6+1 TAKEAWAYS About the Importance of Storytelling in 21st Century Schools

BOOKRClass | 2021.09.20

Stories have always been present in every culture in our world. They have entertained us, provided information and, last but not least, taught us about the world and ourselves.

So why would we forget about the power and value of storytelling? And why would we neglect the importance of storytelling in formal education in the 21st century?

BOOKR Class would like to suggest reasons why we should never overlook the benefits of storytelling in education and why new storytelling tools have become increasingly popular.

importance of storytelling

What is the importance of storytelling in teaching?

Despite the fact that we associate the benefits of storytelling in education to reading in the first language, it can provide equally exciting opportunities in second language learning.

1. Provides authentic input

First of all, it provides authentic input with a great variety of linguistic elements, such as grammatical structures and vocabulary items. One might doubt this variety in graded readers, but these elements are just as diverse for language learners, as an original story is for a native speaker child. Therefore we can call the input authentic.

2. Facilitates language acquisition and improves reading comprehension

Secondly, a story, fictional or non-fictional, enables the reader to make sense of the language items in context. For example new words, expressions or even grammatical structures and verb tenses.

The reappearance of these language items in different sentences or situations enables encoding and memorisation.

  • How many words can you recall that you’ve learnt through reading stories, watching series or checking lyrics?
  • Did you focus on them or was it simply incidental learning?

Therefore, reading in a foreign language facilitates language acquisition at all levels. Understanding and interpreting the text and the linguistic items improves reading comprehension, too.

benefits of storytelling

How to improve reading comprehension?

Recommend books that your students can read for fun, include stories in your lessons or invent a project or reading challenge.

Read our article and tips on How to make reading a habit.

Check out the BOOKR Class Catalogue of various graded readers and the Activity Tips in the Teacher’s Dashboard.

3. One story can be used in a variety of ways in class depending on the teacher

What is the role of storytelling in a language class?

Learning English through storybooks might seem unconventional, yet, they can be implemented to any classroom in many different ways. Some teachers prefer to study language items and structures through the text because students can understand the function of the items more easily. Others focus on receptive or productive language skills, such as reading and listening comprehension, or talking or writing about a story. A third group of teachers may prefer to focus on the content of the story. For example, teaching about Native Americans through myths, geography through an adventure book or about animals with the help of picture books.

Therefore, you teach the language, you improve (language or soft) skills and you are also able to present factual knowledge of the world and different cultures at the same time.

4. 21st century skills are easily developed with the help of narratives

This complexity is particularly important in the development and improvement of 21st century skills, such as communication and cultural competence. Most well-known stories originate from mythology and folklore of different cultures, and thus teach about cultural differences and  aspects, history and values of the target language.

Idiosyncrasies of different languages are visible through expressions and even at the level of words which can be more easily understood  through storytelling and narratives.

Did you know that the words ‘silly’, ‘awkward’ or ‘cool’ as an expression of approval only exist in English?

Do your students know how to use these words? This is part of their cultural competence and intercultural communication skills. Without the cultural background and idiosyncrasies of cultures, languages cannot be transmitted fully. Knowing and understanding cultural aspects of the target culture is therefore essential in learning.What is more, through stories, students can learn about themselves, formulate personal opinions, analyse and judge the characters and situations.

Through stories, students can become more empathetic, open-minded, critical or even more humorous. These qualities are necessary soft skills which are all related to emotional intelligence and global citizenship.

advantages of storytelling method

5. Stories enable differentiation in and beyond the classroom

Advantages of the storytelling method include not only flexibility as a teaching material, but also that it can be easily tailored to age, level, pace and individual needs. It mainly depends on the teacher’s choice of story, method and activities used in storytelling. Whether a classroom lesson, or books assigned as homework, differentiation is easily possible by choosing the convenient topic, complexity and length of the story for the students.

The depth of analysis depends on the teacher: if they want to study sentences, practice intonation and pronunciation, improve reading comprehension or simply read for fun for extra input and motivation.

On the other hand, students can also benefit from this flexibility and freedom: they can interpret a story in different ways, they can relate to it or criticise it the way they like: a huge variety of language output is possible with the help of stories.

6. Stories make factual knowledge more accessible

Content and language integrated learning exploits the complexity of language learning, skills development and information content. A story about Benjamin Franklin’s inventions and aspirations brings history closer to students. They gain knowledge of the era, the lifestyle of people, American history and the personality of Benjamin Franklin.

At the same time, they are provided with the opportunity to learn expressions related to physics and politics among others. It can be an introduction to a history or science lesson or even assigned homework after discussing some of the content of the digital interactive book in class.

Check out the digital interactive book of The Genius Benjamin Franklin.

+1 Digital interactive books ensure student engagement and motivation

Recommending the most suitable books optionally accompanied by relevant activities can result in greater student engagement in reading in general. We believe that storytelling is eternal – it is only the platform and format that change. To answer the needs and preferences of students in the 21st century, digital interactive animated storybooks have gained popularity in the form of e-readers and most recently, as applications.

With the new generation of readers using technology like BOOKR Class, students can read authentic texts supported by narration and text highlighting, accompanied by illustrations and explanatory animation and sound effects. The features of these storytelling tools facilitate understanding and engagement and improve motivation. What is more, the games at the end spark intrinsic motivation and a genuine interest in the activities. Is there anything more important than that?

Check out the BOOKR Class website to learn more about high-quality digital interactive animated storybooks.

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