Not yet a storyteller?

Although listening to a professional storyteller in school is clearly a valuable experience for students, it is usually going to be an infrequent treat. Fortunately, however, storytelling is not only a matter of professional tellers. The most important storyteller is there every lesson: you – the regular English teacher who can make stories an integral part of the whole language learning process.

Some teachers welcome this opportunity. Others may feel intimidated by a lack of performance experience. Seeing a professional mesmerising a class of students can encourage the mistaken conviction that “I could never do that!” But storytelling takes many forms. Professionals coming for a one-off visit to a group of unknown students easily choose a dramatic style guaranteed to reach out and form them into a willing audience. The situation of the classroom teacher is different: you may enjoy the chance to perform as a professional does, but you certainly do not have to. A quieter manner of telling may be just as effective. But whatever style suits you, your students will not only listen, they will love to listen. And this gives you the chance to explore the potential of regular storytelling in the language classroom. That is how I began many years ago, just discovering myself as a teller and at the same time discovering how storytelling could be integrated as a major part of the learning process.


Chennai Storytelling Festival 2015 (4-15 Feb) was themed, "Storytelling for Teaching and Training". This essay presents some of the ideas generated in relation to this Festival.

"Ways Storytelling can be used for Teaching-and-Learning"

The culture of India features a strong awareness of the educational value of storytelling. The frame-story within which the animal fables of the Panchatantra are related communicates this awareness clearly:

Once there was a king who had three sons. These princes seemed dull. They were unable to learn by conventional educational methods. Their father, the king, was very anxious about their futures, and thus also about the future of the kingdom. Finally, an aged scholar named Vishnu Sharma was called upon. He promised to help the princes become intelligent and bright within six months. His method: he would tell stories to the princes, and draw them into discussions about the stories. Sure enough, after six months, his plan succeeded.

The Panchatantra is one of the most popular collections of animal fables in the world. These stories, along with the Jataka Tales (which illustrate principles of Buddhism), episodes from epics, and folktales in general --also known as Grandmother Stories-- help to make India one of the richest story and storytelling centres in the world.

This is a resource the rest of the world calls upon.



What do teachers of foreign languages try to do and what do they need?

  1. Motivating:  language teachers must engage the interest of the students.
  2. Introducing ‘new’ language in context…not just translation.
  3. Helping the students to experience the language emotionally not just to study it intellectually.
  4. Helping the students to develop fluency in listening and reading, speaking and writing.
  5. Finding topics which provide opportunities for more activities.


Stories are the multi vitamin and multi mineral food for the language teacher!

Stories offer a rich food for all five of the language teacher’s needs!


Old ways of using stories in language teaching

The traditional way of using stories was (and is!) to ask the students to translate the story word by word and then to ask comprehension questions at the end.  

For most students this is a disaster; it kills the story.  The student is not involved emotionally and is involved in pedantic intellectualism which for most students is unpleasant and ineffective in terms of motivating the student to like the language and to feel that it is an alternative to their mother tongue.



Once upon a time, in a far-away land I found myself teaching English to Chinese teenagers.  Every day they had to study English to comply with Australian visa requirements.  There was one, particular, special activity in their weekly routine which seemed to truly engage them; On a Friday afternoon the students would sit on the floor on big cushions, the lights were dimmed, the candles lit and the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl was the signal to embark on a trip to the magical world of stories. There we would cross the boundaries of languages difficulties and navigate into the universal language of story. It was in this fertile land that the students really started to connect with each other, with me and to the English language.  This is when I realized that stories are not to put you to sleep, stories are to wake you up!

Stories stimulate the senses and the emotions as you travel with the characters on their adventures.  They provide a clear context to work in and they stimulate curiousity and imagination. All this makes the learning experience much more memorable as it helps to retain the  language in the long term memory bank.


AEDA, la Asociación Profesional Española Storytelling es ahora miembro del Consejo General de para niños y jóvenes Adults' Libros. Pero, ¿qué es este Consejo? ¿Quién pertenece a ella? ¿Cuáles son sus objetivos? ¿Qué actividades hace?


El Consejo General de para niños y jóvenes Adults' Libros es una asociación sin fines de lucro que representa y defiende los intereses de los niños y adultos jóvenes la literatura en español. Esta asociación pertenece a  OEPLI, La Organización Española para Infantil y Joven Adults' Libros una organización que forma parte del IBBY, La Junta Internacional de Libros para Jóvenes, una organización internacional que es el más alto representante para niños y jóvenes libros y que promueve entre otras cosas el premio "Hans Christian Andersen", a los niños y libros adults' jóvenes premio más importante para la escritura y la ilustración. Por lo tanto  IBBY (Organización Internacional para el Libro Juvenil, fundada en Suiza en 1953) incluye OEPLIThe Organización Española para para niños y jóvenes Adults' Libros fundada en 1982, y éste incluye Consejo General para niños y jóvenes Adults' Libros ( asociación para el ámbito de habla española cuyo presidente es Sara Moreno). Otras asociaciones conforman el Consejo General para para niños y jóvenes Adults' Libros que representan otros idiomas como el catalán  Consell Català, gallego   Asociación Galega  y el vasco Galtzagorri Elkartea.


Once the second edition of AEDA´s summer school is over with uplifting and exciting results, we get ready to work on the next project: FEST´S ANNUAL MEETING.

AEDA is a founding member of the European Storytelling Federation (FEST) and in just a few days from now, Fest´s annual meeting will take place. It will be at Kea Island Greece from July 19th to 22nd. A total of seventy six people will participate representing the following countries: Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy , UK, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, South Korea, Turkey and Finland

AEDA´s and FEST´s history is tightly connected. For all of those of you that want to learn more about it you can do it here

In 2001 the X Guadalajara´s Storytelling Marathon was celebrated under a very special theme: EUROPE. And in order to be able to bring storytellers from all over Europe a European grant was applied for and obtained.  That was how, for the first time, storytellers from all over Europe came together to story tell and to talk about tales.

These meetings were also held in other sub-headquarters (the counterparts) of that very special edition of the Marathon (Beja in Portugal, Cologno Montese in Italy and La Maison du Conte in France). Experiences were shared, stories were told and multilingual telling was experimented. In this inspiring 3-day exchange there was talk about the possibility of a European Federation for storytelling, the soil was fertile and the seed of FEST was planted, although it would take some years before this seed would actually sprout.