We often think of visual or interactive storytelling when we want to tell a story on digital platforms, but online storytelling has various forms. Indeed, one of the most classic form of sharing stories, oral storytelling, is among the most successful ways we can engage with narratives online. Although it is true that the art of telling stories to small or large audiences demands knowledge and practice, and professional storytellers train for long years to perfect their skills, teachers can also engage their students with online story sessions.
In previous articles we have discussed different ways of supporting reading at home, interactive stories, listening to audiobooks, and visual storytelling. Now we turn to online oral storytelling initiated by teachers.
Next time we will share collaborative project ideas, including collaborative story-making.
Why do it?
No matter where we learn - in the classroom, out of the classroom or on digital platforms - stories both in formal and informal education are undoubted powerhouses. They help us create identities and instil a sense of community, pass on knowledge, understand the essence of time, and they also give us the chance to act and stay active and proactive. Moreover, they support language learning by creating memorable contexts for new vocabulary and grammatical structures.
When your students read and listen to the same stories as a group, they develop a sense of belonging even online. And of course, you can share valuable experiences with them while helping their language learning.
What online storytelling resources are available?
Your students are already watching films and short videos online, so we recommend widening their horizon by sharing stories which have been graded for their language proficiency levels.
1 Online readers
How to do it?
- Choose an online reader or e-text for your group.
- If possible, before reading, talk about the context of the story and set reading goals for your students. For example, ask your students what Jane Austen stories they know, when those stories are set, and what type of stories they are. Then, ask your students to finish reading the story in one or two weeks. You can do this either in a group chat or if possible, in a group call.
- Remind your students to complete the Before Reading exercises.
- Students can simply read the stories online, or they can listen to the audiobooks. Of course, they can combine the two for a more complete learning and story experience.
- Encourage your students to keep a reading journal.
- At the end of the set reading time, invite them to share their opinions and memories about their favourite scenes and characters.
Tip for young learners: young learners can read a story, for example, The Desert Race, with their family. Alternatively, if you have digital means, you can set up a live session (for example on Skype or Zoom) and tell the story with the screen share option activated.
Remind the parents that the pictures are important in these picture books, and they should give enough time to children to observe the images and make connections. If parents need more support in helping their children read in English, our guide 'How to help your child read in English' is the right tool for them.
Read more about reading picture books here:
- Stories that support language and thinking development
- Looking together: visual storytelling in The Thinking Train stories
- Interactive reading: learn, think and play with The Thinking Train series
2 Video storytime
There are professional storytelling sessions online. Choose a story for each week and share them with your students.
We recommend our picture book session with actor and director Matt Devitt. In this video, he reads The Bully to a group of young learners. Join their session with your own students.
Watch another enchanting storytelling session with professional storyteller Amy Sutton as she tells the story of The Wiseman to a group of teenagers.
You can download the full story from our webpage dedicated to the resource book Story-based Language Teaching by Jeremy Harmer and Herbert Puchta.
3 Live or recorded sessions
You can create your own storytelling session in which you read or tell a story to your students. This will be especially engaging for your young learners.
How to do it?
- Select a story to tell. It can be your own story or a picture book you have at home.
- Place the book in a way that it is visible.
- You can set up the book on a stand and focus on it with your camera.
- Observe how Matt works in the video of The Bully, and set up the book in a way that both the book and you are visible.
- If you find it hard to position the camera, ask a family member to record you.
- You can also try holding the book in front of you, but this way turning the pages might become difficult.
- Invite your students to a live session. Alternatively, record your story time.
- Make it short, a 5-10 minute session is enough.
- You can turn it into a weekly series.
- Speak more slowly than you usually do.
- Point out images you talk about.
- Give the children time to look carefully at the pictures.
- And don’t forget to build anticipation by asking them to predict what happens next!
Do you have other ways of telling stories to your students?
Come back next week to check out our collaborative project ideas with storytelling tips!