Saturday, 13 October 2012

FREEBIE - Tell Me A Story

Oral Storytelling


Teaching EAL (ESL) children can be a mixed bag. With over 120 kids every week, it's a mammoth job to identufy their individual needs and give them all individual learning targets. But it's all done - phew! Until the end of this half term, that is - then it all starts over again...

In my planning I try to pick up the three main threads of language teaching - speaking and listening, reading and writing. It's difficult to fit all of this in when I sometimes only see a child for 30 minutes each week... So I plan on a two-week cycle basis. Speaking and listening is a focus every week, with lots of oral vocabulary and sentence work. Every other week I alternate between a reading activity and a writing acivity, differentiated to the level of each child.

What has become glaringly obvious to me is the importance of oral storytelling.  Reading to children is a huge part of school life in children's early education, and then, sadly, it peters out... Often they don't get read to at home, and bedtime stories are few and far between.

Children LOVE being read to, especially if the story is accompanied by silly voices and perhaps a few well-chosen props. As my children are not big on writing yet (they are still acquiring language, and those who can write often prefer very short matter-of-fact sentences), I decided to focus this week on oral storytelling.

I used the story of The Gingerbread Man, but any simple traditional tale will do. I told the story to my groups of children, to a range of reactions. The facial expressions were priceless! Wide-eyed with surprise when the gingerbread man jumped out of the oven, and shocked when the fox gulped him down. They joined in eagerly with the chorus "Run, run as fast as you can! You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!"

It was fantastic! But how could I assess their understanding of the story? Well, usually we use boring old comprehension exercises, but that ovbiously wouldn't work with these children, And I didn't want to spoil the moment with lots of writing.

Now I don't know if you ever use story maps, but I tried it with a group of 7 year olds. With a story in French.... And they learned it within three lessons - and were all able to stand up in assembly in front of the whole school and their parents, and retell the story perfectly - in the most amazing French! This week I used a story map to support the gingerbread man story, and it worked its magic again. Not only was it helpful to the children while I was telling the story, but it served as a visual reminder when they came to retell it themselves. I asked them to tell me about the story as they understood it - they could either use pictures like my story map, or they could have a go at writing their own account. I recorded some children telling the story orally. Perfect!

To help them a bit more, I drew up a little record that they could easily understand. It also helps me to assess how much they understood. You can use this record with any children - it's not just for EAL (ESL) children, although it was made with them in mind. You can get your own FREE copy from my TN store by clicking the picture. It is also available in my TPT store. I hope you find it useful. Let me know what you think.

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