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
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.
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.
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.
Here are a few ideas to make you into a storybook reading and telling expert.
What stories have you used in class?
Sophia McMillan Oct 2019
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