Storytelling is important for several reasons:
a) It makes use of the unavoidable element of suspended belief ever present in the EFL classroom. Storytelling turns this around into making the language authentic within the context.
b) The skills needed within storytelling are used everywhere – from making general conversation basically more interesting to selling a product. It allows us to use vocabulary and thoughts which may normally have no place in the classroom.
c) It aids problem solving skills by putting yourself into someone else’s shoes, developing the ability to be able to see something from another perspective which is, indeed, an important element.
Graphic novels aid the development of visual literacy, a competence which is becoming more and more important. We have to decode pictures and set them in relationship to the text: videos, film, photos, illustrations.
A visual could be used as a straightforward opportunity to speak. However, to simply request a picture description would mean a loss of many other opportunities for creativity: Prof. Holzbrecher (Fotos und Fotographieren im Unterricht: Oldenbourg Praxis: 6-2013, p.9) comments that there is mostly an analytical approach used in the school context whilst the translation of pictures into another aesthetic form of expression leads to a deeper understanding of the relationships behind the image – or formed by the juxta position of images and text. Of course, for the less confident speaker/learner, images offer an opportunity to ease into the language – especially if the picture is a personal one which they would like to share. Visuals help to activate cognitive schemata.
Never before has it been so easy to document whatever is around us – heuristic function (Holzbrecher, ibid) – and to generate new ideas. Excursions can be documented and reported upon. A sequence of photos ( or other visuals) may lead to a greater degree of creativity than a film sequence as there are more gaps to be filled as there could be in a comic, the viewer having to guess the action between the panels.
Niki de Saint Phalle wrote short poems which she illustrated. The students filled the lines with their own visual ideas.