Using Storybooks in the Classroom

Shane Training Centre

Using Storybooks In The Classroom

Using Storybooks in the Classroom


Why Use Storybooks in the Classroom?

Storybooks should be used in a young learner classes in three main ways:

1) Reading for pleasure and enjoyment: this can require a good level of English 

2) As an extra teaching resource: allows for language to be introduced and practiced

3) A combination of 1 and 2 above: using storytelling to teach and practice the language while allowing the learners to realise reading in English is fun and enjoyable


Children read books (and are read to) in Japanese for pleasure in their daily lives. Sharing English storybooks shows that English can be a pleasurable experience too. English storybooks make English real and learners can see English being used for a real and familiar purpose. 


Storybooks give learners a different, colourful and interesting experience of English. They can be used to practice vocabulary and language in context. They obviously practice listening and can be used to extend speaking, reading and writing. Theme-based work can also be used to extend the value of the storybook across the curriculum. 


Teachers can use storybooks in a variety of ways using different language, depending on the book being used and the language they want to teach/practice. 


How to Use Storybooks

In order to fully utilise the storybook it is important to consider:

1) What language should be taught?

2) What vocabulary do the learners need to know?

3) What activities can be used to extend the English and the theme of the story?


As teachers we need to consider what to do:

a) before the story

b) during the story

c) after the story


Before Reading

It may take more than one lesson for the learners to be confident with the language used. For the following activities choose either fruit/animals/colours, one set per group, alternatively the groups can change their flashcard set between activities. 


Clapping/Stamping Drill: Drill the colour cards and have the group clapping and/or stamping along with the rhythm of the words being drilled. Turn the drill into a chant, as the rhythm will help them remember the words. 


Mimes: Put the flashcards somewhere everyone can see them. Have the learners sit in front of you and mime an action related to one of the cards. Learners should shout out the word and point at the card (or retrieve it). Once a learner has correctly guessed the card have them take the teacher role. 


Robot Drill: Draw a robot on the board with a dial on his chest. The dial could be a round piece of paper with an arrow drawn on it attached to a magnet. To change the setting turn the dial. The dial is a speed control with 3 settings, slow, normal and fast (or quiet, normal and loud). Demonstrate the functions of the dial by pointing to the different numbers and saying the words at the displayed speed/loudness. When learners understand the dial have them take the teacher role. 


Storytelling Chant: Chants will engage the learners, give them extra language to practice and enjoy the routine. Use the following chant sung to the tune of ‘London Bridge is falling down’.

‘Ssh be quiet, please sit down

Please sit down, please sit down

Ssh be quiet, please sit down

Listen, listen, listen.’


During the Story

Young learners need a reason to listen and look – we need to create that. Elicit some ideas this can be done: Facial expressions, gestures, sound effects, changes in pitch/tone, pausing etc. We need to build interest in the story itself and keep it interactive and fun. This could be the anticipation of the teacher making a funny face or a silly voice, being able to shout “hahaha” as a character runs away, or a doing a gesture/movement or finding a prop. 


Read the story and demonstrate the following activities.

 Phrase Repetition: Start reading the book. Use hand gestures and alter the speed and tone of your voice to encourage learners to copy you so that they repeat the phrases.


 Monocular: Hand out a sheet of scrap paper and have learners roll it up to make a monocular – use a piece of tape to hold it in place. Place the fruit flashcards around the room/on the table. Start reading the story and as you read the question, “What have you found?” learners hold up their monocular. When you read what the character has found/eaten learners look through their monocular at the correct picture and repeat the language.


After the Story

There are all kinds of activities that may be related to the story book to extend the learners’ understanding. Some are directly related to English and others may be cross-curricular. These can be chants, craft, using characters to practice other target language e.g. prepositions, phonics etc. 


Getting learners in the right frame of mind for reading a story is just as important as teacher preparation, especially the first time you use English story time. Strive to make storytelling time special and something the children will look forward to. 


Move away from the usual classroom layout. Have learners closer to you so they can see you and the text. Make a special story telling corner, with the children in a cosy huddle around. 


Play a particular piece of music/chant to indicate it is story time and get the children in the mood. Or put on a storytelling hat for a similar effect.


Have a regular set time for storytelling. Learners eagerly anticipate the excitement in store as the allotted time approaches. 


Voice, Sound & Movement

These are important when reading stories. They are amusing and enjoyable for the listener but more importantly they help learners understand the story. 



 Pronunciation – watch out for problem sounds/think about word and sentence stress
 Intonation – vary it for questions, statements and lists
 Rhythm – read neither too slowly or too quickly, with appropriate pauses
 Variation – vary the pace and loudness of your voice. Use various voices for different characters 



Use sound effects – paper cups struck on the table for footsteps, or have learners stamp their feet etc.


Use sound effects at key moments (perhaps when something silly happens) or use a squeaky toy.



Involve the audience. Give them a prop to mimic a character doing the same in the story. Or a gesture they use when something happens in the story.


Teacher Preparation

Here are a few ideas to make you into a storybook reading and telling expert.

 Read through the story aloud to yourself to familiarise yourself with it. 
 Practice the look up and say technique. Don’t read with your nose in the book.
 Watch yourself in the mirror as you tell your story! Probably 50% or more of communication comes through body and facial movement. 
 Gather any props, flashcards or pictures to help tell your story. These will all help children understand. 


What stories have you used in class?


Sophia McMillan Oct 2019



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Adult Children of Alcoholics Tokyo


About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
This entry was posted in Reading, Teaching Children and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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