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  1. Gain a more concrete understanding of this expression by way of an angaging, inspiring and easy-to-follow story Learn how the acceptance of one's parents can create happiness, contentment and self-love within children. See how Julian and Jacky learn the value of doing what they love and how chasing your dream ia always super rewarding! Have fun, while truly making a concrete connection with this expression! To each their own Heather was a proud expecting mommy. Never had a mother hen felt this much excitement about anything in her life. This chicken was build for motherhood and everyone knew it. There was a slight problem though, the baby was taking it's sweet time to arrive. The egg should've at least had a crack or two by this time. Heather was way past he due date and to say that she was worried, would have been an understatement. Their doctor was a close friend and made house-calls every other day. “There was no need for panic, Heather”, Doc Davis assured the stressed mom-to-be. However, after hearing this for weeks on end, Heather Hen's belief was wearing thin. As anxious as everyone was, Heather's hubby Rocky Rooster was as cool as a cucumber. He was a level headed chap that took life in it's stride. When the doctored called on Heather to share some more bad news, it was Rocky who managed to calm his wife down with a joke, a smile and a casual wink of the eye. One day when Doc Davis half-heartedly made his way to Heather's coop, he heard an earth-shattering scream. Assuming the worst, he ran into Heather's room to see what was amiss. To his pleasant surprise, the egg had cracked and not one but two healthy chicks made their way out of the one egg. Heather's church sisters, praying by her bedside when this miracle occurred, broke out in a spontaneous gospel chorus. It was a joyous day and these two chicks were the blessing Heather and Rocky never knew they needed. One serious-looking boy, Julian and one sassy girl named Jacky literally brightened up the house in ways nobody expected. Jacky was a little rascal and if anything mischievous was going on, she wouldn't be too far away from the action... Julian on the other hand, was a quiet little perfectionist. He loved cooking and always kept his room (and the entire) hen house tidy & clean as a whistle. One day Rocky took Julian aside and they spoke for a good few minutes. From a distance one could see that Julian didn't like what he was hearing, but he was a good chick and always did as he was told. The next morning, at the crack of dawn, Julian and Rocky went outside to where Rocky's crow announced the start of a new day. Today though it was Julian's turn and he had to show his dad what he could do. Julian tried his best and gave it all he had, but his crow was nothing more than a screech... Rocky wad devastated, but he didn't show it. While this was happening outside, Jacky was being introduced to cooking and cleaning inside... She was hopeless, she kept on knocking over the everything she came close to and burning Heather's award-winning, worm stew. Mommy was disappointed and a frustrated, but she too did not let on how she felt. That night Rocky and Heather spoke about what happened during the day. Heather remarked, “Jacky really has no clue about house work and cooking. She is clumsy and fumbles around like someone who wants to be somewhere else.” If she could only be more like Julian, he knows exactly what to do and when...” Rocky listened to his wife complain and when she had finished he said, “ I know exactly what you mean, dear, Julian is possibly the worst “crower” in the business. The sound is unbearable and there's no feeling in his efforts. Jacky tried it once as joke last week and she was an absolute natural...” It was at that moment that Rocky and Heather knew they had a HUGE problem, but also the most amazing opportunity. Their kids meant everything to them and they wanted to see them happy. They had a plan and tomorrow they were going to give it a go. Before first light Rocky and Jacky were perched on a roost ready for the break of the day. As that first ray of sunlight hit her face, Jacky let out the most perfectly balanced crow. Rocky was a great crower, but even he had to no words – this was as perfect as he has ever heard! As Rocky and Jacky walked into the hen house, they couldn't believe theiur eyes. The house was spotless, everything was in it's place and the wonderful aroma of worm stew hung in the air. “Julian did all of this even before I got out of bed”, Heather said with a proud smile beaming on her face... “This is what he was born to do, Rocky!” Julian and Jacky ran towards one another and hugged like they have never hugged before. They had found what they were good at, and the thing they loved to do most. The best part was, their parents accepted their choices and encouraged them to live their lives the way they felt most comfortable. Their parent couldn't be more proud of their children. They were happy and content. The other chickens and roosters initially found this arrangement funny and somewhat peculiar, but soon this became their new normal too. Julian