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The role of storytelling method when teaching turkish as a foreign language

К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2009

Автор: Васильева Т. А.

The interminable development of a modern world nowadays under the influence of the process of globalization demands the improvement of educational system in the Republic, especially the role of learning foreign language is of great importance for growing generation. Today there is an increase in need for highly qualified specialists mastering different languages on the required level to communicate with foreign partners and sufficient for the effectiveness in a professional work. Therefore the role of the language is quite important.

Over the last few years methodologists show great interest in different efficient approaches to teaching languages stimulating the interest of learners. And one of them is storytelling. A lot of research have taken place, many new guidelines concerning this theme were suggested (Andrew Wright, Nikhat Thameem, David Nunan, Lida Schinke, Gail Ellos, Jean Breuster, etc.).

Let’s look at some reason to use stories when teaching foreign languages:

- Stories can be motivating and fun and can develop positive attitude towards learning a foreign language;

- Stories train the imagination. Learners are able to involve personally in a story as they identify with the characters. It can be a tool in linking fantasy and the imagination with the real world of a learner;

­ Frequent listening allows certain language items to be acquired while others are being overtly reinforced. Many stories also contain natural repetition of key vocabulary and structures. Repetition also encourages participation in the narrative, thereby providing a type of pattern practice in a meaningful context. Following meaning and predicting language are important skills in language learning;

­ Listening to stories can help the teacher to introduce or revise new vocabulary and sentence structures;

­ Listening to stories develops the learner’s listening and concentrating skills via visual clues, the prior knowledge of how language works, the general knowledge. This allows to understand the overall meaning of a story and to relate it to their personal experience.

There are three main dimensions in which stories can add to learning in the whole curriculum:

1. Stories can be used to reinforce conceptual development in students.

2. Stories are a means of developing learning to learn. This major category covers:

­ reinforcing thinking strategies (e. g., comparing, classifying, predicting, problem-solving, planning, etc.);

­ developing strategies for learning a language (e. g., guessing the meaning of new words, training the memory, self-testing, etc);

­ developing study skills (e. g., making, understanding and interpreting charts and graphs, making and learning to use dictionaries, organizing work, etc).

3. Carefully selected stories can also be used to develop other subjects in the curriculum, in particular:

­ Science: the life-cycle of insects, animals, outer space;

­ History: prehistoric animals, understanding chronology/the passing of time;

­ Geography and the Environment shopping and shops in the local area, neighboring parks, sports and games, using a map, the weather and the climates around the world, cultural studies;

­ Art and Craft: drawing, making masks, hats, cards, clocks etc;

­ Music and Drama: singing songs, playing instruments, role-play, miming.

In our case this is a cultural aspect. We can two aims simultaneously, that is achieve teaching difficult language structures (grammar, vocabulary are of great importance when learning a foreign language) and at the same time students come to know the culture of those people, they come to know Turkish traditions, their way of life, their country, political views, culture, history, etc. it enlarges the students’ horizon in both ways: in learning the language and learning the Turkish people.

A syllabus is concerned essentially with the selection and grading of content. A syllabus is most likely to include language functions and structures, vocabulary, pronunciation and skills to be practiced. Various factors are considered when selecting and grading content such as the age and conceptual level of the learners, their needs and interests, their language level and previous language-learning experience, and the degree of difficulty of stories and activities.

There are many sources of simplified stories especially for those who start learning the Turkish language. However, at the same time many authentic stories written for Turkish-speaking students can be also suitable for those learning Turkish. As these have not been written specifically for students as a foreign language, the language is not selected or graded. Many, however, contain language traditionally found in most beginner syllabuses. The advantage of using authentic stories is that they provide examples of ‘real’ language and help to bring real world into the class. Very often simplified stories represent a watered-down version of the Turkish language and can deceive both teacher and learners about the true nature of language. Authentic stories can also be very motivating for a learner as they experience a strong sense of achievement and having worked with a ‘real’ book.

Teachers can choose from a wide range of stories: those that students are already familiar with in their mother tongue, such as traditional stories and fairy-tales; picture stories with no text, where students build up the story together; rhyming stories; cumulative stories with predictable endings; humorous stories; stories with infectious rhythms; everyday stories; fantasy stories; animal stories, and so on.

Care needs to be taken to select authentic stories that are accessible, useful and relevant for students learning Turkish.

For stories aimed at beginners’ it is possible to use the mother tongue from time to time. If the class shares the common language, this is quite natural. In fact, the teacher would be denying students a very useful learning strategy if he/she insisted on always using Turkish. However, the teacher should consider carefully when and why to use the mother tongue. Obviously, the more of usage of Turkish and the more students get better at and more familiar with the language, there is less need to use the mother tongue.

Here we suggest some occasions when to use the mother tongue:

­ Setting the scene by drawing upon the students' experience related to the story or their knowledge about the subject and language. However, the mother tongue can be used to help students to make informed guesses about the Turkish words. Students can look carefully at the questions and options to work out meaning and use other linguistic clues such as similarities with the mother tongue. Even if the students complete the quiz in their mother tongue, it will still prepare them for the story in Turkish.

­ Predicting what comes next in a story.

For example, the teacher can ask his students to answer a question in their mother tongue.

­ Providing a gloss of the main storyline beforehand. This is important with more difficult stories.

­ Eliciting vocabulary or phrases. For example, the teacher could ask students to say something connected with the story. If they do not know these words in Turkish, they will need to make suggestions in their mother tongue. This provides with an ideal opportunity to introduce the words in Turkish as the need to know them has come from the students themselves and the context is clear.

