Revista Recre@rte Nº3 Junio 2005 ISSN: 1699-1834                                 http://www.iacat.com/revista/recrearte/recrearte03.htm



José Luis Vera Batista

University of La Laguna



Working with a story is normally associated with storytelling (from the teachers´ side) and listening comprehension (from the learners´ side). There are many other activities we can think of to facilitate the comprehension, the practice and the production of the la nguage when working with stories. Teachers should do some kind of curricu la r reflection before, during and after doing this, otherwise the cohesion and coherence of these activities can be put in doubt. In fact, starting with the curricu la r reflections before working with the story would improve it for sure.

Our main goal is stimu la ting teachers to tell stories but, at the same time, making them more aware of what should be taken into consideration before, while and after working with stories. If we know how the mechanism works, we can be active interpreters of the curriculum. How can we improve our teaching without knowing the pros and cons of it?


This paper is for any teacher who is –or will be- teaching English in Primary School, although most of the ideas could be put into practice at any level or, at least, we would like it to be a starting point for further reflection for anyone. The text shown in the practical example has forced us to choose a level, in our case Year 4 of Primary School, as the story was specifically prepared for it as part of a curricu la r testing carried out by the Instituto Canario de Evaluación y Calidad Educativa (ICEC) of the Consejería de Educación, Cultura y Deportes del Gobierno de Canarias in 2002, which aimed at checking the differences in the level of the linguistic competences in English of learners in Primary School that began learning English in Year 1 and those who began in Year 3. This research also included some questionnaires for teachers of these courses. Some of the questions were re la ted with storytelling and its implications for both teachers and the curriculum. This experience has encouraged us to write the following paper with the healthy idea of making us reflect accordingly.

The reasons to use stories in the Primary School c la ssroom are many if we have ever been in contact with a child, but unluckily this attitude and life experience is sometimes not taken into account by many teachers when working with stories. There is an obvious fact: children like them. They enjoy listening to stories in their mother tongue and understand the conventions of narrative most of the time, even in their early years. In other words, they already have sufficient experience and attitudes to face a story, a different thing is how we, teachers, work with it. Sometimes what they do not like is our way of introducing and developing our story, not the story itself. The conclusion is clear: we must work the stories appropriately, and be conscious of the tool we have in our hands, its curricu la r dimensions and consequences of what we do when we use them.

According to G. Ellis and J. Brewster (1991), these are some of the reasons with which we agree:

1. The stories are motivating and fun and can help develop positive attitudes towards the foreign la nguage and la nguage learning.

2. Stories are a useful tool in linking fantasy and the imagination with the child´s real world.

3. Storytelling provokes a shared response of la ughter, sadness, excitement and anticipation which is not only enjoyable but can help build up the child´s confidence and encourage social and emotional development.

4. Children like listening to stories over and over again.

5. Listening to stories allows the teacher to introduce or revise new vocabu la ry and sentence structure.

6. Listening to stories develop the child´s listening and concentration skills.

7. Stories create opportunities for developing continuity in children´s learning.

These reasons are quite solid, we think, to make us look at stories with different eyes, but, on the other hand, were not considered important enough to change daily practice, according to the research mentioned (46% of teachers questioned). Our professional experience as teacher trainers informs us that teachers without a good command of how to build up a curriculum when p la nning, developing and evaluating are far too restricted to certain aspects of it and leave others without control, sometimes the most important ones. This situation makes them be unable to progress as much as they would like to.


What is it behind the so called “story”? What do we activate when working with a story?

If we look at the story as a curricu la r tool/product we are on the right track, but this is not what happens in the majority of cases observed. The data collected in the research mentioned and, basically, our experience with 12 teachers of 6 different piloting schools when preparing the test to check the listening comprehension of the story presented here and, of course, our experience as teacher trainers in different courses with Primary and Secondary Schools inform us that most teachers recognise the story as an activity or task, but, on the other hand, they do not feel that they are active interpreters of the curriculum –in other words, they do not know kow to control the curriculum-, and what is, even more, suspicious is that the majority of them (65%) consider themselves passive users of stories made by someone else (textbook writers, story writers, etc). Many of them think that their role is limited to choosing which story is appropriate for each moment without convincing curricu la r reasons, sometimes with the excuse of a nice story, easy vocabu la ry, known structures, right length, etc.

