Modern Foreign Languages - Il etait une fois ..

A creative storytelling approach is enthusing young learners

Jo Cole

"Qui passe sur mon pont en faisant clac, clac, clac?" demand the children in a Wiltshire primary school. It is their French lesson and they are retelling the story of Les Trois Cabris. With correct intonation and expression, actions and a story map, the meaning of the story becomes clear, even to these 10-year-old language learners. They are learning French with the Story Making programme and Les Trois Cabris is an example of one of the original stories, created for the programme, which the children learn to tell through a combination of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic approaches.

Story Making in French has been researched and developed at the International Learning and Research Centre, near Bristol, and has been successfully introduced in schools through teacher participation in training courses and language conferences across the country. Children learn to tell stories using this approach in the language being taught in their school - usually French, but sometimes Spanish, German or Italian. However, the methodology can be used, and the stories adapted, to fit any language.

Young language learners are enthusiastic. "Story Making is really enjoyable because it brings the whole class together . everyone's involved," says Sally, aged 10. And 11-year-old Maryanne says: "We have creative minds . we have started changing the story . I like the freedom of choosing what you do."

Teachers have been equally impressed. "Story Making methodology has motivated my class to be able to tell whole stories in French," one tells me. "It's now an integral part of language learning in our school."

The stories make the most of traditional storytelling and begin "Il etait une fois ." Rhyme, rhythm and repetition are key features. "`Alors, je te mangerai,' dit le troll!" is repeated with increasingly hungry voices by the children as they enter into the spirit of the story. Bebecabris and petit cabris cross the bridge to safety, followed by grand cabris, who joins his brothers having tossed the troll into the river, where it lands with a huge splash . "Plouf!"

Perhaps most rewarding is that children's enjoyment, increased motivation and sense of achievement in being able to recall and manipulate whole sentences in the target language are so evident in Story Making classrooms.

For more information email


Try some storytelling lesson ideas from Teachers TV. Discover La Belle au Bois Dormant in a clear and colourful lesson from Bonnie Rafferty.


Compulsory MFL: how do you explain that this is a good thing to your most reluctant pupils?

Find all links and resources at

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Jo Cole

Latest stories

Schools need to be ready for any blame pushed onto teachers by unhappy pupils

GCSE results day 2021: How to handle TAG unhappiness

What should a teacher do if a student blames them for not getting the GCSE grade they think they deserve this year? Tes rounds up advice for those preparing for that possibility
Grainne Hallahan 5 Aug 2021
Teacher assessed grades, TAGs, results day 2021

SQA results day 2021: how we got here

It’s been a frenetic year – with exams were cancelled and the SQA due to be replaced – so here’s a recap of events on the road to results day
Emma Seith 5 Aug 2021