Storytelling in FL Classroom: Toward More Use of a Powerful Tool
Gaby Semaan, University of Toledo/Assistant Professor, Director of Middle East Studies and Coordinator of Arabic Program, OFLA Teacher Education and Licensure
Storytelling is an old art that is common among all cultures and languages. The genres of stories are as varied as the stories themselves. Storytelling was and is the main vehicle through which people exchange news, folk tales, mythology, religious beliefs …etc. There are hundreds of stories from the world’s literature that made it to all languages, sometimes with a little cultural twist. Usually students of foreign languages grow up with familiar stories that are trans-lingual such as Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc. When using such stories in the TL classroom, FL teachers can do more than captivate, entertain and provide a very comprehensible written, auditory and visual input. They are able to teach culture, help students connect and compare as well, in addition to getting the students more engaged. The teacher involves them more in retelling and recreating the story in the target language, maybe acting and reproducing in any form or shape that will enhance their individualized FL need. This individualization can be accomplished through language production which allows room for students’ creativity and personal input.
Many teachers at all levels are using storytelling in their FL classrooms. However, many more are not and are caught up in the traditional or institutional FL curriculum that is not preparing globally competent students. This is not to say that storytelling is the only means for preparing such students; however, it is an excellent means to get them to widen their horizons and to become actively engaged in exploring cultural differences. It is also an easy bridge to get them into the specific FL literary works. FL teachers can even utilize digital storytelling to get their students even more engaged by speaking their tech-language. The market is full of free apps and software that teachers can encourage their students to use as they retell, reinvent and recreate their stories. This in turn will engage the students in all of the target language skills. It may also teach them to type in the TL (especially when the TL uses a different system than the Roman alphabet), which is a very needed skill in today’s global-mediated-village.
If you have never tried the fun and engaging tool of storytelling in your classroom, why not give it a try and see for yourself how beneficial and fun this can be? Better yet, if you have good stories and experiences or questions, why not share those on OFLA’s listserv?