A story means something different when it is seen as a part of the curriculum, syl la bus or coursebook. W. Doyle (1983) considers the activity/task to be the centre of the curriculum. Each time we use a story (activity/task) we must connect it with the objectives, contents, methodology and evaluation we want to reach. It forces us to look at this activity/task as part of a whole, not as a specific one for a concrete moment. The benefits obtained through doing so are enormous. We wish the teachers to control the curriculum not vice versa.

Let us support these ideas practically, analysing what is behind a story and be aware of what we activate when working with it. To do so, we have chosen a story used in the research mentioned to test pupils´ oral comprehension:


(The symbols added to the text were chosen to facilitate the teacher´s performance and the learners´ comprehensible input)

This is ( Tom ). He´s a very tall and thin boy. He´s nine years old. He likes sports and animals. He lives with his family: (his father, mother, brother and sister). They have got a ( pet shop ). In the shop, there are a lot of animals: (parrots, cats, dogs, birds…)

Every night, Tom opens all the ( cages ) of his friends, the pets. They all play, run, fly…and talk to Tom.

Tonight something very strange happens. (Kim), the parrot, is very sad.

  Listen to the conversation between Kim and Tom.

Kim: Where is my mother?

Tom: I don´t know

Kim: Where is my father?

Tom: I don´t know

Kim: Where is my brother?

Tom: I don´t know

Kim: Where is my sister?

Tom: I don´t know

Kim: That´s why I am sad. This is not my family.

Tom: I understand. OK. You can go away and look for your family if you like.

Kim: Really?

Tom: Yes, you are free.

Kim: Goodbye

Tom: Goodbye

Symbols used:

(Tom) = words accompanied by flashcards

free = words that need physical reinforcement/support (body language and voice)


The reflections presented here about each area of the curriculum are the ones all teachers should bear in mind before, during and after working with a story, sometimes not explicitly but implicitly. Our basic objective now is to show our readers the kind of questions we can ask ourselves before we take curricu la r decisions on what is going to be done or not.

Reflections on initial, previous or diagnostic evaluation.

- Is this story/topic interesting/motivating for the age of the learners?

- Do the learners have the right level of English and general knowledge/experience to understand this story? (They do not need to know all the words but the main ones. The basic vocabu la ry of this story is: boy, family, mother, father, brother, sister, sad. The rest will be understood by the learners by using their compensation strategies, getting the main ideas through the right media. Why do we not think of the evaluation of the story? How are we going to know if they understood the story or not? (instruments) and what do we want to check after working with the story? (criteria).

- Is it necessary to adapt the story to the learners? To adapt here means, adapt the la nguage, the characters, the plot of the story, the values presented, etc. In other words, not just the la nguage.

- Is the story another activity of the curriculum/syl la bus? Is it a final task or an enabling one (Estaire y Zanón) or trama (Ribé)?

- Were the learners well trained in previous years to associate messages and media?

- Are the objectives for the story the result of our curricu la r decisions after knowing the learners? Do we normally connect the objectives with the evaluation criteria? In other words, do we know what we want to check to illuminate our objectives?

- What do we know about the learners´ previous experience in the field of storytelling? Did we ask the learners´ previous teachers? Did we check their p la nning? Are we sure if they are familiar with the media we have in mind?

- Have we taken into consideration the previous knowledge in the learners´ mother tongue? The previous knowledge in other areas is as important as that in the foreign la nguage.

Initial evaluation is for us the most important type of evaluation. The rest (formative and summative) makes sense if we have done the initial evaluation properly.

Reflections on p la nning, development and evaluation of this story and activities about it.

The importance of comprehensible input.

All examples given will be from `Tom and his friends´, we will refer to it as ‘our' story, the story presented here, to avoid repeating the name all the time.

Which are the activities to be worked on before, during and after the presentation of the story? Are they coherent and cohesively organized? Are they interlinked? Are they gradually implemented? (e.g. the contents) (See the list of possible activities below). Do these activities take into consideration the pupils´ previous knowledge?

