HPL, Storytelling & Play for Language Learning


About Me

Aya Story telling copy.jpg

I’m Aya Isaac, I'm a mother of 3 lovely boys who are the reason behind all my studies and work. I'm originally from Egypt and came to the US in 2017. I'm currently a curriculum designer and an Educator for parents and teachers who are interested in project and play based learning where I conduct online trainings. My undergrad degree was in Automotive Engineering from ASU Egypt, and my Masters is in Educational Studies from The University of Michigan.

Now I’m a first-year Ph.D. student at the ETAP (Curriculum and Instruction) Program with the aim to be a researcher contributing to Academia as well as simplify the knowledge for educators and parents with low or no access to high-end research and practices.

If I'm not working or planning my kids' homeschooling activities we love hiking and swimming, especially in open water.

Storytelling & Play for Language Learning

This mini-course is an introduction to research methods for language learning through storytelling and play. I precisely chose this topic to help preserve my heritage language in my community. I speak Standard Arabic, and it's a very cherished language in my community. My kids, as a second generation, are less fluent, and the third generation will be even less so. I've developed this course based on literature review and previous work experience in the field to preserve the heritage language. The aim from this mini-course not only to help preserve the Arabic language but also to act as a resource that anyone can use to preserve their language and teach it.

Scope of Learning Outcomes and Content

By completing this mini-course, participants will be able to create/use stories and play to deliver a lesson for K-6 learners. They will have the foundation knowledge required in language learning and using play and storytelling to teach. Participants will be able to shift between and utilize the Child-led and Teacher-led learning settings. They will also be able to evaluate the different methods for language learning.

Needs Assessment

  • The Educational problem or Opportunity
    • New educators or parents who are involved in their children teachings', lack the skills to connecting with the learner and accordingly move towards traditional teaching methods which with younger learners is not effective.
  • The learners/participants involved
    • Motivation and patience to better their engagement with their learners
    • Fluent in the language they want to teach
    • Willingness to read and reflect in their learning environments
    • Comfortable using the internet, zoom and google drive.
    • Have min or no teaching experience/trials with children age 0 - 8.
    • Lack learning resources and teaching tools
    • Busy lifestyle that they have limited time to learn and reflect
  • Analysis of gaps in term of know vs. need to know
    • The participants know that they are missing the "How to" of teaching using storytelling and play.
    • The participants need a live example to analyze, evaluate and learn through experiencing it.
    • The participants need to feel enabled as active learners not passive learners
  • Existing efforts to address this gap
    • You tube/Tiktok... Channels: Passive way of learning as there is no follow up and community engagement
    • Online Courses: Too long and might be misleading in deferent directions
    • Study degree: Too expensive and time consuming for busy educators and parents.
  • Intent statement:
    • This mini-course is:
      • simple, designed in a "How to" steps so participants can easily follow up.
      • Authentic, instructions will be an application of what is being taught in it, I will use storytelling and play to demonstrate the ideas
      • Practical, as it has a project component that is build during the course where participant are create their own projects as a reflection for their learning
      • Although it's online, participants will share their learning experience with other participants going through the same course and within their communities.

Analysis of the Learner and Context

Participants for this course are educators and parents who have no to little prior knowledge about learning sciences. They are eager to teach their kids, students, and children in their communities their heritage language in an interactive way. They might not have teaching skills, but they are motivated to learn and practice these skills.

If the learner decides to take this course to teach their heritage language, they will need to be fluent in this language. The learners are self-motivated and have an idea in mind before the course that they want to learn "how to" implement.

The mini-course will can be offered Synchronous online, Asynchronous online and/or in-person based on learners' preferences. There will be a weekly meeting for 1.5 hours, and then an additional 1 hour during the week for practice, research, or writing, for a total of 2.5-5 hours per week. Learners must be able to use Google Drive, Zoom, and emails with ease.

Performance-Based Objectives

After completing this mini-course, learners will be able to:

  • Analyze the different theories of language learning
  • Explore different theories in Storytelling & Play Learning
  • Differentiate between Teacher-led and child-led learning
  • Evaluate different methods of language learning
  • Design a single lesson/activity using a story and/or a game
  • Connect with other participants and share their learning experience

Performance Rubrics:

  • Prior Starting the course, participants should review the performance rubric here and Project Proposal Template here.
  • Upon completion of the course, participant will upload the completed Project Proposal Template and complete the self assessment questionnaire here.

