Grandma's Tales

June 23, 2007

Grammar – How can I get my child to narrate a story?

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 8:19 pm

A reader writes:
Hello Mam , Can you please help me ..
I came across your name and your blog when I was browsing across ..
I have a 4 1/2 year old boy.
He is not good in story telling..
I believe the stories are taught in a very lengthy and action oriented manner (that is what I observed when I was allowed to participate in the class room session once) .
So he could basically understand the story and narrate it back in Tamil.But when I ask him to repeat the sentences which were taught in school he is unable to do this..
How can I teach him well the short/simple version of the story effectively ..
And I also it would be more helpful if you can share me the tips of how can I improve his oral communication skills..
Thanks in advance, Best Regards, Kamaladevi
Dear Kamaladevi,
                               “Communication skill” is an umbrella talent. It includes a lot more than story telling. Since your child’s immediate need seems to be the ability to tell a story with confidence, let’s concentrate on that.
[1] Forming simple sentences.  The easiest are the ones that start with “I”. So ask him to talk about himself. Try this: He stands in front of a mirror where he can see himself. Then he begins to describe himself.
I am a boy. I am four and a half years old. I am tall. I have dark hair. I watch TV. I like to play foorball … I go to school. I like to eat ….. I have a sister …
Once he has got these sentences right, he will get them right if he is asked to repeat them, go on to phase 2.
(When my kids were small, I would constantly ask them questions, wherever we were – outings, in the kitchen, out sitting – anything concering them, they had to choose. What do you wnat to do today? What do you want to wear? Which plate do you want? What do you want to watch today? Kids just loved it. Mom does everything according to their wishes! This “asking them” serves several purposes. Their sense of themselves, their self-esteem, their ability to make choices … Of course, I had this condition. They had to answer the questions in full sentences, not in a word or two.)
Phase 2: Once they are comfortable with the sentences, we need to put them in order. Now, about himself.  First, the description (what does he look like?), then what does he wear, what does he play, with whom does he live, what does he like to do the most? And finally, an ending sentence: I am a happy kid.
Phase 3: Time to expand his world. Ask him to describe you. He already knows many of the phrases used in description, like, ” dark hair”, tall, wear … etc. He just changes the “I” to “You”.
Phase 4: Now the third person. Ask him to describe dad, grandma, grandpa or the sister if he has one. In these sentences he has to add the “s” to the verb. Sunita is tall. She wears a frock. She likes to sing. She watches Animal Planet, etc.
Phase 5: Take a huge picture of a fruit/animal he is familiar with. He is then asked to describe it. He has to answer questions like, “What is this?” And the answers must always be in a full sentence. “What is this?” will be answered with a “This is a mango.” By the end of the Q & A session, he has mastered a number of sentences. The mango is yellow. It is sweet. We eat mangoes in summer. We cut the mango and eat it. I like mango juice. I have mango ice-cream sometimes.
One teacher I know gives them a cordless microphone for these sessions. Boy, do the kids love it!
Now for the story. Children learn to narrate stories simply by listening to them. Tell him a story every day. I used to tell the same story to my kids again and again. And I always narrated them in diffeent voices for different characters. For example, in the “Fox, crow and the vada” story, the fox and the crow had different voices.  And I emphasised the word, “beautiful”.  You tell your son a story, or “the” story every day – find out which one he likes the best – and he is bound to repeat it soon. While narrating, ask him leading questions. He feels part of the story. Keep the sentences simple.
Once there was a crow. He was hungry. (What do crows eat?) He flew everywhere. He saw a woman making vadas. When she was talking to someone, the crow stole a vada. He flew away…
You tell him stories. The kid will catch up.
Get him to narrate incidents that happened that day. What happened in school? Did you sing? Did you sleep? Did you play?
Ask him to describe the weather. Is it cloudy today? “It is raining!” “Look at the sun, it is shining!” “Look at the stars! [sing] “Twinkle, twinkle …
How did the kid learn to speak Tamil? Through constant listening, right?
Kids learn English skills in two ways. Through repetition. Through constant correction. You repeat, ask him to repeat. Only, don’t make it look like a chore. Start with “Hey!” listen to this!” and which child will not want to hear?   


  1. I think above all, encourage the child to read, and read often to him/ her. If he/ she learns to relate to a variety of expressions, his/ her own expression will find its shape and improve by leaps and bounds. 🙂

    Comment by Shefaly — June 26, 2007 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

  2. i want story

    Comment by mohan — June 29, 2007 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

    can u please help me,I am graduate from DU. mam, my communication skills is very poor in english.whenever i speak to people i unable to speak and enable to frame good sentences.mam plz tell me how can i improve my communication skils and how to frame the good sentences.

    Comment by SHALU GARG — June 29, 2007 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

  4. Hi Mohan, it should be “I want a story”. If you want to be polite, and if you want people to feel like telling you a story, you need to say, “Would you tell me a story, please?”

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — June 29, 2007 @ 10:53 pm | Reply

  5. Hi Shalu Garg, I’ll be happy to help you. I’m going to use your question for a post. And please note the corrections I made in your question, ok?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — June 29, 2007 @ 11:08 pm | Reply

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