Besig 2020 and Storytelling

Once upon a time there was a, not so young a woman any more, who simply fell more and more in love with Storytelling. She enjoyed it so much that she decided she would go out into the world and share her passion with others who showed interest.

That woman as you may have guessed is the one who at this moment addresses you in writing. That’s right, here I go again talking about my passion. Well, this last Saturday I was once again presented with the honour of participating in yet another international congress, my very first BESIG. What is BESIG? It’s the Business English Special Interest Group of IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language).

It’s quite a big deal in my profession to participate as a speaker at an event of such proportions, but I’d say that the greatest thing about it to me personally is the opportunity of being able to connect to other professionals, like me, who are also looking to learn new things.

The cycle of learning and sharing never ends, so long as there are people out there who are willing to keep learning and sharing. Spain, Greece, Russia, India, Germany, Poland, Peru, Brazil, these are only some of the countries I was able to recognize from the attendees to my workshop about Storytelling. What a powerful experience it was to have people all over the world creating their own stories and sharing them with our group.

The process of Storytelling is often thought to be only related to the world of children, but how quickly we forget that our own traditions and customs have been passed on through millennia, from people to people, generation to generation ever since we, humankind, found ourselves on this planet. Storytelling can be personal and impersonal, it can be a way of introducing new language and reviewing language which has already been learned, it can be extremely meaningful and it has the power of not only conveying meaning or information but also values and culture.

Using Storytelling in any classroom, specially when applying specific techniques, has the power of creating an environment which is both motivational, engaging and creative. It is also a safe place for the students to express themselves in a free, non-judgmental and secure space.

At my workshop at the BESIG I proposed 2 simple activities in which the participants were able to create their personal narratives. During the exercises, through a simple sequencing technique, participants created a story, transformed this same story into something less personal and more appealing by using symbolic writing and also took turns reading each other’s stories. The productions were incredible and a few very powerful indeed. We only had 45 minutes but I was, as always, amazed at the results and the material that was created. Imagine if we had had more time?

Stories about where we have been, of the struggles, of the highs and lows, of our journeys to this present day – help leaders to set a powerful context for the reasons behind a change in process, practice or personnel. In addition, they set a firm foundation for student’s to build an enthralling vision for their future.

By nurturing leadership qualities students are able to take charge: thus learning about themselves and their passions, directing their learning towards their interests, and both developing initiative and making decisions based on a willingness or desire to act by using both creative and analytical thinking skills.

Stories that are interesting are more likely to be shared and when people enjoy a story, they are more prone to sharing it with others, orally, in written form, or even through social media (something which grows more and more each day). This allows students to connect to each other, share information, and spread news or topics that could affect others in a positive way.

Let’s no forget of course on how stories help people all over connect to themselves. In this day and age of technology and other distractions, hearing a story can bring people back down to Earth and focus on the present moment…It can help people relate to each other through common interests, differences and emotional connections. Students who are English language learners, besides all of the above mentioned beneffits can also further develop their desire to learn English and new vocabulary, and their confidence to learn content.

We can find a large variety of reasons which favour the use of Storytelling in the language classroom. Storytelling may be used as an effective way of creating opportunities for learning and teaching reading, writing, listening and speaking comprehension, whether they be in person or online and in every other context of teaching. Business English teaching is not excluded. I hope you too find yourself compelled by going out into the world and applying Storytelling techniques making your classes always more magical and captivating.

Much love and magic to all of you!

Isa

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