Task and Content Analysis

Participants perquisites:

  1. Language Basics such as knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and language structure.
  2. Familiarity with Educational Terminology such as curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and classroom management.
  3. Basic Psychological and Cognitive Foundations such as concepts like memory, attention, motivation, and cognitive development stages.
  4. Awareness of the cultural and sociocultural factors that can influence language learning, including the role of society, family, and community in the language learning process.
  5. Technology Literacy such as proficiency in using basic technology tools, as the curriculum may involve online resources, digital communication, or instructional technology.
  6. Research and Critical Thinking Skills to read, analyze, and synthesize academic research and educational literature.
  7. Self-Directed Learning to engage in self-directed learning and reflection.
  8. Prior Pedagogical Experience (preferred) which is a valuable asset, especially when differentiating between teacher-led and child-led learning and designing lessons/activities.

Learnings Contents:

Mini-Course Page

Unit 1: Foundations of Language Learning

Lesson 1.1: Introduction to Language Learning Theories

This lesson introduces educators to the foundational theories of language learning, including:

  • Cognitivism: Explore the cognitive theories, emphasizing mental processes in language learning. Highlight Jean Piaget's stages of cognitive development (1) sensorimotor intelligence, (2) preoperational thinking, (3) concrete operational thinking, and (4) formal operational thinking.
  • Constructivism: Explain the constructivist approach, which focuses on learners constructing their own understanding of language. Discuss Lev Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).
  • Sociocultural Theories: Introduce sociocultural theories, emphasizing the influence of culture and social interaction in language development, with reference to Lev Vygotsky and the concept of the More Knowledgeable Other (MKO).


>> Synchronous Mode >> Engage participants in a group discussion where they analyze three case studies reflecting these theories as an application to real-world language learning scenarios.

>>A-Synchronous Mode >> Right down 3 skills you've learnt before. The first you learnt by trying out, the second from someone less than 8 years old, the third from an older teacher. Analyze what's common and which of theses skills you are still doing.

Lesson 1.2: Basics of Language Learning

This lesson delves deeper into the foundational concepts related to language learning, including:

  • Language Acquisition and Development: Explain the stages of language acquisition in children and how linguistic competence evolves.
  • Linguistics Basics: Provide an overview of linguistic concepts such as phonetics, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.
  • Language Development Theories: Discuss key theories like Noam Chomsky's Universal Grammar theory and the Critical Period Hypothesis.

Activity: Participants will analyze language development in children by observing case studies about language acquisition stages. Learners then reflect on the learning theory used in the demonstrated videos.

Unit 2: Storytelling and Play Learning

Lesson 2.1: Theories in Storytelling & Play Learning

In this lesson, educators will explore the theories that underpin the use of storytelling and play in education, including:

  • Narrative Psychology: Explain how narrative psychology focuses on the role of stories and narratives in shaping learning experiences and identity development.
  • Cognitive Development Theories: Discuss how storytelling and play align with cognitive development theories like Piaget's theory of cognitive development and how imaginative play fosters cognitive growth.
  • Socioemotional Learning: Introduce the connection between storytelling, play, and socioemotional learning, emphasizing theorists like Erik Erikson and Rudolf Adler

Activity: Participants will design a simple story-based activity, incorporating elements from the discussed theories.

Lesson 2.2: Practical Application of Storytelling & Play

In this lesson, educators will delve into real-world applications, including:

  • Educator Success Stories: Share examples and experiences from educators who have successfully integrated storytelling and play-based methods in K-6 settings.
  • Effective Strategies: Explore practical strategies and techniques for designing engaging lessons using storytelling and play.
  • How to write a story: Introduction to Disney Story spine simplified

Activity: Educators will create and share their own play-based learning activity using a story they wrote, receiving feedback and insights from peers.

Unit 3: Differentiating Learning Settings

Lesson 3.1: Teacher-led and Child-led Learning

This lesson explores the characteristics and principles of teacher-led and child-led learning:

  • Teacher-led Learning: Discuss the structured approach where educators guide and direct the learning process. Explain the role of lesson planning, curriculum design, and assessments.
  • Child-led Learning: Explore the student-centered approach, emphasizing self-discovery and exploration. Discuss the role of student autonomy and inquiry-based learning.


>> Synchronous >> Participants engage in scenario-based role-play to practice shifting between teacher-led and child-led settings, reflecting on the benefits and challenges of each approach.