CHOOSING OUR OBJECTIVES (I want my learners to…)

We would recommend using didactic objectives, that is to say, very concrete, precisely what we want the learners to learn with this activity (of course, level and area objectives should also be in our minds, but at the backstage). The fewer, the better. It is also a good idea to set up the evaluation criteria and the instruments we are going to use to evaluate the story. This may help us to be very coherent with ourselves and with the learners. Why not introducing other objectives apart from the linguistic ones? For example, to implement certain values (Vera, 2003). In `Tom and his friends´, we can think of friendship, respect for others´ feelings, showing understanding towards others´ problems, etc. In fact, there are authors who first emphasize the values developed through the la nguage and then the la nguage itself, J. Bucay, G. Ortner in Cuentos que ayudan a los niños, etc. Technically, an objective can be defined from the four elements of the curriculum e.g. To learn new words (an objective defined from the concepts; to be conscious of the importance of friendship (an objective defined from the attitudes); to make the pupils write their own objectives (an objective defined from the objectives), etc.

The objectives for the activities to be done before, during and after the story `Tom and his friends´ are the following:

1. To comprehend global information from an oral text, supported by visual aids and re la te it to pictures that represent the global information presented.

2. To understand and discriminate specific information in an oral text.

3. To write simple and comprehensible sentences in English with a correct syntagmatic order.

4. To understand the argumentation line of an oral text supported by gestures and visual aids. Order pictures according to the argumentation of an oral text.

5. To decide upon some alternatives according to a story previously listened to.

6. To participate in the development of activities done in groups (pair and small), showing the degree of responsibility expected.

7. To represent the story created/adapted.

8. To select information from previous/new knowledge, using the right media.

9. To make and answer questions about a text.

10.To p la y a game.

11.To use the four skills according to the demands of the activities.


- What do we want the story for? Presenting new information (Input phase), practising some information? (Intake phase) or making the learners produce some information (Outcome/Output phase)? These three phases are normally under the umbrel la of the word `to learn´, but their demands from the learners are quite different.

- How do we put into action what they know or what they are learning? (Procedures)

- Which skills are required in the set of activities to work with the story? Receptive (listening and reading), productive (speaking and writing) interactive (spoken and written interaction) or mediation?

- Pragmatic aspects: Which are the functions/ideas covered in the story? E.g in `Tom and his friends´ to ask where someone is. Which are the active exponents? (the ones we want the learners to learn) Which are the passive ones? (the ones that accompany the active ones and that can be understood by the pupils through the right media but which we do not expect the learners to learn). E.g. in Tom and his friends, an active exponent will be `where is my mother?´ and a passive one will be `I understand´, `I don´t know´ (this could be done using mime).

Linguistic aspects: Which is the basic grammar we want the students to learn? In our story, the Present Simple (he is, he lives, they have got), affirmative, interrogative and negative sentences (He´s nine years old, where is my mother?, this is not my family), the contraction of is (´s). The fewer, the better. Which are the lexical-semantic items we want to emphasize? (Especially the ones that are essential to understand the story. In our story: boy, family, father, mother, brother, sister and animals, sad. Which are the words known by the pupils? (Implicit knowledge) Which are the new/unknown ones? (Explicit knowledge)

- Are we going to take into consideration any phonetic-phonological items? Not in our case.

- Which are the socio-cultural aspects we want to implement? The type of family presented here could be absolutely negative in some contexts. This fact would force us to adapt the story to a more suitable family re la tionship. This curricu la r decision does not mean changing the la nguage worked with. Socio-cultural aspects worked on here: the family, the concept of freedom, how to help other people, etc.

- Without any doubt, the main stress should be put on the attitudes presented and developed throughout the story. We must take into account that `a la nguage is firstly felt and then learnt´ (Vera, unpublished). A story is a magnificient tool to transfer attitudes, values, cross-curricu la r topics, etc.

- The development of creativity (fantasy and imagination) is another important area to consider when working with stories. Each story is going to be understood differently by each student according to his/her creativity. Creativity here means the capacity to associate, to link, to create new ideas by using their previous knowledge or experience. Children are normally very creative, so why do not we take this into consideration and implement it accordingly?

- Globalization is putting into action what the pupils know to solve a new situation or la nguage context. A new story should contain known elements 60/70% (words, pictures, body la nguage, etc) they can interpret without much difficulty, apart from the new elements introduced 30/40%. Compensation strategies (R. Oxford, 1990) can help the pupils to comprehend the unknown information presented. Children are normally accustomed to interpreting stories in their own mother tongue, why not take advantage of this?

