class?

Shouldnt we be doing drills?

Shouldnt we be studying grammar rules or "language points"?

Shouldnt we be doing exercises in the book?

Well, no. I use stories in class for several reasons:

1. Stories use authentic (real) English. Most of our conversations are stories or are similar to stories. A story uses language that we use everyday.. in the way we use it. When students listen to and tell stories, they are learning to use conversational English... When they practice drills, they learn artificial language that is not very useful in conversation. Most of my students have studied English for years. They have been doing drills for years. But they have trouble speaking.

I hope to help them speak more naturally by using stories. So far, I am happy with the results. Most students are speaking a lot in class. They are telling long stories with many details.

They dont realize it, but they are also practicing many "language points" at the same time. This week, they practiced the present tense (as it is naturally used). They practiced time expressions such as "on Sunday he goes to a bar,... on Monday he has a hangover,.....etc." They practiced the use of "there is/there are". They practiced idiomatic expressions and other non-obvious vocab such as "each other" and "spend time".

Some classes also practiced switching from the present to the past tense. Most students did these things very very well... and they did not have to think of grammar rules. They did not have to translate. They did not have to focus on only one point while ignoring all others.

2. Narrative (story telling) structure is easier to remember. A story is easy to remember. Research shows that children and adults remember facts, vocabulary, grammar, and other information much better if that information is presented in story form.

For example, most students learned the word "hangover" this week. Some will forget it, but many will remember it because they did not memorize it through translation and study. Rather, they learned it through a story. They saw me acting out a hangover. This is a much easier way to acquire a language.

3. Repetition
Each story was re-told many times. I told it several times. Then they told it several times. Then they wrote their own (usually similar) versions of the story. Therefore, the vocab and grammar was repeated many many times... but without drills.

4. Pictures and Actions
A story is easier to understand than a drill because a story has images. The students can "see" much of the language... especially because Im acting it out. Most drills have no pictures or actions... just words on a page. At best, they might include a drawing on a flashcard. But the language is isolated, and has no meaningful context to students (or the teacher).

5. More Fun
Even if drills and stories produced equal results (and they dont).... stories are still better-- simply because they are more fun. Some students might not have enjoyed my story. But I imagine they liked it more than they would enjoy a series of drills and textbook exercises! Maybe I will test this theory.... do one class of only DEH drills... see which they prefer :)