Story retelling, Iranian EFL learners, speaking performance


Speaking is primary to human communication .Speaking is the skill to create words in language use. Speaking is a vital skill that learners must master. It is so, because in speaking we know how to assess the students’ ability to produce the target speech. Zhang (2009) argued that speaking is the most complicated skill to master for the bulk of English learners, and they are still incompetent in communicating orally in English. As said by Ur (1996), there are lots of factors that result in trouble in mastering speaking, they are as follows: 1.Inhibition. Students are anxious about making faults, fearful of criticism, or simply shy. 2. Nothing to say. Students have no reason to express themselves. 3. Low or uneven contribution only one participant can talk at a time because of large classes and the tendency of some learners to control while others speak very little or not at all. 4. Mother-tongue use. Learners who share the same mother tongue tend to make use of it because it is easier and since learners feel ‚less exposed‛ when they are speaking their mother tongue. Stories play fundamental role in the development and improvement of children. The story books children read and the characters they become familiar with become like their buddies. It’s safe to claim that story books are useful sources of social /cultural and communicational information. Through reading story books learners gain the most effective reading strategies, and through listening to audios of stories, learners not only learn how to listen to foreign texts but also they learn how to use language in extremely different contexts. When it comes to children stories are helpful for relaxation, before bedtime for instance. Regarding Story retelling Owcki (1999) states: Retellings aid children rethink and alter their ways through a text, thus enhancing their perception. Storytelling does require any particular equipment but the ability of listening and speaking to recreate messages.

Review of Literature

Stories are motivating and inspiring therefore attracting listeners and promoting communication. While telling stories pupils are to read, write, listen, and speak. The comfortable ambiance and active situation formed by stories promotes the students to talk and discuss with each other. When they present stories, listening gets a two way road. Through making good eye contact and body language these storytellers converse with their addressees as learners tell and listen to stories, they inter into stories and forget about themselves and their anxieties. They get more selfconfident in expressing themselves imaginatively .The activities and skills that they find out will be utilized across the syllabus and during life. Storytelling is deemed to have refused in western cultures until recently when it looks to be making reappearance (Nor Hasni et al. 2011). According to Mallan, (1992) storytelling aids expand the imagination which in turn constructs problem-solving competencies. Consequently increasing the imagination can authorize students to determine new and imaginative ideas. In other words increasing the imagination can contribute to self-confidence and personal inspiration as students predict themselves competent and able to achieve their hopes and dreams. Bagnole (1977, p.48) proposed six factors that control students’ awareness of the need to learn English as a foreign language and their enthusiasm and aspiration to learn that language

  • The historical colonial background of the country
  • The existence of bilingualism or trilingualism
  • The impact and status of minority groups,
  • The political and economic orientation,
  • The levels and extent of literacy, and
  • the degree of cultural awareness and implementations of policies fostering that awareness‛.

Stories provide language users with cultural and social information. McKay (2003) argues that culture affects language teaching in two forms: ‚linguistic‛ and ‚pedagogical‛. Linguistically, it influences the semantic, pragmatic, and discourse levels of the language. Pedagogically, it affects the picking of the language materials because cultural content of the language teaching instruments and the cultural foundation of the teaching methodology are to be taken into account whilst deciding on the language materials. This belief is supported by ‘Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis’. This hypothesis has clarified the interconnections between language and cultures. This theory implies that theoretical contents of languages and cultures are considerably decided on by words and their semiotic materializations and semantic differences; and these ‚cultural implications‛ could be used among languages and substituted among cultures (Pinker, 2007; Perlovsky, 2009). As it was mentioned earlier stories also reflect the social factors of the target culture which cannot be downgraded in the process of foreign language learning. According to Halliday (1999), context of situation also is of great importance in the process of foreign language learning. In the framework planned by Halliday, the notionof context is of three strata: context of culture, context of situation and co-text. Context of culture (which previously mentioned) and context of situation are outside of language itself. Co-text, also known as linguistic context, is certainly inside of language itself. There is a close mutually dependent connection between language and context. Context verifies and is verified by the choice of language. Context of situation consists of three aspects: field, tenor and mode. Field refers to what is happening, to the nature of social action that is taking place. Tenor refers to who is taking part, to the nature of the participants, their status and roles. Mode refers to what part the language is playing, what it is that the participants are expecting the language to do for them in that situation. Certain situational context requires certain text and accordingly, certain text generates certain context. In the process of communication, the meaning structure is largely decided on by the three aspects of situational context: ideational meaning by field, interpersonal meaning by tenor and textual meaning by mode (Baker, 2000). Since different stories reflect different contexts thus help learners to imagine themselves in different contexts of cultures and contexts of situations, and accordingly remove one of the most impediments of speaking in target language