- Significant learning is also crucial. Sometimes what we teachers consider significant is not be so in the pupils´eyes. Why do not we ask them about their preferences, their topics, their favourite characters, etc. Initial evaluation, again, can help us to solve this situation. In re la tion with our story, we know that learners in Primary, Year 4, like animals.


- Which is our methodological approach? Are we aware of the fact that the various approaches will make us interpret the curriculum differently?

- Which type of grouping are we going to use in each activity? What are the benefits for doing so? What are our aims?

- How are we going to distribute the time within each activity? How much time is each activity going to take? Is this time proportional to our objectives/aims?

- How are we going to manage the space? Where are we going to p la ce ourselves (teacher and pupils) during each activity? Why do we choose this arrangement of space? Is it logical?

- Which media are we going to need before, during and after the story? Are we aware that we, teachers, and learners are also media? Do we take advantage of this potentiality? Comprehensible input is strongly connected with media. A story could be more or less comprehensible depending on the media used. Each medium has its own characteristics that make it more or less usable for a specific purpose. Nevertheless, a medium could be perfectly interchangable with another one without affecting the comprehensible input. We, teachers, must choose the ones we think are appropriate and handy for each situation. There is a wide range to choose from. Sometimes, sophisticatication does not mean efficiency. E.g. In our story we basically used body la nguage, the voice (pitch, stress, rhythm, intonation) and f la shcards to present the story. The words in brackets (Tom) are accompanied by f la shcards, the words marked like this e.g. opens are accompanied by body la nguage and variations of voice.

- Talking about roles and learning styles, we have to decide on the roles the learners are going to p la y before, during and after working with the story. Are we going to involve them in it? Do they have specific roles to p la y? What will be done if the students cannot assume the roles given? Have we thought of other alternatives to overcome this difficulty? Of course, this area is always connected with other areas of the curriculum (space, grouping, social strategies, etc). What about the learners´ learning styles? Do they all use the same cognitive style to learn? Do we take into consideration the coexistance of multiple intelligences in each c la ssroom? ( Gardner , 1983). Each story should contain different ways to approach the different intelligences if we do not want to leave some learners out of the unit of work.

- Which learning strategies are we going to put in action? Learning strategies are the ones used by the learners to learn. In other words, the learners globalize what they know in order to solve the problem (activity). Each activity obliges them to put in action one or another learning strategy. The role of teachers, in re la tion with this, is to force students to use certain strategies. But the strategies are in the learners´ hands because teachers or any other person in their life experience put them there, how? By giving the learners the chance to use them, promoting them. It is true that we use a limited number of strategies and it is also true that we incorporate new strategies if we consider them useful. The role of teachers is to introduce new strategies presenting them as useful for the learners; another way is sharing experiences among learners to show the others the strategies they use to influence other learners.

R. Oxford, 1990, divided learning strategies into six groups: memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, affective and social. Each group promotes certain abilities we have to think of when working with stories. Let us remind ourselves of the main objective behind each group:

- Memory strategies are the ones used by the learners to stock and recall the information (grouping, association of concepts to remember them better, etc)

- Cognitive strategies are those used by the learners to manipu la te and transform the information (practising, sending and receiving messages, analysis and reasoning, etc).

- Compensation strategies are used by the learners to overcome the la ck of knowledge (guessing a word through the context, asking others, etc) They are extremely important when using stories. They help the learners to face the story without feeling threatened. These strategies help the learners to assume that it is not necessary to understand all the words to understand the meaning/beauty of a story.

- Metacognitive strategies are used by the learners to p la n, organize and evaluate their learning (deciding on what should be done first, second; reflecting on what has been done, etc.)

- Affective strategies are the ones used by the learners to regu la te their emotions, motivations, values, attitudes, etc. They try to help the learners to reduce their stress, anxiety, etc. They potentiate their self-esteem. In short, they are essential for any learning. We normally learn what we feel is worth, emotionally speaking. Languages are “firstly felt and then learnt” (Vera, 2003). A story is a fantastic tool to enable their affective links with the la nguage. They already like it, in most cases, so why do not we use this given path to approach them?

