The Story Telling Stick is a simple activity which you can use in your TEFL class to develop a story and get the whole class talking and listening.
It’s ideal for lower-intermediate level and upwards and can be used with both smaller and larger classes.
Traditionally some Native American tribes (especially of the Northwest coast) would use a ceremonially decorated talking stick at council meetings. Whoever was holding the stick could speak freely without interruption whilst the others listened. When the speaker had finished what they had to say, they would pass the stick to someone else for their comments.
You need to an item to use as your “talking stick”. This can be as basic as beanbag or a distinctive pencil, but it gives the activity a little more flavor and panache if you have a special item which you bring out for this activity. Some teachers will take a stick and decorate in the same way that Native American tribes would.
Gather the class into a single group (or, if your class is large and the students are familiar with this activity you can have them work in several smaller groups). Explain the meaning and significance of the stick. Stress that only the person holding it can talk and when they are finished speaking, they must hand it to another person in the group at random who will continue speaking.
The class is going to tell a story. It can be on any subject or theme and each person will contribute a couple of sentences at a time. Make sure your students understand they only need to give a couple of sentences to the story and not more (so no individual hogs the stage and everyone gets a chance).
You, as the teacher, might like to begin. This way students will see how it is done and also feel more comfortable interacting with each other knowing that their teacher is not there to assess them but is part of the activity. Start with a couple of thoughtful or provocative sentences to get the ball rolling and then hand the stick to a student who must continue the story. They add to the story and pass it on.
You could begin like this:
Maria lived alone. She came home late from work very late one night and went into her house. She closed the door behind her and locked it and then went into her kitchen to make a cup of tea. Just then she heard a very strange noise coming from the bedroom…
Mr. Thompson had a problem. He had just lost his job and needed to pay the rent. He needed two thousand euros quickly or he would be kicked out of his house. One morning he work up with a great idea… he knew how to get the money…
When you start the story off, make sure there is a main character who is facing difficulties. That way the students must think how the story will be resolved. If you like – and if you know the students won’t mind it – you can include various students in the scenario to make the story more real and closer to home.
At the end of the exercise you can get the students to write out the story in full for homework, adding anything they wish or changing things as they prefer.