ENK Level 2: How Story-Telling Supports Reading in English Nali-Kali


The NIPUN Bharat document of MoE has emphasized some essential steps for how
children should be enabled to attain literacy. These include:

a) Oral language and literacy development activities must be planned concurrently to help children not only learn to read but also make meaning of what they read i.e. enable them to read with comprehension.

b) Teachers must be made to see that meaning-making is central to learning to read and write and that the primary goal in all reading situations should be ‘to understand’.

c) Language and early literacy education should lead to not only the development of literacy competencies but also the development of critical thinking and reasoning.

Storytelling in ENK is the bridge between oral language and literacy and the first step in meaning-making. It is the point at which a body of the text is first introduced to the students.

ENK Level 2: How Story-Telling Supports Reading in English Nali-Kali

Storytelling has a number of functions:

a) It introduces students to reading and understanding a continuous text.

b) It introduces new vocabulary and reinforces existing ones by putting words into a context.

c) In Level 1, it introduces words with a single sound which is the first step in the alphabet introduction.

d) It introduces the concepts of sight words or words that have to be recognized as a whole word without phonemic decoding.

Though the storytelling module has kept in mind the concepts of vocabulary, inference making predictions etc as important aspects of reading with meaning, sufficient attention has not been drawn to these in the accompanying instructions. It is necessary to do this, so that -as suggested by the guidelines above- teachers understand the role of meaning-making in reading and pay equal attention to it beyond just fast decoding.

Meaning Making in Story Reading

In order to read meaningfully, students should be able to perform the following three reading-comprehension skills:

a. Identify simple facts presented in written text (literal comprehension)

b. Connect the text to other available knowledge (inferential comprehension)

c. Make judgments about the written text’s content (evaluative comprehension)

The following section details out how the above can be implemented by the teacher in the classroom. The first story is used as an example.

Responding to Simple Comprehension Questions

Ensure Vocabulary Comprehension: The most important competency required for answering simple comprehension questions is having the vocabulary to understand the keywords in a story or text. Vocabulary is an important pre-condition to reading with meaning, but reading also contributes to vocabulary development. Research shows that if when reading a text where children understand the keywords, they can also guess some of the new/unfamiliar words they come across in a text and this in
turn leads to a better vocabulary.

Many words included in the story are not part of the everyday English that people speak. Children’s understanding of the keywords they are likely to find in children’s literature is important and texts must ensure this.

Teacher Action for ENK: how can teacher’s draw attention to vocabulary and use storytelling as a way to introduce new words as well as develop vocabulary.

a) As a preparatory exercise it is good for teachers to make a list of all the keywords that children will not know. This is also given for every book.

b) Designate one area of the wall slate as the teacher’s slate and conduct the storytelling session next to it.

c) Draw attention to the keywords in two ways. Explain the meaning of the word and help children visualize it (allow children to close their eyes and try to picture the word)

d) Write the word on the board so that children can see it visually.

Note: If the story is in the mother tongue, children can be asked to think of another word with the same meaning.

Answering Inferential Questions

Inferencing: One of the central requirements of “reading with meaning” is the ability to connect the information given in the text to other available knowledge and everyday situations. This is called inferencing.

Inferential ability i.e., the ability to read between the lines and understand messages not stated in the story is important for reading comprehension. Children often have problems with inferencing if their attention is not drawn to it. e.g., in the first example of handout 2, the child was not able to explain why the king became thin. This is because he could not see the relationship between food and exercise to body size. The child in the second story on the rats gave a wrong answer as he could not connect the story to the common knowledge that cats are natural enemies of rats and an invitation was probably a trick.