- Social strategies are those used by the learners to re la te with the others, to learn from and with the others. Grouping the learners should have a coherent answer to the question: is it necessary to group them? , what are they going to share? Is it useful to group them? It is also known in Psychology and Sociology that a group protects the individuals, especially from their inhibitions. A story could be frightening if we develop it inappropriately. These strategies can help the learners to take it easily (I don't understand what this means.

In our story, the emphasis given to strategies (see the activities at the end of this paper) is marked here as: 0 (not important at all), +, ++, +++ (very important). Memory (ME) (+++), Cognitive (COG)(++), Compensation (CO)(+++), Metacognitive (MET) (++), Affective (A) (+++) and Social (S) (+/++).

- What about the teaching strategies? There are two groups of teaching strategies: exposition and discovery. Exposition strategies are the ones used by teachers to basically present and practise information. Here, the emphasis is put on the teacher. S/he more or less controls the activities. On the other hand, discovery strategies are the ones used by teachers to introduce the learners in the control of the activities. Teachers expect the learners to take part in the p la nning, development or evaluation of the activity. Of course, the scale is very wide, from few expectations to more expectations. In our story, we tried to cover the two groups, but in different degrees (see the didactic sequence below, the symbols are simi la r to those of the learning strategies).

- Talking about learner autonomy is undoubtedly the easiest and, at the same time, most difficult for us. We assume that we are far too contaminated with this philosophy of teaching/learning (see Vera, 2004). We can use a simple rectangle to illuminate what we want to say: put a diagonal to a rectangle, the first triangle is the T (teacher) the second is L (the learner). Interpreting the graphics, teachers should delegate roles if they want the learners to grow in responsibility. There is another concept to put into practice: doing it gradually, from the least to the most ambitious.

In our story, the degrees of autonomy are marked as 0 (no autonomy at all), 1, 2, 3 (maximum autonomy expected from the learners of Year 4 of Primary School). Degree of autonomy 1/2 means degree of autonomy between 1 en 2. (Vera, 2002a, 2004)

- How are we going to deal with the mistakes made by our learners? It would be interesting to distinguish between a mistake and an error. A mistake is what we make when we know the rule, on the other hand an error is what we make when we do not know the rule. The question is obvious: why are we so interested in correcting errors? The healthiest position will be not to correct anything but the mistakes.

Once we have decided what to correct, we have to use the right technique to do it (Vera, 2002). There are three considerations about correction we would like to emphasize: one, we can learn from mistakes; two, we have to avoid fossilization of mistakes and three, a mistake is a normal step in our learning. If these are the limits, what is our position? We all know that attitudes from the teachers are crucial when dealing with mistakes, an inappropriate technique could block the whole system. Why do not we think of the affective strategies, the attitudes and values developed, etc. before deciding how to do it?

- Didactic sequence of the story presented here. First, we should bear in mind that a didactic sequence is organized to distribute the amount of teaching and learning in steps, logically connected with the phases of teaching and learning ( Anderson ): input , intake and outcome/output phases. We are going to include here different alternatives to working with the story, taking into account the limited space we have. We also want to include in the didactic sequence some suggestions to illuminate the rest of the curriculum. We know that in daily practice teachers cannot p la n the activities as shown here, but, remember, the main objective is to aid your reflection when working with stories.

We also want to c la rify that the initial evaluation before p la nning, developing and evaluating this story, as it was part of a testing project, was crucial. Nevertheless, here we have added some alternatives in order to give you a wider range of possibilities, although some of them were not originally developed in the project because of its limitations. As it was commented at the beginning, we worked with 12 teachers at six different piloting schools to analyze the objectives, contents, methodology and possible evaluation of the story.

Let us use a curricu la r licence and introduce here the comments on the evaluation criteria and instruments to evaluate a story (although it goes within the Methodology), as we are going to finish with the didactic sequence.

EVALUATION OF THE STORY (I must check if my learners have been able to…).