Research Questions

The present study tries to find answer to the following questions: Does story retelling have any effect on Iranian EFL Learners’ speaking performance? Does story retelling result in improving Iranian EFL Learners’ speaking performance?


The design of the current study is quasi-experimental, that is without random assignment. Typical experimental study involves a control group for the sake of comparing the results of treatment


A total number of 60language female learners with an age range of 14-17 participated in this study. The subjects all were from Turkish background. The participants were selected from 8classes. They were all at inter-mediate level. They were divided into two groups of experimental and control.


For collecting quantifiable data the researcher made use of the following instruments: One language proficiency test (PET) was administered for assuring the proficiency level of the participants. The next instrument was pre-test of speaking that was carried out for proving that there were not significant preexisting differences on the speaking ability of the participants. During the study the researcher utilized various stories which include audio files of the texts. The participants were to record their production of the stories as studentwork, thus voice recorders were also applied. At the end of the study one post-test was conducted on the pupils speaking performance for measuring the effectiveness of the listening to and retelling stories.


As mentioned before after conducting PET test on learners’ language proficiency the researcher has started the program. In the experimental group the participants were asked to work on predetermined set of stories which were of audio files. The participants were asked to work on each story three times: firstly they were to read the story without listening to the files, and then they were to just listen to them without taking any look at the texts, afterward they needed to reproduce the story and record it. Thus the participants while comparing their production with that of native speaker have been enabled to find out their faults in speaking – fluency, pronunciation, intonation etc- and they could try them again and again before presenting in the classroom. In the control group the participants were asked to speak on different topics which were at approximately at the same difficulty level, but without any particular treatment. After 15 sessions one post-test was conducted to the both groups. The gathered data was analyzed by means of SPSS.


Table 1

Paired Samples Statistics-Experimental Group

Mean N Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean
16.7222 30 724555 13507
12.1444 30 1.19544 .21478

Indicated in the Table, the experimental group of the study had a mean score of 12.14 (SD=1.19) in the speaking pretest. The group, however, scored higher (M=16.72, SD=0.72) in the speaking posttest. It is safe to claim that there was a statistically significant increase in the speaking scores from Pretest to Posttest following the treatment sessions.


Table 2

Paired Samples Test-Experimental Group

Mean Std. Deviation Std.Error Mean 95% Confidence Interval of theDifference df Sig. (2-tailed)
Lower Upper
sttest – Pretest 4.52227 1.0063 .18774 4.18084 4.95247 24 29 .000

Table 2 depicts that the mean increase in speaking scores was 4.52with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 4.18 to 4.95. It is also indicated that the mean increase in the speaking posttest was statistically significant (t= (29) = 24.75, P=.000). Consequently the Null Hypothesis is rejected and the Alternative hypothesis is supported.


Paired Samples Statistics-Control Group

Mean N Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean
Pair 2 Posttest 12.8777 30 0.91789 0.16867
Pretest 12.0955 30 1.0552 0.19496

Table 3 shows the descriptive statistics for the control group. By a brief look, it can be noticed that there was not a statistically significant increase in the speaking scores from Pretest (M= 12.09, SD= 1.06) to Posttest (M= 12.87, SD=0.91).


