Learning foreign languages in early childhood is very specific, therefore, teaching must take place according to certain principles. The acquisition of a foreign language should happen through games and movement activities. Moreover, the purpose of learning and teaching a foreign language in the first grade is also to encourage a positive attitude towards other languages. Storybooks are classified as basic teaching means or materials and storytelling is a traditional, tested (from folk literature) and a universal method for the use of language in the classroom. Interesting stories ensure active involvement of pupils, their focus on the content and structure of the text, and the motivation to listen to a foreign language. They serve as an integrated approach to teaching and learning a foreign language and what is more, they display a rich and authentic use of a foreign language. Storybooks or picturebooks are a type of literary texts in the picture-based book format, which are especially suitable for classroom use. Illustrations motivate young readers to reach for the book, and while listening to the story they encourage them to participate actively: they observe and explore the visual text and get the answers to open questions from the illustrations.
In the theoretical part of the master's thesis, I present the learning of a foreign language in childhood and a story-based methodology of teaching. Moreover, I introduce and analyze storybooks that are the result of the collaboration between Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler, and are one of their most important joint works – The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo's Child and Room on the Broom.
In the empirical part of the thesis, the aim of the action research was to encourage pupils to engage in more active collaboration and increase their interest in English through the help of a story-based teaching methodology. I carried out a didactic analysis of the three selected storybooks by Julia Donaldson and used other innovative approaches for teaching a foreign language (Total Physical Response, role play, singing, dancing, etc.). 21 first graders, who selected English as an elective subject, and a teacher of English participated in the study. The research was conducted throughout 13 lessons (3 lessons of observation and 10 lessons of teaching) in February, March and April 2017. Firstly, I carefully observed and analyzed the existing situation and formulated a framework plan of the action research. I obtained the answers to the research questions on the basis of triangulation of techniques and resources, namely observation, discussion and questionnaire. The conducted research with its findings contributes to understanding of the use of stories in foreign language learning in the early years. It demonstrates how to teach a foreign language with the help of stories. The results of the research show that the main goal was achieved – the changed approach successfully promoted more active participation of pupils in class and their interest in learning English.