ELT Methodology
| Elena Gourgouli - 16 Apr 2023

Language acquisition through story-telling: how reading and listening to stories can achieve language fluency

Language acquisition can be acquired through a variety of teaching strategies and materials. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate a promising and fast-growing method in language acquisition, the story-telling method. Storytelling is one of the oldest and most widespread methods of communication around the world spreading rapidly in the educational environment as means of reaching fluency in the target language. The primary goal of this paper is to explore the benefits of reading and listening to stories and the various ways that this method leads to further development, language awareness, and fluency in the target language. Activities that focus on this approach are Focus on Meaning tasks (FoM), which aim to learn grammar and vocabulary unconsciously through context.

According to authors, storytelling in literature is a cultural and social activity achieved by sharing stories through embellishment, improvisation, or theatrics. These stories are shared differently from culture to culture as means of entertainment, instilling moral values, cultural preservation, and education; a fable is an ideal example of a fictitious story that can teach a moral lesson (Sherman, 2008). Storytelling acts as an activity that passes information from one person to another or from one generation to another (McDrury& Alterio, 2003). Listening to stories and reading them aloud grows learners’, and significantly young learners’ knowledge and awareness of literature, thus their place in the world (Dr. M. Bamkin, 2016).

Storytelling and play

Storytelling in combination with play can act as an important instrument for perceiving children’s world by incorporating learning into a kind of activity. Based on Haven (2007) an effectual manner of instruction and narration is storytelling. “Stories struggle to infiltrate the normal flow of education” (p.4). Tannen (1989) asserts that children when they listen and read stories create images in their minds, hence assisting in better comprehension and more enduring memory than simply memorization of facts or rules. This is in line with the Schema Theory by Anderson which implies that reading or listening to stories or texts evoke memories of the reader or listeners’ background leading to a better understanding of the story or the text respectively. It is asserted that learners, and especially young learners, by incorporating play into learning are highly able to manage any section of their lives that is formed by the play (Garvey, 1977; 1990; Paley, 1992; 1997; 2001;2004; Corsaro, 1997; 2003). The reason for this is that it is regarded as the first independent activity that is assumed as their own (Hakkarainen, 1990; 1999). Furthermore, storytelling through play is an activity that promotes other skills as it forms the Zone of Proximal Development(ZPD), (Vygotsky 1979).

The benefits of storytelling in education are:

  • to engage learners to participate actively in the language learning process: Stories are an early genre of discourse that children learn to speak in public (Michaels, 1991)
  • to further development of vocabulary: stories often act as an early writing form (Sulzby, 1985).
  • To encourage learners to speak English (Slattery & Willis, 2001).
  • To improve learners’ interest in reading (Slattery & Willis, 2001).
  • to reinforce critical thinking: current studies in philosophy and cognitive psychology emphasize the value of narrative in developing arguments (Bruner, 1990) and generally in thinking (Dennett, 1991).
  • to boost imagination and emotions (Tannen,1989)

How storytelling can achieve language competence?

To start with, reading is a neurobiological process that exercises your brain muscles. In this way, you can help slow down cognitive decline and even reduce the rate at which memory deteriorates. Furthermore, reading challenges the mind in several areas. First of all, it is about understanding and processing the words you read. In addition, you can use your analytical skills, stimulate your memory, and even expand your imagination by reading words from a page. Reading in L2 (Second language) assists learners in feeling more comfortable with new words and grammar rules. Seeing words and structures visually builds up their memory especially if this is accompanied by the scaffolding method or by simply looking up words in the dictionary. Learning new vocabulary not as lexicon sets, as mostly used in foreign classrooms, but in a relevant context enable learners to memorize them unconsciously and instill them faster and easier in their minds. The exposure by reading in more sentences per minute, new vocabulary, and grammar rules is far greater than watching movies or listening to songs. That is why, according to surveys, heavy readers speak more articulate than average English speakers.

Apart from reading, listening to stories reinforces students’ active listening skills which are highly significant in the language-learning process. By the term “active listening” we refer more to listening for comprehension and less to listening for responding. When we listen to understand, we acquire a more holistic view of the language without focusing on grammatical intricacies. Learners focus on the general meaning of the story or the sentence leading to learning the language unconsciously through context. By improving students’ listening skills we help them to communicate in a more comprehensible manner, “pick up” language faster and promote mindful thinking which reduces anxiety and depression (Edenfield and Saeed 2012). Mindful thinking is a social-emotional skill that teaches learners not only to recognize their emotions but also how to manage these emotions positively. It can be particularly helpful for children with learning difficulties, especially attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to Dr.Bamkin (2016), the physical passivity of children listening to a story is deceptive. There is a theory that people tend to enter a mild hypnotic state as they listen to a story. While they are in a rare state of relaxation, their brains are becoming flooded with pleasure-promoting hormones and their neurons are forming connections. This state increases the capacity to learn, and that is where knowledge slips in.

To sum up, the benefits of storytelling as an educational tool for teachers have already been aforementioned. However, the various ways a teacher can choose to implement storytelling in class can determine the success and the amelioration of students’ language development and fluency improvement.

Browse By Tags

Copyright © 2016. Jagat Media Solutions | All Rights Reserved