Monday, July 28, 2014

Interactive Stories

I first came across Mark White's Interactive Stories quite some years ago, but I haven't ever blogged about them. 

I did use some of the techniques that Mark outlines on the English Conversations website in class and was impressed at the results. I also did a couple of training sessions with them in 2005, which seemed to go down well.


I'm now revisiting this storytelling technique, preparing to use the ideas as part of a presentation I'm preparing on Storytelling games and activities for the 11th Anglo Congress in Montevideo, in August. For this reason, I thought it would be good to write about it here as part of that preparation. 

What is an Interactive Story?
As Mark puts it, "the technique consists of a story, which includes both sentences and questions so that as one student reads it to the other, the listener can respond to the questions and interact with the storyteller and the story itself by making it up as they go along."

The original idea for using interactive stories was as a classroom speaking activity, to stimulate conversation and imagination. The goal is to teach language in context and also encourage learners to ask and answer questions - it can also be a great way of getting learners to focus on their pronunciation as they read aloud.

How to do it
The students work in pairs. One of them has a handout of the story and reads it aloud, stopping when they come to a question, until the other student replies with a suitable answer. Once answered, the storyteller continues until the end of the story.

An example interactive story
The Big Dream: Part 1 (the Graveyard) is a story by Mark White that I have used in class. You can listen to how it works in practice here (mp3 recording). Each part of this story focuses on different language elements - this particular story is suitable for lower intermediate learners. 

Writing your own stories
After trying some of the stories that Mark White wrote, I ended writing an interactive story of my own to use with a group of learners I had that were studying photography. It was called 'The small town photographer' (link to the story).

Adapting  interactive stories
Other interactive story ideas I have used in class include urban myths and jokes. Now looking forward to introducing more teachers to using this idea at the Anglo congress on the 9th August.

Handout for the conference presentation


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