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Tips for telling a story without a text (all ages)


Why tell a story without the text/book? When we do that, we emphasise true oral communication –natural speaking and listening. We are not reading a text, we are not doing theatre with a specific script, but we are talking as we do countless times in daily life when we tell each other an anecdote, for example. If you tell the story two or three times, the students will notice you might tell it slightly differently. This allows and encourages the students to tell stories without a fixed language to read or remember. It promotes creativity. It allows for imagination. Moreover, you can easily adapt the language to each level. Having said that, there is no need to make the language extra simple. You are able to use higher level words without the children loosing the gist of the story. They get used to this high level English, they allow themselves to enjoy it without having to understand every single word.

Why tell a story without visuals? This allows for the children to freely imagine the different scenes of the story, allows for them to ‘step out of the story’. Children are bombarded with visuals these days. They often think that what is in a book or on a screen must be the ‘right’ way. It allows them to step away from what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

Tips for telling a story without a text.
You can pick and choose, these are tips, and don’t fit all stories and all audiences.

A/ WRITE an outline of the story in bullet points or DRAW quick pictures of each scene. If you can, follow this structure: Introduction, Conflict (positive or negative), and Resolution. There can be more than one conflict and resolutions and then a final resolution. You can also write the introduction, and the consecutive actions/scenes.

B/ Decide on a ‘fixed’ sentence to start and a ‘fixed’ sentence to finish and memorise these two sentences.

C/ Living the story process: Close your eyes and imagine the story, live it with all your senses. See every detail of the characters’ faces, their clothes, hear their voices, feel the wind/humidity/sun on your skin, smell the woods/straw, feel the emotions of the characters, etc. Why? a/ If you do this living the process properly, the audience will SEE, FEEL and HEAR everything too, even the details you don’t tell them. b/ once you have lived a story, it is easy to tell it. It’s what we do all the time in our every day life (anecdotes, guess what happened to me yesterday? etc.)

D/ Say the story aloud once or twice while ‘seeing it and living it’. It might be a little clumsy but just get to the end.

E/ Add some colour: Make up a little rhyme, a sound, a sentence that will come back often, so the audience/students can repeat it with you or finish your sentence off. For children especially: Make up a little song, think of sound effects or gestures they can join in with. Don’t overdo it.

F/ Say the once in front of the mirror.

G/ Tell a friend or your children, partner, etc.

Finally: You are ready to tell your audience the story! Tell your story to as many different people/audiences you can and make it yours. You will notice you start dropping details and adding others and that will be different each time!

As you tell more stories without a text or a book, this process will get easier and faster. Start with stories that you already know. Stories from the oral tradition like the three little pigs are easier and were created with that purpose.

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