A Story Chain is a simple method of passing a story around the class, giving each student plenty of practice in storytelling.
Prepare a Story
There are many different ways to do this. The stories should be short and able to be told in a minute or so. Most importantly they should be told in the first person.
- brainstorm ideas with the class by writing up keywords and have them develop a story themselves
- prepare the key moments of a story on a card and hand out a different story to each student
- get the students to prepare and come up with their own stories
Remember that stories can be anything, including jokes and anecdotes, and don’t have to be genuine. If the class has access to computers you can find websites where short anecdotes are told and have the students use this as a resource for finding material.
Since many people often find it hard to come up with stories off the cuff, it’s best to prepare these beforehand, perhaps as homework. And for the same reason you might want to prepare a few stories yourself for those students who simply can’t come up with anything.
For a business class they can related work related stories; for a teenage class a simple story from school.
Running the Activity
Once each student has their own story they are given time to work through it, checking any unknown vocabulary and so on. The next step is to pair up students randomly.
When the pairs come together, each student tells their story in the first person:
I took my dog for a walk this morning. We went into the next road and he suddenly saw a cat. He began to run after it and because he was pulling so hard, he pulled the lead out of my hand and went off down the street. I ran after him but he was completely lost. I telephoned my sister and got her to come out and help me look for the dog. After an hour of searching we went home. I was so worried to tell my parents. But when we got home we found the dog sitting outside the front door waiting for us! He was wagging his tail and very happy. We were exhausted though!
The next step is to break up the pairs and move them about. They then have to tell their new partner the story they just heard:
Manny took his dog for a walk this morning. When they were nearby the dog saw a cat and chased it and ran away. Manny lost the dog and so he started looking for him. He telephoned his sister who came out to help him. After an hour they went back home still without the dog. But when they arrived home they found the dog outside the front of the house! He’d gone home by himself!
You can do this several times. At the end you get individuals from the class to recite the last story they heard and then compare it with the original, see if it has improved in the storytelling, see what facts have changed completely and maybe see if the original storyteller can actually recognize their story!
Storytelling in Class – all about this ancient art and how it can be used successfully in your TEFL class.Image © Ed Yourdon