Jump to content

Building stories for effective intermediate language learning

Students who mostly navigate English at an intermediate level require more challenging vocabulary and phrases, while not losing sight of the story-learning fundamentals

Play
Season 1, episode 26
11 min / Published

I was looking to produce language stories, which combined the most relevant parts of TPRS and mini stories.

My aim was to stay true to first step in the TPRS method by identifying phrases and vocabulary as learning outcomes before the reading starts.

Next, I understood the importance of keeping the story and plot relevant to the reader and, in the way that Mini Stories demands, appropriate for their level.

And finally, adhering to the recipe for any good story – keep things interesting, fresh and engaging.

Show notes

My last seven podcasts focused extensively on storytelling and exactly how this process benefits language acquisition. I read blogs, listened to podcasts and made sure I understood exactly what the pioneers of this methodology think and feel. I came across magnificent tools like TPRS and mini stories, which opened my eyes to many exciting possibilities. My own teaching style, during this time, started to mirror the storytelling concept without me actively driving it there. It just felt natural to tell, ask and build stories around the focus of the lesson.

One aspect that unfortunately complicated matters slightly was the level at which I presented my version of the mini story and the TPRS activities. My students mostly navigate English at an intermediate level, so the basic nature of this approach did become a little monotonous. My challenge was to up the intensity with more challenging vocabulary and phrases, but not lose sight of the story-learning fundamentals.

Again, I turned to the internet and started my quest for a TPRS, Mini Story or storytelling offering aimed specifically at intermediate English learners. Sadly, the volume of information at my disposal paled in comparison to the data I managed to find on storytelling for basic language acquisition about a month ago. Do not get me wrong, I did find some very valuable material on storytelling and short stories aimed specifically at a slightly more advanced English language learner. The issue in my case was that nothing I found incorporated the teachings of TPRS and Mini Stories as thoroughly as I had hoped.

This was both a disappointing and exciting discovery… Discouraging, because none of what I was specifically looking for was at hand and could be devoured through active podcast-listening or committed bedtime reading… right there and then. At the same time, I found it thrilling because clearly, there was a gap in the market (albeit small) and I could create something of relevance.

I was looking to produce language stories, which combined the most relevant parts of TPRS and mini stories.

My aim was to stay true to first step in the TPRS method by identifying phrases and vocabulary as learning outcomes before the reading starts.

Next, I understood the importance of keeping the story and plot relevant to the reader and, in the way that Mini Stories demands, appropriate for their level.

And finally, adhering to the recipe for any good story – keep things interesting, fresh and engaging.

In my experience the general reluctance to use storytelling as a tool for any learning – language learning notwithstanding, is that it lacks outcome-based structure. At least this is the main criticism and objection I have encountered when advocating this method of language acquisition. This is completely unfounded as the very first step of TPRS is characterized by identifying vocabulary and phrases that the story-learning will focus on. What could this possibly be other than outcome-based learning? Defining the learning objectives clearly, making sure no ambiguity exists and staying well within bounds all contribute to better understanding, comprehension and measurable results.

Likewise, Story-learning for intermediate students, stays true to phase one of the TPRS process and increases the level of language proficiency being acquired. The addition of collocations or word-parings to the focus structures of this type of story-learning can greatly improve the versatility of the learnt structures. Furthermore, more emphasis is put on the context within which theses pairings appear, which aids tremendously on terms of comprehension.

Idioms or expressions as an add-on to the focus phrases further enhances the effectiveness and usefulness of the acquired language. It is a well-known fact that native speakers prefer to express themselves through abstract language. Making use of figurative speech adds authority to communication and allows for colourful expression.

The importance of a well-rounded story, a clearly unfolding plot and rich character-development are aspects most engaging stories have. Intermediate learners have a firmer grasp on sarcasm, with and humour compared to entry level learners, and as such crave more intrigue from the stories they read/hear. The narrative needs an unmistakable beginning, middle and end. This assists not only with understanding sequencing, but also helps listeners/readers be able to re-tell the events chronologically and in their own words.

Stories deserve to be awesome and as such, the idea for a story needs to be original. Thinking outside the box is a gift, but it doesn't mean that you have to completely reinvent the wheel. Grab ideas from other stories, by all means, but put a different and surprising spin on things. A plot twist is a great idea, but try to keep it realistic and not too far-fetched.

I think I have arrived at the point where my theories have to be put into practice. Join me next in my next instalment when our first story-learning lesson/episode will take shape. See you then, CHEERS

Episode ratings
Please log in or sign-up to rate this episode.
Sold on Stories
A podcast by Sold on stories
Engaging & original stories supplying concrete understanding of idioms for Intermediate English learners
Episode comments

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
What do you think about this episode? Leave a comment!

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×

Important Information

By using this website, you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.