Storytelling has never ceased to prove its importance in teaching a foreign language to young learners in spite of the impact the digital revolution has had on their interests, educational needs and behavior. Bringing a world of fantasy into the classroom assures the success of any English lesson which aims at developing vocabulary and the usage of grammar structures, especially if teaching to young learners. However, in order to make teaching and learning through stories an enjoyable and memorable experience the teacher should take into consideration some methodological and psychological aspects which are sometimes ignored. They emerge from the reasons for which storytelling has been integrated in the curriculum.
If used for developing language and vocabulary, storytelling brings into the classroom authentic communication patterns which belong to different cultures and enhance teaching moral values and cultural characteristics belonging to a community or to a country. As it is a powerful tool to teach children literacy and develop social attitudes in an exciting and entertaining way, storytelling has been introduced in the school curriculum of countries all over the world.
By listening to stories, children learn new language inductively as they contain repetitive patterns which are easier to remember and activate previous language knowledge as well. This activity represents the most natural way to involve young learners in their own development at an early age.
Furthermore, storytelling can be considered a cultural enhancer as it gives an insight into the different cultures of the peoples around the world. Each story carries elements of the culture and civilization of the people who created it and they also depict historical periods in the evolution of society. It is a well-known fact that without any doubt, a story is the representation of the beliefs, customs and mentality of a certain category of people at a specific time in history. By learning about other people’s myths and legends and understanding their mythology they also become aware of the fact that they belong to a macro-system of cultural heritage, values and concepts. For young children it is easier to understand complex concepts if they are presented through pictures or in a fun way. Another element of culture is that children learn about the legends and legendary figures created by the imagination of people, but in fact they are representations of the moral values they criticize or admire in a person.
Storytelling has also a great value in developing critical thinking. As this is one of the most important life skills that a child must develop in the 21st century it is mandatory to create the educational context in order to acquire this objective. One of the most cited definitions of critical thinking is that given by Chance (1986) who sees it as “the ability to analyze facts, generate and organize ideas, defend opinions, make comparisons, draw inferences, evaluate arguments, and solve problems”.
Therefore, children should be given the chance to analyze and make inferences, express their own opinions and evaluate the behaviours of the characters in the stories in order to develop understanding of a story and process the cultural information they experience through reflective thinking. A teacher can develop this skill by asking children a significant number of questions which create a clear picture of the information in the text and offer them various contexts to shape their own judgement about the world. Young children learn how to become rational and critical adults by engaging them in activities that stimulate them to personalize the problematic situations in a story and encouraging them to express opinions and judgements, but in a free and exciting way. The more complex cognitive and mental processes which are later developed at a superior level are now given the basis by analyzing intricate life issues in an entertaining way.
As a conclusion, the greatest value of storytelling should be understood by teachers in order not to miss the chance of building a harmonious personality and developing the moral values our society needs in a relaxing, easy and rewarding manner. Its importance lies beyond the simplicity of the text presented and teachers should feel more encouraged to use it as one of the most efficient techniques to teach a new language.
1. Paran, A., & Watts, E.(2003). Storytelling in ELT.Whitstable, UK: IATEFL.
2. Wright, A. (2009). Storytelling with children. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.