Storytelling for a cause

Storytelling for a cause

Efi Tzouri (Greece) introduces storytelling activities she has used in her teaching with the Hands Up project and with refugee children in Greece


This article is based on my experience as a volunteer with The Hands Up Project, as well as an educator working with refugee children in Greece.

Establish a safe environment

First and foremost, what is essential is to allow space for feeling and establishing a safe environment for teaching, by designing lessons with sensitivity and consideration. We should always give the opportunity to learners to use the language they have been learning through interaction and group work, and value learners experiences in the classroom. It is effective to design tasks that follow simple instruction, introduce one thing at a time and involve a lot of practice either through repetition (especially for the younger learners) or through role play and communicative activities. Also, it is very significant to provide help and support when it is needed, to make sure that everyone is engaged in the activities and can participate easily and naturally in communication.

Sharing experiences through storytelling

Storytelling has been an integral part of communication and accompanies our daily lives. The emergence of technologies has generated a re-orientation of the ordinary, or traditional storytelling, by giving opportunities to narrators to share personal experiences by using digital and multi-modal elements, like videos and pictures, as well as music, both in a face to face or in an online environment.

Storytelling is a form of art which not only has the power to motivate learners and engage them in the language learning process, but also to provide them with opportunities to cultivate life skills like creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving. Learners are introduced to new concepts and material, they are given the chance to develop their ideas in an organized manner and discover meaningful ways to apply their knowledge. Language learning is turned into an experiential process by adding a dynamic pedagogical value to the utilization of Storytelling.

Foster self-expression and self-awareness

Creative activities based on storytelling aim at fostering self-expression and self-awareness by providing the opportunity to young learners to introduce themselves to others, to talk about their preferences and to create space for feeling and openness. Additionally, a bridge between personal and school life can be built establishing a safe environment for teaching.

One of my favourite storytelling activities is built upon personal objects that learners are asked to choose and bring to class. It is important to mention that I selected this activity as an ideal one because for me it empowers creativity and imagination, and also it develops trust and space for interaction and communication.

The activity can be divided into two parts. The first part can turn into a guessing game. In class, all objects could be put in a box and learners should be encouraged to find out which object belongs to whom. If the lesson is online learners can be instructed not to reveal their object, so that the other participants could guess what kind of item it is by asking questions about size, colour, material, or use. In the second part, students are asked to write a story about their personal objects (who gave it to them and why, or why they bought it, why it is their favourite, what makes it valuable or important to them, what it reminds them of, where it was bought, etc.). A great outcome is to encourage learners to share their stories by either reading them or acting them out.

Storytelling enhances learning

Storytelling not only embeds the power to enhance learning through experience but most importantly gives an active voice to learners to share their thoughts and to express their feelings, hence to develop a dynamic personality in a classroom environment. Personal stories are reflected upon narratives, and learners are given the chance for self-representation and self-expression. Live narration holds the power to throw light on diversity and cultural identities and personal storytelling can turn a typical narration to active participation by inviting the audience to become engaged and to identify with the characters or the situation.

Storytelling gives kids wings to fly by their hearts and their minds to tell their story and celebrate their glory. It is where those kids belong now and where they want to be in the future

– Haneen Khaled The Hands Up Project

Published by

Efi Tzouri

Efi Tzouri studied English Language in Greece and has a Master of Arts in Language Education for Refugees and Migrants. She has specialized in Theatre education and production and has taught English for over 18 years. She volunteers with The Hands Up Project and Raise Up project, and is a former board member of TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Association. Efi is a theatre and film lover, a life-long learner, and loves working with refuge learners.

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