Story-based instruction: Learning language through narrative

Akie Kanazono

In 2008, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan (MEXT) revised the Basic Act on Education. Part of the revision requires introducing foreign language education activities to 5th and 6th grade students in elementary school from 2011. Since the revision, pedagogical issues such as curriculum building, instructional materials, and teaching practices of English language have become a large concern for educators. This paper presents a story-based teaching method for young learners and explores the potential impact of narrative on language learning. The paper also describes how narrative can bolster language learning through engaging young learners cognitively and emotionally. In the first part of the paper, an overview of English education in elementary school is discussed, then the influence of narrative form on cognitive and affective aspects of language learning, drawing on Bruner’s narrative theory, is examined. The strengths of a semantic approach to language learning are also discussed. Finally, the paper discusses the criteria for the selection of matched-stories for language instruction, scaffolding theory, and a sample story-based unit the writer conducted in a public elementary school.