Aqui você encontra a arte de contar histórias (storytelling)
entrelaçada à empatia, mediação de leitura, educação, brincar, sustentabilidade e cultura de paz.

Stories in the ESL classroom

Storytelling: Conquer hearts, conquer your class

by Fabio Lisboa
revised by Janaina de Souza

Once a teacher asked himself… if stories that most of us love have some similarities that make sense: a challenging beginning, some problems that will be solved after a lot of hardworking thinking and acting, resulting in a meaningful ending… Why not having the same plot in my classes? - or, at least, how about bringing in some stories to help me in doing that?

Mankind has told and listened to stories in order to teach and learn since immemorial times. Some ESL (English as a Second Language) methods, specially the ones focused on children, have recently understood the power of stories to teach. The number of good stories and activities related to them has largely increased in the last years. Some teachers have learnt how to use them and have become great storytellers.

What does it take to change a teacher into a storyteller? I’m glad to say: not much! Let’s consider that a teacher already has developed speaking, reading and listening skills - which is great, but not enough. Those communication techniques can be both found in a good teacher, or in any TV news anchor or in many actors (sometimes with a lack in listening – which is also found in many teachers). The difference is that a great actor can make his audience cry or laugh without using a single word. The actor’s main tools are emotions - emotions that communicate something.

Learning how to allow meaningful emotions to flow is the key. The difference between an actor and a storyteller is sometimes immense, sometimes subtle. For example, you are not expected to read a Shakespearean tale in Victorian clothes using old British English (although the little ones would have a lot of fun with it).

The important thing is that you understand what Shakespeare wanted the audience to feel. How are the emotions of each character conveyed in each scene? If you understand that, it doesn’t matter what you say, your pupils will comprehend and appreciate it. Then “How” becomes more important than “What”. But what really makes the difference is when you get the “Whys”.

The important thing is not telling impudently “to be or not to be” …

What you should have in mind (and in your heart) is why you are saying that! What are the consequences of “to be” – to act, to seek revenge, to blame a killer and become one, to trust yourself, or “not to be” – not act, have compassion, wait for God’s justice, betray yourself? For Hamlet, both answers are unbearable and that is the beauty of one of the most famous human dilemmas.

That’s what brings actors and storytellers close: both seek for the truth of each character and each feeling. The difference is that the actor is stuck, most of the time, in one of the characters and the storytellers let all the feelings and characters live, debate, win or lose into themselves.

Even when performing using different voices, or using puppets for each character, the story comes out from the storyteller’s own heart. A story is told heart to heart. Eyes to eyes. There’s not a fourth wall as in theater or on TV. Even when reading, the storyteller should already know the story by heart (em português: decor – do latim, de coração).

If you are still interested (and reading up to this point), I’m sure you have skills to become a great storyteller-teacher. Now you just have to find what storytelling tools will fit better on both your personal skills and the stories that you choose to tell.

Some people are great in rhythm or music, others prefer images (movies and new technologies) while others use their bodies, facial expressions and a lot of movement. As time goes on, you will realize you can continue using tools that you (and your students) like most, but you will find new skills that you and your entire class will discover and appreciate together.

Then, the more you open your mind and your heart (through stories) in class, the more your students will open their minds and their hearts (through English) to the world. Storytelling will certainly facilitate communication connections.

The time of “once upon a time” will open the window of adventure in your class. A challenging horizon will be presented upon your students’ eyes. Isn’t it a challenging horizon for you as well? Imagine that. Do it. No matter what the outcome may be, share your experiences, learn from them. The most difficult part of doing something new is starting, and it seems like you’ve already done that.

Fabio Lisboa

PRESENTATIONS, LECTURES AND WORKHOPS: This post is a handout written for the lecture “Educando com Sotytelling” which is an edition of the workshop “Storytelling: Conquer Hearts, Conquer your Class” presented for EFALL (English for All) ‘volunteachers’. If you want to meet people who share their knowledge and use English as a tool to help in changing the world, get to know EFALL at:

Palestra Educando com Storytelling / Workshop “Storytelling: Conquer Hearts, conquer your class” já foram realizadas no SESC Pinheiros para professores de inglês e coordenadores pedagógicos da EFALL (English for All) e na DISAL no “Annual Teachers Encounter” do CELLEP. Duração: Palestra: 1 hora. Workshop: 3 horas.

The text in Engish was revised by Janaina de Souza, who is also an experienced translator.

Fabio Lisboa é Contador de histórias/Storyteller, Professor de Inglês especializado em ensino para crianças e jovens, coordenador de recreação e acampamentos de imersão em inglês, coordenador de Teatro em Inglês. Realiza palestras e oficinas em escolas de inglês como CELLEP, CNA, Wisdom e livrarias como SBS, Sellbooks e DISAL. Compartilhe seu conhecimento, divulgue seu trabalho, cadastre-se e saiba mais:

Apresentação de contação de histórias em inglês (storytelling) para alunos da Educação Infantil Bilingue do Colegio Emilie de Vileneuve. Mais informações:

FOTÓGRAFA: Priscila Piccirillo. Mais fotos:

Conheça outros projetos, dentre eles:

“Storytelling para pais” – Maria Paula Barros e Juliana Mismetti, que têm experiência como coordenadoras pedagógicas em escola especializada em ensino de inglês para crianças, atualmente professoras de inglês da Escola da Vila, juntam-se ao storyteller Fabio Lisboa para demonstrar, de forma prática, como os pais podem usar as histórias para facilitar a comunicação em inglês, o auxílio no aprendizado, o enriquecer de vocabulário e a compreensão de valores humanos.

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