>> A Synchronous >> Participants will reflect upon their current work with their students a role play they did with their learning environments where they practice shifting between teacher-led and child-led settings, reflecting on the benefits and challenges of each approach.

Unit 4: Evaluation of Language Learning Methods

Lesson 4.1: Language Learning Methods Overview

This lesson offers an in-depth exploration and analysis of various language learning methods:

  • Immersive Learning: Define immersive language learning, discussing its benefits and potential challenges.
  • Task-Based Learning: Explore task-based language learning, including its practical application and effectiveness.
  • Communicative Language Teaching (CLT): Discuss the communicative approach, emphasizing the use of language in real-life contexts.

Activity: Educators assess and compare these methods, considering their effectiveness for K-6 learners. They create evaluation rubrics or surveys to gather feedback from students.

Unit 5: Final Project - Design a Multimodal Language Learning Program

Lesson 5.1: Project Introduction and Scope

Introduce the Final project, which involves designing, implementing, and evaluating a multimodal language learning program for K-6 learners. Provide an overview of project requirements and expectations.

Activity: In this initial session, educators will select a target age group within K-6 and outline their project proposal. educators will have to download the Project Proposal Template

Templates: Google document Project Proposal Template

Lesson 5.2: Needs Assessment and Goal Setting

Educators will conduct a needs assessment to identify specific language learning needs of their chosen age group. They will set clear learning goals and objectives.

Activity: Participants will gather data, assess the needs, and define achievable learning outcomes for their language learning program.

Lesson 5.3: Program Design and Implementation

This lesson guides educators through the design and implementation phase of their language learning program. They will select appropriate teaching methods, content delivery formats, and activities.

Activity: Educators will create a comprehensive curriculum framework, detailing units, lessons, and activities, and then implement a segment of their program with a sample group of students.

Lesson 5.4: Program Evaluation and Reflection

In this final session, educators will explore strategies for evaluating the effectiveness of their language learning program. This includes formative and summative assessment methods.

Activity: Participants will evaluate the outcomes and experiences of their implemented program and reflect on the effectiveness of their chosen methods.

Lesson 5.5: Sharing, Peer Feedback, Self Assessment and next steps.

This lesson focuses on the importance of sharing experiences and receiving feedback from peers.


>> Synchronous >> Each educator will present their multimodal language learning program to the group, followed by peer reviews and feedback. After session, Participants should upload the Project Proposal Template filled here. The reflection note should include What went well, what needs improvement, Participant self assessment form and the participant's next steps.

>> A-Synchronous >> Each participant will share their presentation with their learning communities, gather their feedback and upload the Project Proposal Template filled here. The reflection note should include What went well, what needs improvement and the participant's next steps.

Curriculum Map

References and Resources

  • Isbell, R., Sobol, J., Lindauer, L., & Lowrance, A. (2004). The Effects of Storytelling and Story Reading on the Oral Language Complexity and Story Comprehension of Young Children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 32(3), 157-163. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:ECEJ.0000048967.94189.a3
  • Hadley, E. B., Dickinson, D. K., Hirsh, P. K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2019). Building Semantic Networks: The Impact of a Vocabulary Intervention on Preschoolers’ Depth of Word Knowledge. Reading Research Quarterly, 54(1), 41–61.
  • National Academies Press. (2018). executive summary. In How people learn II learners, contexts, and Cultures: Committee on how People learn ii: The Science and Practice of Learning: Board on Behavioral, cognitive, and Sensory Sciences: Board on Science Education: Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and education: A consensus study report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, medicine. essay.
  • Larson, Miriam B. (2014). Streamlined ID : a practical guide to instructional design. New York :Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group,
  • Rabindran, & Madanagopal, D. (2020). Piaget's Theory and Stages of Cognitive Development- An Overview. Scholars Journal of Applied Medical Sciences (Sch J App Med Sci), 8(9). https://doi.org/10.36347/sjams.2020.v08i09.034
  • Jamjoom, S. M. K. (2014). Story Reading and Literary Arabic Vocabulary Acquisition in Kindergarten (Order No. 3626739). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ CIC Institutions; Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA); ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1558126892).
  • Irena Y. Maureen, Hans van der Meij & Ton de Jong (2022) Evaluating storytelling activities for early literacy development, International Journal of Early Years Education, 30:4, 679-696, DOI: 10.1080/09669760.2021.1933917
  • "Minor ideas and concepts explored in this paper were brainstormed in collaboration with OpenAI's GPT-4."