Spiraled Stories: A Method for Teaching Indigenous Languages Using Recorded Audio




Hill, Peter Monck

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This project details a pedagogical method for Indigenous language revitalization (ILR) contexts, created and refined over the years, for Lakota language, using recorded audio files of fluent speakers. Specifically, it discusses how to incorporate the teaching technique of “spiraling” to return to the material over an extended period of time and increasingly familiarize students with the content of the audio, i.e., the narrative of the story in question. The project further explores how the Spiraled Stories Teaching Method (SSTM) is tied into the theory of Indigenous storywork as well as school-based ILR pedagogy, storywork pedagogy, and Ellis and Shintani’s “11 Principles of Instructed Language Learning” (2014). At its core, this method intertwines two strands of ILR—Indigenous language pedagogy and storywork. It contributes to the former by being a teaching method that is ready-made for adaptation and use in the ILR classroom, for which many researchers acknowledge a scarcity of good, research-based pedagogical practices. It contributes to the latter because the foundation of the method is Indigenous stories, told in the target language. In doing this, it represents a synthesis of these two key areas of ILR. Pedagogically, the SSTM is multi-pronged in enabling students to learn vocabulary, grammar, phraseology, and storytelling techniques, all while gaining confidence in their ability to understand Lakota spoken at a fluent level in a relatively short period of time. This paper details the spiraling technique as pedagogical practice, includes appended examples of associated handouts and activities, and thus demonstrates how the whole unit works together as a cohesive whole. In addition, the paper contains a transcript and translation of an actual story that could be used in the classroom, an audio file of the story being told, tips on how to conduct classes when teaching using the method, and a discussion of assessment tools.



Recorded audio, teaching, Indigenous language, Indigenous language revitalization, Lakota language, fluent speakers, Spiraling, Spiraled Stories Teaching Method (SSTM), pedagogy, storywork pedagogy, 11 Principles of Instructed Language Learning