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УДК 4(07)           

  1. O. Yu. Kostiuk,
  2. L. I. Lushpay

National University of Ostroh Academy, Ostroh



The article deals with theoretical principles and main characteristics of narrative method in teaching foreign languages.

Key words: second language acquisition, total physical response, storytelling, narrative method.


Наративний метод у викладанні іноземних мов

У статті висвітлені теоретичні принципи і основні характеристики наративного методу у вивченні іноземних мов.

Ключові слова: набуття другої мови, тотальний фізичний відгук, розповідь історій, наративний метод.


Нарративный метод в преподавании иностранных языков

В статье освещены теоретические принципы и основне характеристики наративного метода в изучении иностранных языков.

Ключевые слова: изучение второго языка, метод тотального физического отклика, рассказывание историй, нарративный метод.


Narrative methodology is multidisciplinary one that is widely and successfully used in philosophy, psychology, literary theory, linguistics, social science. In linguistics, particularly socio-linguistics, researchers have developed understanding of life stories or self-narratives out of studying narratives. In perspective of foreign languages teaching the fact that life stories are social constructions is an important and defining factor. As such life stories are linguistic units and products of culture involved in social interactions and exchanged between people, they can be successfully used in teaching foreign languages [1].

TPR (Total Physical Response) Storytelling (Narrative method) is a method for teaching foreign languages that was invented by Blaine Ray, a Spanish teacher in Bakersfield, California, in 1990. He began to use Total Physical Response (TPR) language teaching method, developed by James Asher, a professor of psychology at San Jose State University, California, USA, in 1960th.

  1. Asher developed TPR as a result of his experience observing young children learning their mother tongue. He noticed that interactions between parents and children took the form of speech from the parent followed by physical response from the child. TPR method is based on the coordination of language and physical movement and while using this method instructors give commands to students in the target language, and students respond with whole-body action. This method is an example of comprehension approach that emphasizes understanding of language rather than speaking and writing in contrast to the better-known communicative approach under which learning is thought to emerge through language production.

TPR is a valuable way to learn vocabulary, especially, idiomatic expressions, phrasal verbs, but grammar is not taught explicitly, only from language input. Asher’s method is often used with other methods and techniques and though it is popular with beginners and young age groups can be successfully and effectively used with students of all levels and all age groups [4].

So, Blaine Ray, concerned that his students were getting disinterested in the unexciting process of learning a language from textbooks, began to use Asher’s TPR method to teach Spanish. Blaine experienced great success and his students began to get excited about his language classes. Difficulties appeared when Blaine found that after hitting “TPR wall” (the point when it was necessary to practice production of target language), he was unsure of what to do to move from the imperative to the narrative and descriptive modes of speech. He found that changing from commands to the third person singular allowed him to tell stories.   He also found that asking the students to act out the parts of the characters in the stories preserved the highly effective physical element that was so powerful in Classical TPR.  Storytelling technique combined with TPR method and with Stephen Krashen’s language acquisition strategies was being developed over the years and resulted into Narrative method of teaching foreign languages that allows us to teach grammar, reading and writing along with vocabulary. It is worth mentioning that one of the main principles of Krashen’s theory – the Acquisition-Learning hypotheses – was applied in the process of developing of the Narrative method. According to Krashen there are two independent systems of second language performance: ‘the acquired system’ and ‘the learned system’.

The ‘acquired system’ or ‘acquisition’ is the product of a subconscious process very similar to the process children undergo when they acquire their first language. It requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concentrated not in the form of their utterances, but in the communicative act. The ‘learned system’ or ‘learning’ is the product of formal instruction and it comprises a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge ‘about’ the language, for example knowledge of grammar rules [2]. Thus, storytelling by its nature is an effective combination of acquisition and learning components and a productive teaching tool.

A TPRS program is not complete without a very heavy emphasis on reading. Blaine Ray has written several easy readers for the first and second levels. Krashen’s research supports the assertion that children need two things in order to learn to read in any language: access to books and a quiet, comfortable place to read.

The benefits of using narrative method can hardly be exaggerated and have been proved by research. Stories play an important role in students’ language-learning, not only because of their natural interest in stories, nor in the undoubted appeal to their imagination, but also because stories embody a narrative structure of discourse which can be useful for learning more generally. The evidence suggests it is worthwhile for teaching to focus not only on the micro-structure of grammatical forms but also on the macro-structure of discourse, including the discourse of narrative. This helps students develop knowledge of how to begin, to set the scene, to link elements together in an intentional sequence, to de-centre in order to convey meaning to those who do not know the story, to deviate from the main story-line and then return to it, and to achieve closure [ 4 ].

