Telling Stories Online

Telling Stories Online

Everybody has stories to tell. Spinning yarns is universal to all cultures and has been going on ever since we stopped grunting at each other and discovered our gift for language – just check out the prehistoric graffiti in your nearest cave. In fact, I wouldn’t mind betting that the stories which accompanied bison-hunting rock art were more or less along the same lines as the exaggerated one-that-got-away tales spun by modern-day fishermen.

Whilst the face-to-face oral tradition is still alive and kicking (leave the cave and go to your local pub), the internet has obviously given us new and flexible ways of delivering our stories to our listeners: they can be text, or audio, or video … or a combination of all three. Here’s a few storytelling activities you might like to try out with your students.

1. Collaborative story-telling with Voxopop 

If you’ve ever done collaborative writing activities using a shareable online text editor like Google Docs, why not ask your students to create spoken collaborative stories by using a voice recording tool? The best one I’ve come across for this purpose is Voxopop. Sign up for an account, create a “Talkgroup”, then set up a “Discussion”, which is where your students will construct their narrative by leaving recorded contributions.

I find this activity works best if you give students some visual stimuli to base their stories around. In this example I’ve used a picture series called “Dream Game” from Harraps Advanced Communication Games (for copyright reasons I can’t publish the images in this post). The idea is the students build up the story by choosing different dream scenes and recording themselves narrating the events in a logical fashion. A good alternative is to select some photos from the eltpics photo resource site (shared under a Non-Commercial Attribution Creative Commons license) and create a mosaic of scenes like the one below using Mosaic Maker. The first student contributor could start off with something like: “We were lost in the middle of a dense forest. Our guide had disappeared and we were without food and drink. There was no option but to start walking … etc … etc …”


Photos taken from, used under a
CC Attribution Non-Commercial

2. Recorded versions of written narratives

Voice recording tools can enable students to make recorded versions of written work which they can then share on a blog or social network. My personal favourites are Audioboo and Vocaroo. Once students have recorded their stories you might like to suggest that they create their own comprehension exercises to accompany their narratives on a class blog or wiki. Here’s an example of a recorded narrative with three possible comprehension tasks.

a) Gap-fill activity

This happened to me when I was on a ________ holiday in the south of France with my ________ and my ________. We had driven all the way from Barcelona and were camping in a pretty little ________ called Sommieres. One day my parents decided to take us to visit a nearby ________. We got up early and had breakfast in front of the ________. It was a beautiful sunny day. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. My sister and I were very ________. As soon as we had finished breakfast we got into the car and my ________ started the engine. Just as he was accelerating down the ________, suddenly we heard a loud ________. We looked around and saw our tent following us down the track. In fact, we were ________ it behind the car. We looked at each other and we realized what had happened. The previous day my mother had done some ________. She had tied a ________ between the tent and the ________ of the car and ________ the wet clothes to dry. So, you can imagine what happened when my dad drove down the track.

b) Comprehension questions

1. What type of holiday was it?
2. Where were they staying?
3. What was the weather like?
4. Where were they going to go?
5. What happened?
6. What had happened the day before?

c) Putting events in order

1. Wash some clothes
2. Hear a loud noise
3. Have breakfast
4. Drag the tent down the track
5. Tie a rope between the car and the tent
6. Decide to visit a castle

3. Retelling Adverts

Adverts can have wonderfully compact narrative structures and are a great source of mini-stories for retelling activities. You’ll find a good collection at Very Funny Ads.

One activity which works well is to project a selection of ads in class and get your students to retell them in pairs. Ask student A to close their eyes or look out of the window while student B watches the ad. Feed in some vocabulary and get student B to retell what they’ve seen. Show the advert again so that student A can compare the mental images they formed while listening with the images in the projected advert. Repeat
the process with a few more ads and ask your students to write up their
favourite for homework. You can find a more detailed explanation of this
lesson (with conversation questions on advertising) at

Other story-telling tools you might find interesting

Storybird – Make an online storybook using text and beautifully designed artwork.
Bookr – Create online picture stories using photos from Flickr.
Little Bird Tales – Create digital stories by uploading (or drawing) images and recording your voice. Aimed at younger learners.

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