Level: Upper intermediate/Advanced
Time: 90 minutes?
To introduce storytelling techniques
To help students to tell stories better
in both English their own native language
To give extensive & intensive reading practice
To give oral fluency practice
To give listening practice - listening for pleasure
That the students will have recently reviewed grammar
for expressing narratives
That the stds will find the topic interesting & useful
for their learning
That, in general, the vocab will not be too difficult
That the grammar will pose no problems to comprehension
Some vocab items might not be known - depending on the
Materials & aids:
- A Manual for Beginners taken from Barry
McWilliams' site about storytelling
Comprehension tasks - see below
Stories - one for you to tell at the beginning & several
for the stds to tell each other at the end - choose from the
stories below - or see the June '01 Newsletter for
Stage 1: Lead in to raise interest &
std<>std, tch< > stds, 10/15 mins
1. Ask the stds if they like listening to
/telling stories - have they heard one today? etc..
2. In pairs stds brainstorm techniques that go to make up
a well-told story.
3. Feedback - collate the ideas on the board - if not many
are forthcoming you could add in some ideas. At the side of
the board put up vocab that comes out that is connected to
storytelling - this will be referred to later when you focus
on the vocabulary.
Stage 2 - Listen to a story - choose from
the stories below
1. Tell stds a story - they listen for pleasure
- there's no task but to get the general gist.
2. Elicit if any of previous ideas on the board were present
in the story they heard - & are there any more they can
add from listening to the story..
Stage 3: Reading - to
view the whole text
1. Set the task - that the stds read to see
which of the ideas on the board are present in the article.
Set a time limit - make it a quick reading activity.
2. Stds read.
3. Stds compare ideas in pairs
4. Feedback - elicit which were present in the text.
5. Comprehension task - give out T/F sentences
- do individually & then compare in pairs.
Are the sentences true or false - identify
in the text where you find the information.
1. The author thinks it's OK to use
2. It's more difficult to tell a story
3. It takes two to tell a story.
4. It's best to improvise when telling
5. It's important to think about the
intonation of your voice when telling a story.
6. It's better to make it a true story.
7. It's a good thing to repeat &
8. You must light a candle when you
tell a story.
9. When you finish the story, carry
on & make up more details.
10. If you have problems telling a
story, the best thing is to stop telling them &
let those that can tell them.
Stage 4:. Language focus - vocabulary
std<>std, tch<>std, stds<>tch
1. Elicit some of the vocab in the text directly
connected to storytelling - stds underline all words they
can find - in pairs.
2. Feedback on the board - in the box below is a selection
of the vocabulary - it does seem quite a lot but most should
be know - choose how many & which to suit.
Don't forget elicit/get them to mark part of speech &
folk & fairy tales
the heart of the story
paint word pictures
beginning, body, climax
emphasis, repetition, transition, pause & proportion
once upon a time..
3. By way of summing up - ask the stds in
pairs to choose eight words that would sum up the article.
Stage 5: Storytelling - speaking practice
- choose from the stories below
tch<>stds, std<>stds, stds<>tch
1. Explain that the stds are now going
to try to put the techniques into practice. Give out skeleton
stories to each std & individually they prepare how they
are going to tell them.
2. Go round & help out with tips for their particular
stories & any vocab they might need.
3. Elicit interested listener responses & put some language
one the board e.g. 'Go on', 'And what happened next?', 'I
didn't catch what happened to..', etc....
Put the stds into small groups & they tell their stories
- others listen for pleasure. Go round & take notes to
give positive feedback - as this is quite a difficult task
I should forget about the language errors & just give
feedback on the good techniques they actively used.
4. After each has told their story, the others can give feedback
on the techniques & how effective they were.
5. Feedback from you on the task.
- write up the stories they told.
- you could give out some web addresses & the stds have
to find a story & tell it in the next lesson.
|Taken from Stories
in a Nutshell on the Story
Arts web site
| The Sack - A Sufi
Story from the Middle East
Mula came upon a frowning man walking
along the road to town. "What's wrong?" he
The man held up a tattered bag and
moaned, "All that I own in this wide world barely
fills this miserable, wretched sack."
"Too bad," said Mula, and
with that, he snatched the bag from the man's hands
and ran down the road with it.
