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Book review
Stories cover


Stories -
Narrative activities in the language classroom
by Ruth Wajnryb

(CUP, 2003)


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Review written by Thomas Simon

Stories & narratives have long been seen as an important tools in the classroom for both the teacher & the student. For the teacher they provide a versatile activity that can be fitted in almost anywhere in a lesson for a multitude of different aims & for the student, they are an important part of both productive & receptive communicative ability. 'Stories' by Ruth Wajnryb, author of 'Grammar Dictation' helps to enrich this area.

The stated aims of the book are:

• to teach students the conventions of different narrative genres

• to enable students to work with stories to achieve language-learning objectives

• to help build a sense of community on the classroom

'Stories' begins with a principled introduction to stories & is then divided into three sections that contain a total of 42 activities.

The first section is 'Learning about text as narrative genre' which looks at different aspects of the genres to help the learner build up a picture of how they work. The activities cover sequencing, schematic structure, choice of development, accounting for point of view & a variety of activities that help with the manipulation of narratives.

Activity 3, 'Complications & resolutions', will be a popular one as Wajnryb has broken several stories, divided into different levels, down into the schematic parts of abstract, orientation, complication, evaluation, resolution & coda. Students begin by matching the story parts to the section headings, then come up with a different story up to the end of the complication stage, another pair writes the resolution & the original writers get the completed story back to read.

Activity 4, 'Choose your own adventure', provides a maze. Students pick up a card, read the situation & make a chice that moves them to another card & another choice - a lovely interactive reading activity. If you have been teaching a while you may remember 'Business Mazes' & More Business Mazes' that I believe are long out of print. If there are any budding materials writers out there looking for an idea, I'm sure there must be a market for a few maze-based books.

The second section looks at 'Language learning through narrative lessons'. The activities in this section exploit narratives for work on structure, function, vocabulary, phonology & the four skills.

The last section 'Building a 'storied' class' involves 'story-telling for its social power' & might be the section with the 'newer' ideas on using narratives in class. These ask the student to tell personalised stories to each other which, apart from the linguistic objectives, aim to help with the group dynamics & the bonding in the group.

And last but not least is the story bank with a collection of 43 more stories.

For those new to story-telling in class 'Stories' will come as a revelation & for those that already incorporate narratives in class, the book will undoubtedly add to your range of activities & provide different perspectives on what you already do. A recommended buy.


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