As many other EFL teachers do, I encourage my students to participate in storytelling to practise the narrative tenses. Some students don’t find it easy to let their imagination run wild. This may be due to the limitations of their English language skills, or a personality trait; perhaps they’re shy, or it may be down to their cultural background. To help students overcome these obstacles I like to give them prompts. These will usually be photos or pictures taken from one of the many EFL resource books or cut out of a magazine or newspaper, for example. I ask the students to work in small groups and to find a way to connect the pictures to create a story. This first part of the task is strictly oral. I encourage them to let their imaginations run wild and to work together to come up with an interesting story. Of course, I also encourage them to think about which tenses they should be using, but I prefer to encourage fluency rather than accuracy at this stage.
Once they have worked through their story, I ask them to appoint a ‘secretary’. The others in the group use the pictures to remind themselves of the story they came up with and narrate it for the secretary to write down. This is when accuracy comes in to play. Students are encouraged to help each other use the correct tenses when telling the story, and I monitor and help with the grammar.
The text then becomes the script for the Grand Production!
Puppet Pals HD is a great app for creating animations of your students’ stories. There is a free version and a paid version. Of course, you can do more with the paid version but the free one will suffice.
So, what can you do with the free version? This version includes seven fairy-tale characters and three backdrops. You choose the characters you want and the backdrops, and then you press ‘record’, move the characters around and bring them to life by telling your story!
The paid version has more characters and backdrops, on different themes. It also allows you to make characters and backdrops from your own photos. So much more flexibility. If your department has a budget for student apps, it’s worth adding this one to the list. There is lots of fun speaking practice in it! If not, as I said, you can still work with the free version.
My students got very creative and had a lot of fun. They even added a soundtrack to the story by playing music in the background on another iPad!
The finished productions were then shown on the big screen (interactive whiteboard!) for all the class to enjoy!
©Natalie Murray, 2014. Copying strictly prohibited. Extracts and links may be used only with full and clear credit given to Natalie Murray/English in Andalucia with appropriate links to the source material.