Having lost everything, the man burst
into tears and, more miserable than before, continued
walking. Meanwhile, Mula quickly ran around the bend
and placed the man's sack in the middle of the road
where he would have to come upon it.
When the man saw his bag sitting in
the road before him, he laughed with joy, and shouted,
"My sack! I thought I'd lost you!"
Watching through the bushes, Mula chuckled.
"Well, that's one way to make someone happy!"
of Gold - A Jewish Folktale
A beggar found a leather purse that
someone had dropped in the marketplace. Opening it,
he discovered that it contained 100 pieces of gold.
Then he heard a merchant shout, "A reward! A reward
to the one who finds my leather purse!"
Being an honest man, the beggar came
forward and handed the purse to the merchant saying,
"Here is your purse. May I have the reward now?"
"Reward?" scoffed the merchant,
greedily counting his gold. "Why the purse I dropped
had 200 pieces of gold in it. You've already stolen
more than the reward! Go away or I'll tell the police."
"I'm an honest man," said
the beggar defiantly. "Let us take this matter
to the court."
In court the judge patiently listened
to both sides of the story and said, "I believe
you both. Justice is possible! Merchant, you stated
that the purse you lost contained 200 pieces of gold.
Well, that's a considerable cost. But, the purse this
beggar found had only 100 pieces of gold. Therefore,
it couldn't be the one you lost."
And, with that, the judge gave the
purse and all the gold to the beggar.
Axe - A Taoist Tale from China by Lieh Tzu
A woodcutter went out one morning to
cut some firewood and discovered that his favourite
axe was missing. He couldn't find it anywhere. Then
he noticed his neighbours son standing near the woodshed.
The woodcutter thought, "Aha! That boy must have
stolen my axe. I see how he lurks about the shed, shifting
uneasily from foot to foot, greedy hands stuffed in
his pockets, a guilty look on his face. I can't prove
it, but he MUST have stolen my axe."
A few days later the woodcutter was
surprised and happy to come upon the axe under a pile
of firewood. "I remember now," he said, "Just
where I'd left it!"
The next time he saw his neighbour's
son, the woodcutter looked intently at the boy, scrutinising
him from head to toe. How odd, he thought, somehow this
boy has lost his guilty look . . .
of a Cow Tail Switch - A West African Tale
A great warrior did not return from
the hunt. His family gave him up for dead, all except
his youngest child who each day would ask, "Where
is my father? Where is my father?"
The child's older brothers, who were
magicians, finally went forth to find him. They came
upon his broken spear and a pile of bones. The first
son assembled the bones into a skeleton; the second
son put flesh upon the bones; the third son breathed
life into the flesh.
The warrior arose and walked into the
village where there was great celebration. He said,
"I will give a fine gift to the one who has brought
me back to life."
Each one of his sons cried out, "Give
it to me, for I have done the most."
"I will give the gift to my youngest
child," said the warrior. "For it is this
child who saved my life. A man is never truly dead until
he is forgotten!"
& The Rabbit - A Fable from India
The animals of the forest made a bargain
with a ferocious lion who killed for pleasure. It was
agreed that one animal each day would willingly come
to the ferocious lion's den to be his supper and, in
turn, the lion would never hunt again. The first to
go to the lion's den was a timid rabbit, who went slowly.
"Why are you late?" the lion
roared when the rabbit arrived.
"I'm late because of the other
lion," said the rabbit.
"In my jungle? Take me to this
The rabbit led the lion to a deep well
and told him to look in. The lion saw his own reflection
in the water and roared! The sound of his roar bounced
right back at him as an echo.
"I alone am king of this jungle,"
he roared again.
His echo answered him, "I alone
am king of this jungle."
With that, the lion became so enraged,
he charged into the deep well with a great splash! The
lion attacked his own reflection and was never heard
- A Sufi Story from the Middle East
A scholar asked a boatman to row him
across the river. The journey was long and slow. The
scholar was bored. "Boatman," he called out,
"Let's have a conversation." Suggesting a
topic of special interest to himself, he asked, "Have
you ever studied phonetics or grammar?"
"No," said the boatman, "I've
no use for those tools."
"Too bad," said the scholar,
"You've wasted half your life. It's useful to know
Later, as the rickety boat crashed
into a rock in the middle of the river, the boatman
turned to the scholar and said, "Pardon my humble
mind that to you must seem dim, but, wise man, tell
me, have you ever learned to swim?"
