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STORY-BASED LANGUAGE TEACHING

The authors suggest a very practical way to use this wonderful resource for teachers at the end of the table of contents. It includes watching the excellent videos which are accessible via an access code on the back of the front cover. However, since I wanted to be sure not to miss a single detail, I decided that watching the videos first would be like reading the last line of an exciting novel. That’s the reason I started from the beginning. To my pleasant surprise, the book itself is not unlike a wonderful story with all of the characteristics that hold the reader/listener.

The first element which holds the reader, according to the elements of a good story outlined in Chapter 4, is the opening hook. The book begins with an excellent story and then hooks the reader on the rationale for using stories and how our brains are “wired for stories”. The hook goes in deeper in Chapter 2 where how the brain learns through stories and their relevance to real life learning is thoroughly discussed.

Chapter 2 deserves special attention because it guides the reader to making the right choices for learners with a solid theoretical connection to cognitive development. There is a powerful resource on p.25 which links intellectual developments and the appropriate types of stories through brief descriptions of what the brain is able to process. Thanks to Kieran Egan’s theory and the sources in the book itself, we can make appropriate choices of stories that can be used to make learning more meaningful. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 discuss Egan’s table in detail, delving into the elements necessary for a good story, how to choose a story at the right level, and more specifically for each individual class. From this point on, the reader imagines there will be lots of examples on exactly how to do this.

Like a good story, the book has an excellent plot! Just when the reader thinks the next chapter is predictable, we get to Chapter 7 with an impacting summary of the roles of a teacher! It’s a turn in the “plot” which makes the bridge between the theory and our teaching practice by reminding us of all the “equipment” we take to the classroom and gives us examples of timeproven techniques that we already possess and can put to use in the telling of stories and other narratives.

As far as the “memorable characters” element can be considered, the “how to” section (Chapter 8), the collection of sample stories (Chapter 9) , the videos and how to use them (Chapter 10), suggestions for creating stories (Chapter 11), plus the cherry-on-thesoda chapter on digital storytelling (Chapter 12) will be much loved and resourced over the years for their excellent practical suggestions. The videos themselves are downloadable for future use in the classroom, and the video interview makes an excellent addition to a training course for teachers. As the story unfolds of how to use stories in language teaching, we can see that there is a broad base for us to dip into over time, and the authors remind us at various points to refer back to Chapter 7 for practical tips.

This book was first published in 2018, before COVID-19, but it still shows how forward-thinking the authors were when they sat down to write this future classic for all of us. The rationale between digital storytelling and the skills our learners had to develop very quickly during quarantine just proves the timelessness of Story-based Language Teaching.

That brings us to the “moral of the story”: 
The moral of this book is that when you have two great authors who truly believe in the power of storytelling, you get a wonderful classic and research resource which will spend more time on our desktops than on the bookshelf!

One of the secrets of teaching a foreign language successfully lies in balancing routine classroom work with innovative and creative activities and techniques. This new series offers

The reviewer 

Nancy Lake is one of the original members of the New Routes editorial board and actually named New Routes. She has an MA in TEFL/ TESL from the University of Birmingham (UK) and was local tutor for the Distance MA Programme in Brazil for over 20 years. Nancy also has a BSc from the University of Minnesota (US) in Spanish and French Education and graduate studies in ESL. She is a teacher and teacher trainer of all levels at Cel.Lep. 

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