­ Explaining keywords, a grammatical rule or cultural information. Translating a keyword may be a useful short cut if there are no illustrations to convey the meaning or if it is an abstract word.

­ Reminding students of what has happened so far in the story.

­ Explaining how to do an activity. For example, pair work or a game. The more familiar students become with these activities, the less the teacher will need to use the mother tongue.

­ Learning to learn. Many activities which require students to reflect on their learning or the language need to be carried out in the mother tongue with lower-level students.

Using storybooks successfully in the classroom needs careful planning. Simply reading a story to a class without preparation can be disastrous with the loss of students’ attention, motivation and self-confidence. Although learners are used to listening to stories in their mother tongue, understanding a story in a foreign language is hard work. Students' enjoyment will increase enormously if the teacher ensures that their understanding is supported in several ways. The following guidelines provide a framework to make story-based lessons more accessible:

­ It is preferable to provide a context for the story and introduce the main characters. The teacher should help students feel involved and link their experience with that in the story to set the scene; relate the story to aspects of their own lives such as where they live, the animals they are familiar with, what they like or dislike, going shopping, having picnics, the people they know, etc. Once the context has been understood and the students can identify with the characters, then elicit key vocabulary and phrases, and involve students in predicting and participating in the story.

­ Provide visual support: drawings on the blackboard, cut-out figures, speech bubbles, flash cards, etc.

­ Explain the context, keywords and ideas in the mother tongue, if necessary.

­ Identify linguistic objectives. Decide which language points students need to recognize for comprehension when the story is told and which would be useful to reproduce such as lexical sets, language functions and structures, etc.

­ Relate the story or associated activities to work in other subject areas if possible.

­ Decide on the amount of time to spend on the story. Should it be used once or twice or over a period of several lessons?

­ Decide when to read the story. To read a little each lesson - or all at once after appropriate preparation?

­ Decide in which order to introduce or revise the language necessary for understanding the story. Make sure students understand the aims of each lesson and how it relates to the story.

­ If necessary, modify the story to make it more accessible to pupils. Substitute unfamiliar words with better-known ones and adapt the sentence structure to make the story easier to follow, and so on. Find out if there are any rhymes or songs that students can learn to reinforce the language introduced.

­ Decide which follow-up activities would provide opportunities for students to use language from the story in different contexts.

Storytelling is indeed powerful. It provides the foundation for learning. Storytelling teaches students to listen actively and analytically, improves verbalization skills, increases imagination and visualization skills, and increases comprehension and retention skills. As educators know, listening is the basis for all language skills: talking is learned by listening, reading is based on verbal language, writing is based on reading. And once students have listened to a story and used that story to create their own, they become anxious to write them down.

Imagination and visualization are also essential to literacy, since these are the tools that allow a reader to give meaning to the words being decoded. These skills, in turn, lead to comprehension and retention. Imagination and visualization are also essential life skills: They are the primary tools we use for successful problem-solving in science, math, and daily conflicts. Storytelling builds all of these skills while motivating students to explore the wealth of folktales and stories found in books.

Storytelling is also a gentle way to guide students towards constructive personal values by vicariously placing the listener in situations in which the outcome of both wise and unwise actions and decisions can be experienced from the safe distance of the imagination.

That's why we tell stories. And when students learn to tell stories, they practice the art of organizing and retaining information. They reinforce the wiring.

Stories are an effective tool for language teaching. They meet the emotional, cognitive and psychological demands: their need to belong; to act; to share; to feel protected, etc. Stories and fairy tales are inherently interesting to students. They speak to the "I" of the student.

To conclude the work we can say that these then, are the main points for using storytelling in early foreign-language teaching:

1. Storytelling should be viewed as an essential part of early language teaching. It gives students rich and versatile experience with language and culture. Through storytelling, students acquire cultural literacy to make their language learning meaningful.

2. The curriculum for language teaching can be story based.

3. Finding the right story is important. Story selection should meet certain objective and subjective criteria. Objective criteria relate to story grammar; subjective criteria relate to the student and his/her preferences. When selecting a story for language teaching, objective criteria are the most important since they facilitate comprehension.

4. Text adaptation may be necessary to facilitate comprehension. A story should be adapted in such a way that a student can easily pick up clues or "staging posts" to construct the meaning.

5. Story comprehension and understanding is affected by the storytelling technique used. We don't know yet which technique is the most effective but it should lead to "guided comprehension."

6. Finally, guided comprehension is a process through which the student learns strategies for making meaning. The teacher's role is to help the student use different strategies and to adjust the storytelling process if she/he loses the meaning.


1. Penny Ur. Teaching listening comprehension. Cambridge handbooks for language teachers/ Penny Ur; series editor Penny Ur. – Cambridge University Press: 2003. – P. 47-164.

2. Gillian Porter Ladousse. Role play. Resource books for teachers/ Gillian Porter Ladousse; series editor Alan Maley. – Oxford University Press: 1997. – 181 p.

3. Jill Hadfield. Classroom Dynamics. Resource books for teachers/ Jill Hadfield; series editor Alan Malley. – Oxford University Press: 1997. – P. 72-79.

4. Jogn Morgan. Vocabulary. Resource books for teachers/ John Morgan, Mario Rinvolucri; series editor Alan Malley. – Oxford University Press: 2002. – 126 p.

5. Gail Ellis. The storytelling handbook A guide for primary teachers of English/ Gail Ellis, Jean Brewster. – Gail Ellis and Jean Brewster: 1991. – 276 p.

6. David N. Johnson. Cooperative learning in the classroom/ David N. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson, Edythe J. Holubec. – Association for supervison and curriculum development, Alexandria: 1994. – 110 p.

К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2009

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