"No," said the scholar, "I've
never learned. I've immersed myself in thinking."
"In that case," said the
boatman, "you've wasted all your life. Alas, the
boat is sinking."
- A Sufi Story from the Middle East
A poor man dressed in rags came to
the palace to attend the banquet. Out of courtesy he
was admitted but, because of his tattered clothing,
he was seated at the very end of the banquet table.
By the time the platters arrived at his seat, there
was no food left on them.
So he left the banquet, returning several
hours later dressed in robes and jewels he had borrowed
from a wealthy friend. This time he was brought immediately
to the head of the table and, with great ceremony, food
was brought to his seat first.
"Oh, what delicious food I see
being served upon my plate." He rubbed one spoonful
into his clothes for every one he ate.
A nobleman beside him, grimacing at
the mess, inquired, "Sir, why are you rubbing food
into your fine clothes?"
"Oh," he replied with a chuckle,
"Pardon me if my robes now look the worst. But
it was these clothes that brought me all this food.
It's only fair that they be fed first!"
- A Hebrew Folktale
King Solomon's servant came breathlessly
into the court, "Please! Let me borrow your fastest
horse!" he said to the King. "I must be in
a town ten miles south of here by nightfall!"
"Why?" asked King Solomon.
"Because," said his shuddering
servant, "I just met Death in the garden! Death
looked me in the face! I know for certain I'm to be
taken and I don't want to be around when Death comes
to claim me!"
"Very well," said King Solomon.
"My fastest horse has hoofs like wings. TAKE HIM."
Then Solomon walked into the garden. He saw Death sitting
there with a perplexed look on its face. "What's
wrong?" asked King Solomon.
Death replied, "Tonight I'm supposed
to claim the life of your servant whom I just now saw
in your garden. But I'm supposed to claim him in a town
ten miles south of here! Unless he had a horse with
hooves like wings, I don't see how he could get there
by nightfall . . ."
by Candle - A Sufi Tale from the Middle East
Mula bet some friends he could survive
a night on an icy mountain with nothing to warm him.
Taking only a book and a candle for some light, he sat
through the frigid night. When he came down to claim
his winnings, his friends asked, "Did you take
anything up there with you to keep warm?"
"No," said Mula, "just
a small candle to read by."
"Aha!" they exclaimed, "Then
A week later he invited these same
friends to a feast. They waited and waited for food.
"Dinner's not ready," said Mula, "Come
and see why!"
In the kitchen they saw a huge pot
of water under which a small candle was burning. Mula
said, "Does this remind you of our bet? I've been
trying to heat this pot of water over this candle since
yesterday and it's not warm yet!"
- A Tale from India
Three fish lived in a pond. One was
named Plan Ahead, another was Think Fast, and the third
was named Wait and See. One day they heard a fisherman
say that he was going to cast his net in their pond
the next day.
Plan Ahead said, "I'm swimming
down the river tonight!
Think Fast said, "I'm sure I'll
come up with a plan.
Wait and See lazily said, "I just
can't think about it now!"
When the fisherman cast his nets, Plan
Ahead was long gone. But Think Fast and Wait and See
Think Fast quickly rolled his belly
up and pretended to be dead. "Oh, this fish is
no good!" said the fisherman, and threw him safely
back into the water. But, Wait and See ended up in the
That is why they say, "In times
of danger, when the net is cast, plan ahead or plan
to think fast!"
- A Taoist Tale from China by Han Fei
A man needed a new pair of shoes. Before
he went to the marketplace, he drew a detailed picture
of his feet on a piece of paper, carefully measured
them, and wrote down all their dimensions. Then, he
set off on foot for the shoe store. Arriving later that
day at the bazaar, he unhappily discovered that he had
forgotten to bring the paper with his measurements on
it! He turned around and walked back home to get it.
It was sunset by the time he returned to the market,.
and all the shops were closed. He explained his situation
to one of the shopkeepers who had already packed away
all his wares.
"Foolish man!" said the merchant.
"You could have trusted your feet and tried the
shoes on in the store! Why did you go home to get your
The man blushed, "I guess I trusted
my measurements more . . ."