First of all, evaluation should reflect upon all the elements of the curriculum: objectives, contents, methodology and evaluation itself. In short, it is to reflect upon what we wanted to do, of how we put it into practice and about the results obtained during its evaluation. Among the three types of evaluation (initial, formative and summative), the initial one is crucial. The rest will be valid is this one is done appropriately. Nothing can be learnt without the correct previous knowledge (globalization, significant learning, etc.). The evaluation criteria are taken from the objectives, although the objectives are normally divided into smaller units to evaluate them better (criteria). The instruments are the tools we use to obtain the necessary information to evaluate the processes and the products.


Description of activities and suggestions Aspects to be considered:



Preliminary considerations:

It would be better if we use a large copy of the story to have our hands free to perform it easily.

Before the presentation, check that the flashcards are in the right order (Tom, family, pet shop, animals,cages and Kim)


Separate the flashcards of Tom and Kim as they are going to have a conversation between them.



Check the learners´ previous knowledge to understand the story (see globalization). We can use other pictures or mime to check it. It would be better not to use the same f la shcards we are going to see in the story to avoid the la ck of motivation during the presentation.



Tell the story slowly, illuminating it with mime, variations of voice and the f la shcards what has been pointed out in the text (see the story presented above).


Raise the flashcard of the character/word mentioned to concentrate the learners´ attention on it.


SECOND LISTENING OF THE STORY: the same as the first time. We can modify the emphasis on some characters, words and actions of the story according to our observation of the learners (interpreting their faces and bodies is essential).


THIRD LISTENING OF THE STORY: Tell the story slowly, but without the use of mimics and visual support.


1. Learning/Teaching Phase: Input Phase

2. Skills involved: listening

3. Globalization. The learners should have some previous knowledge/experience of the following concepts, procedures and attitudes before working with this step: following narrations (stories), using induction and deduction, associating pictures and words (sounds), interpreting body language and variations of voice, paying attention, concepts: family, father, mother, brother, sister, friend, tall, thin, boy, sports, cats, dogs, birds, sad, to like, to live.

4. Grouping: the whole class

5. Time: 20 minutes (the three listenings)

6. Space: the whole classroom, teacher in the front, learners could be sitting in a semicircle on the floor.

7.Didactic media used: teacher´s voice and body, flashcards, table, the story –large copy- to be put on the table.

8.Learning strategies: ME +++, COG +, CO +++, MET +, A+++, S 0.

9. Teaching strategies: Exposition +++

10.Degree of learner autonomy: 0

11.Treatment of mistakes. Techniques used: none

12. Evaluation criteria: (see objectives)

13. Instruments used: observation, self-evaluation, daily/weekly comments.


The first presentation is always crucial, their motivation depends on it, the learners decide on the magic of the story in this first presentation.


The family could always be a very delicate and controversial topic. The teacher can adapt the story, the characters, their relationship, etc. We can easily see that the concept of family changes throughout steps two, three, four and five.




Put four pictures of the story in order according to the narration. The pictures should be order by giving 1 to the first thing to happen, 2 to the second action to happen, etc.


Instructions and statements were put in Spanish in the testing as they were to check the comprehension of the story, without any doubt. The project demanded it like this.


If we know the learners and their previous knowledge, we can put this text in simple English.


Pon una cruz a los recuadros que dicen verdadero (V) o falso (F), de acuerdo con la historia que acabas de escuchar:


A Tom le gustan los animales V F

El loro vive con sus padres V F

El loro está muy contento V F

Tom deja que el loro vaya a buscar a su familia V F



Check, in English, the two activities. They can do it firstly in pairs and later on in groups of four. The whole class can do it at the end, if any doubt arises.

1. Learning/Teaching Phase: Intake and output

2. Skills involved: Listening and reading

3. Globalization. The learners should have some previous knowledge/experience of the following concepts, procedures and attitudes before working with this step: the same as step one plus: ordering elements according to facts, deciding on something, checking information with others, using memory strategies, completing information with previous knowledge,

reading and following instructions.

4. Grouping: pair and small group work (4/5)

5. Time: 30 minutes (all the activities)

6. Space: facilitate pair and small group work, as well as the whole class for the final correction.

7.Didactic media used: the photocopies with the pictures and the activities, the teacher, the learners.

8.Learning strategies: ME +++, COG ++/+++, CO +++, MET +++, A ++, S +++

9. Teaching strategies: Exposition +, Discovery ++

10.Degree of learner autonomy: 1/2

11.Treatment of mistakes. Techniques used: are you sure?

