Teaching English as a second language (TESL)

Storytelling has universal appeal and relevance which transcends culture, nationality and race. Storybooks provide invaluable visual and linguistic support for young learners and their teachers.

Sign language is intriguing to all children – the body movement, facial expressions and hand gestures of sign language can be really helpful alongside spoken and written language to help decode the meaning of words and phrases.

We hope you find Signed Stories beneficial to your ESL classroom – through some of the most popular stories by well-known authors, with simultaneous English text and professional voiceover, presented visually with pictures, animation and iconic sign language. There is a fantastic range of different English voices on our website.

In this section you’ll find advice on using stories and sign language, guidance on which stories are good to use and advice from English language teachers and The British Council.

"The use of signing effectively supports pupils with language barriers, those in the early stages of learning English and others with difficulties in concentration.” Ofsted, the UK Government’s education advisor.

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Speaking skills and TESL

Stories are great for teaching language to children.

Children learn their first language very early without any formal lessons and research has shown that they can learn other languages just as easily. That’s why schools in countries such as China, India and most European countries teach English as a second language to children from a very early age.

“One of the best reasons for starting early is that children are learning language anyway. The best way to learn a language is through hands-on activities, such as games, songs and stories – the types of lessons young children are often more receptive to”. The British Council

  • Children love to be told stories. And love to hear the same ones repeated over and over – fantastic for reviewing and absorption
  • Younger children don’t always know why they are learning another language – stories motivate them to learn.
  • Stories can be the focal point of a whole lesson and they help to give meaning and context to new words and phrases
  • Children absorb the structure of language subconsciously – through stories they’ll pick up new words and hear the familiar ones they already know
  • Sue Clark, a teacher with the British Council, says stories are great for teaching ‘native-speaker’ vocabulary – the everyday English which is not found in many school textbooks
  • Aside from language learning, children learn other things from stories – morals, relationships, how to behave, culture, religious differences
  • Stories, used alongside signs, actions, colourful illustrations and engaging animation make for really fun lessons – you will be repeatedly reviewing and practising language as well as making it real through play. And see our Resources section for ideas for after-story activities.

Nancy Rhodes, Director of Foreign Language Education at The Centre for Applied Linguistics, USA, says: “There are all sorts of wonderful advantages to teaching a language early. It introduces a child to another culture, another way of saying things and the idea that we’re all living in a global society.”

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