Paired Samples Test-Control Group

Paired Differences t df Sig. (2-tailed)
Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference
Lower Upper
Pretest 80000 0.40995 0.07427 0.64804 0.95195 10.756 29 0

According to the Table, the mean increase in speaking scores was 0.80 with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 0.64 to 0.95. The mean increase in the speaking posttest was statistically significant (t= (29) = 10.75, P= .000). In comparison with the experimental group, the control group performed much poorly in the speaking posttest though.


Descriptive Statistics-Pretest

N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean
30 12.1777 1.17699 . 21478
30 12.0348 1.06690 .19496

Table 5 portrays the descriptive statistics for the speaking pretest. The experimental and control groups of the study had a mean score of 12.16 (SD=1.17) and 12.03 (SD=1.06) respectively. To be precise, the two groups did not perform in a different way in the pretest and they were harmonized in terms of their speaking performance.

Table 6

Independent Samples Test-Pretest

Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means
F Sig t df MeanDifference Std. Error Difference 95% Confidence Intervalof the Difference
qualvaral variances assumed .056 .814 .460 58 .645 .13344 .28993 -.427 .72271
ual variances not assumed .460 5.734 .645 .13344 .28993 -.427 .72271

An independent-samples t-test was accomplished to compare the statistics scores of experimental and control groups in the speaking pretest. The mean difference in statistics scores was 0.13 with a 95% confidence interval ranging from -.42 to .72. The results revealed no significant difference between the mean scores of experimental and control groups in the speaking pretest t (58) = .460, p = .645. Therefore, the two groups completed equally in the speaking pretest


Descriptive Statistics-Posttest

Groups N Mean Std.Deviation Std. Error Mean
Posttes Experimental 30 16.7222 .13507
Control 30 . .91789 .16867

According to the descriptive statistics shown in the Table, the experimental group performed much better than the control group in the speaking posttest. The mean score for the former was 16.72 (SD=0.72) whereas for the latter the mean score is 12.87 (SD= 0.91).

Table 8

Independent Samples Test-Posttest

Levene’s Test for Equality ofVariances t-test for Equality of Means
F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed) MeanDifference Std.Error Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference
Lower Upper
qual variances assumed 2.856 .095 18.179 58 .000 3.80000 .21477 3.45051 4.34993
qual variances not assumed 18.179 55.519 .000 3.80000 .21477 3.45022 4.34997

Another independent-sample t-test was carried out to compare the statistics scores of the two groups in the speaking posttest. The mean difference in statistics scores was 3.80 with a 95%confidence interval ranging from 3.45 to 4.34. The results exposed significant difference between the mean scores of experimental and control groups in the speaking pretest t (58) = 18.179, p = .000. Hence the Null hypothesis is rejected and the Alternative hypothesis is supported

Discussion and Conclusion

The findings of the present study are in line with the research studies which studied the effectiveness of the stories on speaking and reported positive effects of them. For instance the current research provides strong support for the work of the Praneetponkrang and Phaiboonnugulkij (2014). They also examined the Use of Retelling Stories Technique in Developing English Speaking Ability of Grade 9 Students and reported meaningful changes in the outcomes. Also the findings of the Norberg (2015) have been supported in the present research. But the most important point here is the effectiveness of the authentic materials in language learning. The stories audio taped by native speakers of English, thus there was no problem regarding the pronunciation or intonation. Although the stories have been adjusted regarding foreign language users but the fact is that they are deemed as authentic materials. There were no exaggerated adjustments in them. It is safe to claim that they are not for pedagogic objectives, but they are for real language needs and for real use. Through using different types of stories learners would be able to use language appropriately in different contexts of use. Since through listening to these stories it is the learners who is supposed to work on them, consequently them get more self-regulated and self-directed pupils. There would be a relaxed atmosphere and learners stay away from all of anxieties of the pedagogic contexts.