Teacher Action: How can teachers support inferential thinking?

a. An important part of the storytelling is the introduction to the story when teachers give the information that puts the story in context. For example, in the fat king and thin dog, it is possible to talk to the children about fat people or animals. Read out the title of the story and ask children who they think the story is about? Why are people fat or thin? Often children give simple answers -they eat a lot / they don’t eat. Why don’t people eat? Here again, children may say “They have no food /they are busy / they don’t like food etc.” it is good to summarize these answers so that it sets the tone of the story.

b. The teacher can go on to discuss how fat people become thin.

c. As the story proceeds it is good to ask inferential questions where the answers are not given in the story. Sometimes the answers are hidden in the story but are clear from the pictures e.g., who do you think ran the fastest in this picture? Etc. questions that require inference are those where the answer is not readily available in the story but help children to connect the dots and get a deeper understanding
of the story.

d. When telling the story about the king running after the dog for many days it is useful to ask how the king felt? How do you think the king managed to catch the dog? (please remember that often there are no right or wrong answers -except that answers must be logically feasible) etc. that help children to think beyond the written word.

Setting the context helps children to connect facts that are not stated in the story and improves inferential thought. Once students get used to looking beyond the written word this becomes a normal practice when they read.

Helping Students Engage With the Story

Prediction and Identification: predicting what will happen in the stories at the beginning, middle and towards the end are very useful to help children engage fully with the story, make judgements about text and put themselves in the shoes of the characters. This is one of the proven ways to retain children’s attention and keep them following the storyline.

Teacher Action: In the early stages of reading this is done consciously by the teacher. As In the case of inferencing predictions can be made at different parts of the story. Teachers begin the story by showing the title page and asking children what they think the story is about. Children are asked at various points in the story -what do you think will happen? Do you think the King will catch the dog? What do you think will happen now that the king has caught the dog? (some stories such as Toto and the cap
or Toto at the Fair lend themselves to more imaginative thought). Asking children to make predictions is a much better way to get children to engage with the story rather than asking them to pay attention.

Simple evaluative questions can be simple such as whether they liked the story and why are often good to help children think about it critically.

Helping Students Answer Questions and Narrate Stories in English

The Bellary Study pointed out storytelling as a weak area in ENK as children were not able to answer questions in full sentences.

One of the problems seen in the field is the inability of children to answer simple comprehension questions in English. The study found that only - children were able to answer simple questions in English. However, when allowed to answer in their mother tongue, the number of children who answered the question was much higher. It appears that students do understand the question posed in English but cannot answer it in English. One of the reasons for this result is because ENK allows children to answer in single words and even use their mother tongue to answer a question raised in English. Though we do not expect children to answer in complete English sentences in the early months, the ENK curriculum does have provisions for helping children practice key phrases and sentences in a story.

How do we help children to start answering in English? One of the ways to do this is to help children repeat the main/central points of the story in English. These points can be in full sentences or in phrases. Echo questions are expected to fulfil this function. An echo question is a direct question that requires the answerer to repeat part or all of something that has just been read out and is usually a question that begins with what, why, when, who, and how.

Echo questions are asked to help children repeat the key points of the story in English. It usually follows a sequence where the teacher reads a sentence and asks a question about it. e.g., the first sentence of the Fat King “there was once a fat king” is followed by the question “who was there?” The Teacher answers the question “there was a fat king” and gets children to repeat the answer after her. To be able to frame an Echo Question it is important to first decide on the 4-6 key sentences that when put together tell the story. These will be the key sentences in the story.

Echo Questions
When the key sentences are put together the story reads:

Story: The Fat King
Story: The Fat King

An advantage of Echo questions is that it helps children to repeat the key facts of the story in full sentences in English and slowly gets them to respond to questions. This is done in a non-threatening environment where students only echo the answer provided by the teacher.

Echo Questions should only be used as a way to help children start responding to questions in English and not an excuse to get them to learn the story by heart.



  • The primary goal in all reading situations should be ‘to understand’. Stories help in improving comprehension.
  • Teachers should make a list of all the keywords given at the back of every reader and explain to them An important part of the storytelling is the introduction to the story when teachers give the information that puts the story in context.
  • It is good to ask inferential questions where the answers are not given in the story. 
  • Predicting what will happen in a story is useful to help children make judgements and put themselves in the shoes of the characters.
  • Echo questions help children answer in English, in full sentences or in phrases.
  • Echo Questions should only be used as a way to help children start responding to questions in English and not an excuse to get them to learn the story by heart.

Watch the Detailed Video: How Story-Telling Supports Reading

Credits: Samagra Shikshana Karnataka and UNICEF{alertInfo}

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