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Using favourite stories for language learning

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Why not dabble in some basic MFL teaching with this lovely article? It has plenty of simple techniques that you can use to get the most from your group’s favourite stories.

Stories are a great tool for introducing a modern foreign language to your Early Years group. Bold illustrations, appealing characters and exciting storylines will grab the children’s attention enabling them to acquire new language effortlessly. New vocabulary can be introduced in an already familiar format, making it much more relevant to the preschool child as it is heard in context. Here are some simple techniques you can use to get the most from your group’s favourite stories.


Keep vocabulary useful

Pick out vocabulary that the children can relate to and use in everyday life. ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ for example, gives plenty of opportunity to talk about family, feelings or rooms in the house.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears - poster


Avoid translation

If you are reading a familiar story there is no need to translate key vocabulary as the children already know what’s happening. Pointing to the relevant illustrations as you read the story will enable your group to make the link between the foreign language they are hearing and the story they know and love. You can still check comprehension by asking simple questions about each page.


Be consistent

Many favourite stories involve a lot of repetition, ideal for language learning. The repetitive format means that children will hear the same words and phrases again and again and can memorize them easily. However, be sure to utilize words and phrases consistently throughout the story. For example the wolf in ‘The Three Little Pigs’ might say, “Let me in”/ “I want to come in”/ “Can I come in?” Each is correct, but choose one and stick with it.

Build with the Three Little Pigs


Bring the story to life

Hold the children’s attention by making the story as exciting as you can. Use different voices and facial expressions for the various characters and alter your tone to convey diverse emotions. In this way, even if your group doesn’t follow every word of the foreign language they will understand the gist of the story and enjoy listening to you read.

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