Using stories in the foreign/second language classroom gives access to authentic examples of target language and target language culture; links in with and re-enforces practices in parent-child interaction; links in with work on literary texts in the language of schooling; contributes to developing language proficiency; respects the principle that “comprehension precedes production” in language learning [4 ].

The main requirements for telling stories are:

  • Situating a story: characters, place etc.;
  • Selecting important moments of the story and (re-)creating a story line;
  • Taking the listener into account (interactional aspects; shared knowledge) ;
  • Using strategies for accessing and mobilizing linguistic resources to tell the story.

One of the most important requirements for storytelling is personalization – the only thing students are truly interested in is themselves. The instructional pace should be based entirely upon an assessment by the teacher of how thoroughly the students have internalized the language.

There are different types of storytelling tasks that allow teachers to use various language resources, develop students’ imagination and communicative competence. The most often used are the following:

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: a class selects a classical painting. Looking at the painting for inspiration, the class constructs the first few sentences of a tale through group discussion and suggestion. The paragraph is then sent on to another class which reads the first paragraph and adds on another. The process is repeated including as many classes as possible until the tale seems finished. All the classes then gather to hear the result of their group effort read out loud and to see the painting, that inspired the story.

A Story Treasure Hunt: a class selects a well-known fable or folktale. The plot is simplified into a sequence of events that can be transcribed onto cards with short sections of the tale on each. Students hide the cards out of sequence throughout the school or classroom. A treasure map showing the exact location where all the cards are hidden, is given to another class (Or, with clues, one card can lead to the next). Groups of students must find the cards and assemble them in correct order. The treasure is finding the WHOLE story. Two classes can trade treasure hunts by putting the stories on two different-colored cards. The treasure hunts can go on simultaneously and, when each class has found the other’s story, they confirm it by assembling it, learning the plot and sending representatives to retell it, or to act it out as a skit to the other class.

Old Time Radio Show: using the PA system like an old time radio show, have classes create a story broadcast at a special time each week for the whole school to hear. This could also be an ongoing project. Use a tape recorder for rehearsal so that students can hear how the program will sound. The show could have a magazine format, featuring interviews with teachers, student stories or poetry, or discussion of the latest school issues.

Finding Stories in Songs: find and learn songs which tell a story. Folk ballads to contemporary songs often suggest a larger tale. Listen to records and then have students retell the story in the song in their own words. Or have a “storysong” concert.

Story Circle: one person begins a tale and stops after a few sentences. The next person picks up the story thread and continues it, then stops. Next person adds to it and so on until the tale comes to a resolution. The story could begin with a pre-selected title or subject to guide the improvisation. Try recording the story circle on a tape recorder for later listening.

Puzzle Tale: Putting the Pieces Together: copy a folktale from a printed anthology and cut it up into sections or scenes. Paste each section on a separate page. Give out the sheets to students who each prepare to retell their small piece of the whole story. Assemble the story by having each student retell his or her part in the plot’s sequence. Have students keep the flow going as the story is told so that the performance moves along as though one person were telling it. Do a second round by giving students different sections to retell. Notice how differently students retell the same sections.

Chain Sentence: teams of two students orally construct the first sentence of an invented story. To orally make the sentence, each says one word, trusting their ears to recognize conventional grammar, until a long sentence evolves. Shape the improve by setting the tone of the sentence. Make the first sentence of:

  • a ghost story
  • pirate story
  • love story
  • mystery
  • any story, etc.


This exercise can be used to generate the first sentence of a Chain Story where each participant adds a section to a tale.


The chain sentence exercise could generate a “last sentence.” This sentence is written on a piece of paper and placed in the middle of the story circle. The game is over when the story has woven around to the point where someone can say the “last sentence.” [3].

In conclusion, effective combination of comprehension and communicative approach provides high practical value of Total Physical Response Storytelling or Narrative method in teaching foreign languages that allows to use this method successfully at all levels of language studies for all age groups.

Works cited:

  1. Linde, C. Narrative and social tacit knowledge, Journal of Knowledge Management, – 2001. – P. 160 – 170.






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