Delta Assignment 1 – Developing Storytelling Skills

I started my Delta in early 2012 and did a face-to-face intensive Module 2 over eight weeks. There are four assignments, or LSAs, one needs to pass in order to pass Module 2, two of which need to be skills-based and two systems-based.

I thought I’ll start easy and chose to focus on skills for my first LSA. I thought I could teach speaking but I was quite surprised that I was expected to plan a whole 60-minute lesson focusing on speaking skills.

Until this point, I had only taught speaking as an incidental part of teaching reading, listening, writing, grammar, or vocabulary lessons. But speaking to our amazing Delta tutor, Beth Grant (if you get a chance to work with her, jump at it), I thought I could take this on as a challenge and learn to teach speaking not just in the brainstormingactivating schemata, or post-reading/listening discussions, but as a rightful skill in itself that deserved focused teaching of its various nuances. Come to think of it, this is why most students go to language centers or freelance teachers – to learn how to speak – and yet, most ESL teachers do not know or realize the value of teaching speaking as a skill in itself. 

After skimming through Martin Bygate’s Speaking (1987), I thought storytelling was an incredibly important speaking skill – one that we employed several times a day everyday in telling anecdotes, jokes, narrating incidents etc. I had an intermediate group of learners at the time and they were at the right level to be able to focus on fluency development in longer monologues, which is useful (though not essential – I have since taught storytelling at beginner and elementary levels as well) for effective (and interesting!) storytelling.

The title of my LSA was then decided – Developing Storytelling Skills among Intermediate Learners. Here’s the introduction of the LSA and if this keeps you engaged, please download the full pdf for bedtime reading. If you’re writing an LSA on Speaking, remember only monkeys copy, so try not to plagiarize.

Speaking is the principal mode of all human communication, and unsurprisingly, the most important skill in language learning. In fact, the ability to speak well is often equated with proficiency in a foreign language (Bygate 1987).

This assignment focuses on developing storytelling skills among Intermediate learners. According to Thornbury, “storytelling is a universal function of language and one of the main ingredients of casual conversation” (2005:95).

Though it comes naturally to all of us in L1, transferring interactional skills such as storytelling to L2 is much harder to do. In my experience, even at higher-levels, learner speech often sounds rehearsed and formal. Learners may speak confidently on stock topics but shy away from telling stories, jokes and anecdotes, making it harder to establish and maintain social bonds. A Colombian lawyer I taught in the United States could participate fully in legal discussions and hold her own in American court but faltered for words in casual conversation.

I became more interested in exploring this area on reading Richards (2008) who says, “Talk as interaction is perhaps the most difficult skill to teach since interactional talk is a very complex and subtle phenomenon.”

The role of the teacher, therefore, is to raise awareness about the sub-skills, strategies, and processes involved in successful storytelling.

You can also download the complete LSA on Developing Storytelling Skills in Intermediate Learners.

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