Vanessa Reis Esteves, author of ETpedia Young Learners, shares her top tips about how you can engage and teach your students through the magic of storytelling. 

1. Choose the story wisely!

In order to engage with students, the story must be both relevant and relatable as well as being suited to their language level. When you are choosing your story you should ask yourself the following questions:

Does my story appeal to my children’s tastes and interest?

Can my children relate to this story and will they be able to identify with it?

Is the language level within or just above my children’s language level?

Does the story have enough repetitive language that my children can learn?

Will the story transmit positive values to my children?

How do I feel about telling the story – is it fun?

2. Plan and prepare

Preparation is key! The secret formula to success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

Will you read or tell your story?

In regards to the plot of the story, what do you want to tell and when do you want to tell it?

What props will you use to tell the story – will you use flashcards or will you just use yourself and the children to tell the story?

3. Create motivation

A great way of starting storytelling is to bring in visual stimulus (such as a storytelling puppet) so that when they see the visual prop they know that you will be telling the story.

You can also use a chant to introduce the story, using rhythm and then English words as well as using your hands to make the words visual (by counting each word out onto your fingers).

4. Use your voice and body

You need to think about how you will use your body to bring the story to life for your children.

You could use the space around you to stand in specific spaces when you are a specific character.

You can use different voices to signify different characters.

You can also play with volume and facial and body expressions. 

5. Involve the children

To stop your children’s mind from wandering, you need to have ways of bringing them back to focus and involving them in the story.

To do this, you can say/ repeat language, make noises and make gestures.

6. Chant language chunks

Think of the language you want to teach and think of how you want to make it sound musically, so that you can transform it into a chant.

7. Repeat, repeat, repeat

The secret of teaching through storytelling is repetition – practice makes perfect.

Through repetition and varying up the sounds (especially around harder vocabulary and grammar) you will capture the attention of all your students and encourage even your weaker children participate.

8. Reward children

Once the children start getting the language right, it is important to reward them.

Plan your lessons so that you catch your children getting things right, so that you can reward them.

9. Stop and ask questions

Storytelling is great way of getting your children to ask deep and meaningful questions surrounding the plot and characters, which then clarifies the way they think.

Example questions could be:

How do you think the main character feels?

What about the other characters?

Why do you say that?

Can you give us an example to understand what you mean?

10. Give ‘ownership’ of the story

As the teacher, you are telling your children the story in order to give them ownership of the story.

In class, get the children to make a storybook and draw/ write their favourite parts of the story. The children can then take their storybook home to tell a relative their story so that their relative can draw on the back how the story made them feel.




Vanessa Reis Esteves is a well-known teacher trainer specialising in Young Learners. Discover more of Vanessa’s ideas and tips for engaging with young learners in your classroom in ETpedia Young Learners.