Check it with your classmates! We can repeat parts of the story.

12. Evaluation criteria: (see objectives)

13. Instruments used: observation, the notebook/photocopy (checking of activities), pictures (order), self-evaluation, co-evaluation, daily/weekly comments.


Co-evaluation needs previous training on self-evaluation.

The first activities after working with a story should be possible. Listening can be very delicate and frightening.





Act out the story. Just a simplified version of it. They can use the f la shcards for this story or other pictures (they can use their own family photographs, invented animal families or other combinations if we stimu la te their creativity). They also select different p la ces (cities or nations from their previous knowledge). Each character is associated with a p la ce/nation. They can put a question mark (?) to say that they don´t know where someone is.


One child is Tom (or any other name selected by them), another one could be Kim (or any other name selected by them). These two characters ask each other about where someone is: Where is (…)? The other child answers He/she is in ….They can also answer I don´t know/or perform it with a face of doubt.


Another activity we can put into practice with the same concepts, although different procedures, is a game:


Each player (A and B) writes 4 nations, four places and two characters (they could be Tom and Kim). Player A asks player B:`where is Tom?´ Player B answers `He is in France´ Where is Kim? He is in London . Player B must cross out the names of the nations/places given to player A. Player B asks the same to player A. They both have 2 natios/places crossed out. They win the game if they remember where the two characters of the opposite player were. Player B must remember the places that player A mentioned and vice versa. Description of the characters could also be introduced.


1. Learning/Teaching Phase: intake and output

2. Skills involved: listening, speaking, reading and writing

3: Globalization. The learners should have some previous knowledge/experience of the following concepts, procedures and attitudes before working with this step: the same as previous steps plus reading and writing some information, associating information, using body la nguage, selecting information, asking for and giving information, knowing and accepting game rules, remembering information, describing a character (optional), asking for help.

4. Grouping: pair work

5. Time: 30/40 minutes

6. Space: management of space for pair work.

7.Didactic media used: the learners, paper, notebook, dictionary, textbook.

8.Learning strategies: ME +++, COG +++, CO ++7+++, MET +++, A +++, S +++

9. Teaching strategies: Discovery +++, Exposition +

10.Degree of learner autonomy: 2 / 3

11.Treatment of mistakes. Techniques used: Can you repeat it? Say it again! Are you sure? Why do not you check the word in the dictionary/textbook/notebook?

12. Evaluation criteria: (see objectives)

13. Instruments used: observation, notebook/photocopy, self-evaluation, co-evaluation, daily/weekly comments.


To act out a story or play a game must be very challenging and not threatening at all, especially the first ones. Group work must be stimulated.




Learners make a list with the animals they like `I like... ´ and another one with the animals they don't like `I don´t like…´

After, in pairs they ask each other about the animals they like and the ones they don´t like. Each learner puts a cross next to the ones they have in common.


The teacher can make a list of the animals the learners like and another list with the ones they don´t like. S/he puts a cross after each repetition. The animal with more crosses in the list of `I like…´ is the favourite animal.


Exponents used:

Which is your favourite animal?

I like (cats) I don´t like (dogs)

The favourite animal is (the dog)

1. Learning/Teaching Phase: Output/Intake

2. Skills involved: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

3. Globalization. The learners should have some previous knowledge/experience of the following concepts, procedures and attitudes before working with this step: the same as step three.

4. Grouping: pair work and whole class

5. Time:30 minutes

6. Space: the management of space for pair work and whole class.

7.Didactic media used: paper, notebook, dictionary, learners, teacher.

8.Learning strategies: ME +/++, COG ++, CO ++, MET +++,

A +++, S+++

9. Teaching strategies: Discovery +++, Exposition 0/+

10.Degree of learner autonomy: 2/3

11.Treatment of mistakes. Techniques used: are you sure? Check it with your classmates! Why do not you check the word in the dictionary/textbook/notebook? We can underline the word mistaken to force the learners to check it.

12. Evaluation criteria: (see objectives)

13. Instruments used: observation, notebook/photocopy, the activity on the blackboard, self-evaluation, co-evaluation.


Group work must be stimulated.




A copy of the story previously listened to is given to the students as a reference for the next activity.

Write a simple story. They can use the model given or not. They can introduce all the changes they want in characters, exponents, vocabu la ry, p la ces, etc. They can add pictures to the story. We can help the learners to build up a story with the words: who, where, when, what and how (Andrew Wright).


The stories produced by each group of 3 or 4 are hung on one line on the wall to be seen and read by the rest of the c la ss. They could also be performed la ter on.

1. Learning/Teaching Phase: Output and intake

2. Skills involved: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

3. Globalization. The learners should have some previous knowledge/experience of the following concepts/procedures and attitudes before working with this step: the same as previous steps plus drawing.

4. Grouping: small group work

5. Time: 40 minutes

6. Space: management for small group work (3 / 4)

7.Didactic media used: learners, paper, notebook, dictionary, textbook, photocopy of “Tom and his friends”, a line, clothes pegs.

8.Learning strategies: ME ++, COG +++, CO +++, MET +++, A +++, S +++

9. Teaching strategies: Discovery +++, exposition if needed.

10.Degree of learner autonomy: 3

11.Treatment of mistakes. Techniques used: the same as step four.

12. Evaluation criteria: (see objectives)

13. Instruments used: observation, notebook/photocopy, self-evaluation, co-evaluation, daily/weekly comments.


It would be interesting to remember the difference between mistakes and errors.


Each story is like a puzzle formed by curricu la r pieces. Not knowing the cohesion and coherence of these pieces is like being out of the teaching game. Sometimes stories do not work because these pieces do not fit with each other. Stories are sometimes another `nice´ pretext to introduce and work with the la nguage p la ying with attitudes, emotions, previous knowledge, etc.

Listening to a la nguage, in this case through a story, is crucial to produce better listeners, speakers, readers and writers in the long run. According to different researchers, a la nguage is firstly a bunch of emotional sounds. Humans understand the codes of sounds from the very beginning of their life experience, even before birth. We should bear in mind how we perceived the la nguage in our childhood to ratify the research done. The first impact provokes our attention and motivation, or even the opposite, towards the la nguage (Krashen, affective filters), associations, routines, globalization, etc. come la ter. Stories can help the learners to feel the la nguage, to live the first experiences of the sounds of it, to decide if they like the la nguage or not, to learn the basic procedures/codes of spoken la nguage, etc. The importance of stories is enormous if we just take these considerations into account.


Consejería de Educación, Cultura y Deportes del Gobierno de Canarias, Instituto Canario de Evaluación y Calidad Educativa. 2003. Evaluación de la Anticipación del Inglés al Primer Ciclo de la Educación Primaria. Tenerife .

Doyle, W. 1983. “Academic work”. Review of Educartional Research 53/2 . 159-199

Ellis, G. y J. Brewster. 1991. The Storytelling Handbook. Penguin

Estaire, S. Y J. Zanón. 1990. P la nning C la sswork. Heinemann.

Krashen, S. 1987. Principles and practice in second la nguage adquisition. London: Prentice Hall International.

Ortner, G. 2000. Cuentos que ayudan a los niños. Círculo de Lectores

Oxford, R. 1990. Language Learning Strategies. Newbury House Publishers: New York .

Ribé, R. 1997. Tramas creativas y aprendizaje de lenguas. Universitat the Barcelona.

Vera Batista, J.L. 2002a. “Developing autonomy in a pre-service teacher training programme: a case study. CLCS, Trinity College: Dublin .

Vera Batista, J.L. 2002b. “La evaluación: una reflexión acerca del currículum” en Lenguas Extranjeras: hacia un nuevo marcote referencia en su aprendizaje. MEC: Madrid.

Vera Batista, J.L. 2004. “Fundamentos teóricos y prácticos de la autonomía del aprendizaje en la enseñanza de la s lenguas extranjeras” en Actas del VII Congreso Internacional de la Sociedad Españo la de Didáctica de la Lengua y la Literatura. Editorial Diputación Provincial de A Coruña.

Vera Batista, J.L. “Los cuentos en lengua extranjera: una buena excusa para la reflexión acerca de la s actitudes, valores y temas transversales transmitidos a través de ellos” presentada en el Congreso Internacional de la Asociación Nacional de Investigación de la Literatura Infantil y Juvenil (ANILIJ). Universidad de Vigo (en prensa)

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