went on to become a master chef after perfecting some of Heather’s recipes. He definitely had a knack for cooking and before long started creating unique dishes very successfully. His recipes are the talk of the farm and even the ducks and geese want to know about his secret ingredients. Julian's Creamy Corn Paella, Snail Sushi and Caterpillar Carpaccio were soon the talk of the town! Jacky was also having the time of her life in her new role as daybreak announcer. She understood that animals wanted to sleep in, especially in the cold winter months. Her crow alone, magnificent as it was, simply was not going to cut the mustard. So she asked her brother to prepare a pot of healthy bug broth for a plan she had. The next morning she belted out her best crow and as soon as she saw a chicken move, she ran over with the broth. Soon getting up at the break of day wasn't as much trouble when accompanied by a delicious cup of bug broth. In the summer months Jacky even got the lazy pigs to do yoga and the cows to give pilatus a go. Ons one of these great days, Rocky and Heather stood close together admiring their children at work. They saw how well everything worked out and almost forgot how worried they were that first night when they spoke... “We're very lucky, you know”, Heather said beaming of pride. “I know my dear”, Rocky said and hugged her tight. “Who knew that true happiness lies in doing what you love? Each person finds their purpose in different ways, I guess.” Rocky said staring at the cows in the meadow. “Very true, honey, to each their own!”
  2. Gain context and understanding of this expression by way of an engaging story Idioms form a crucial part of everyday English. Understanding an expression within context cements this understanding and creates a usefull reference for it. See how a young, stubborn and entitled bull learns about this idiom the hard way. THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE From the days when he barely knee-high to his mom Desmond the bull was extremely prone to complaining When his parents gave him one thing, he preferred another. His father and older brother only shook their heads in disbelief at the selfishness of this young man. When Desmond and his mother started arguing, nobody was safe, so everyone made sure they were somewhere else when this happened. One could certainly understand his mother's frustration, nothing she did, said or gave was ever good enough. To make matters worse, the presents Desmond received was the envy of all the other young calves. Desmond on the other hand, always thought he was missing out on something. He deserved better, fancier and more luxurious than he was getting. Desmond's parents were prime cattle and had every luxury any cow or bull could want. They were treated very well by the farmer, and rightly so – his mother (Daisy) was premier milk cow and his father, Sire was the champion stud-bull of the county. None of the other calves had the privileges afforded to Desmond and his siblings. However as we all know Desmond didn't appreciate what he had and was always first to complain. Desmond's best fried, Dusty was the compete opposite of the selfish calf. Always friendly, constantly thankful for the small blessing he had coming his way. His parents were run of the mill cows and not of the same pedigree as Sire and Daisy. To spite this, Desmond's parents welcomed Dusty into their home and was very fond of this responsible and kind young bull-boy. Dusty and Desmond did everything together and were practically joined at the hip. Whenever you saw the one, the other would never be far behind. The young bulls were fond of playing games and often these games ended very badly because of Desmond's bad attitude. The way Desmond spoke to and acted towards other calves made him extremely unpopular. Fortunately for Desmond, Dusty was a very good friend and also had an extremely forgiving nature. He would always stick up for Desmond when the other cows complained about his behaviour. He would often say that Desmond didn't mean to be this way, he just has much to learn about life and those lessons will come soon enough... One day as they were walking along the boundary fence of the farm, Desmond saw a hole where the wires had been damaged. Immediately he wanted to go through the fence to the neigbouring farm, but Dusty stopped him. “We have no idea what that farmer is like and which animal there may be on the other side, Desmond! We'd better stay here where we know everyone and we are safe.” Of course that is not what Desmond wants to hear and definitely not what he wants to do. “Where's your sense of adventure, Dusty my boy?” Desmond said with a smile as wide as a country mile? “I prefer being safe to being sorry, thanks” came the reply from the sensible young calf. Safe was not a word that Desmond had in his vocabulary, so he didn't head Dusty's warning and went through the whole in the fence. Dusty turned away and walked off to find some other calves nearby. If Desmond doesn't want to listen, he'll have to pay the price and suffer the consequences. Before Desmond knew what happened the farmer was there with his truck fixing the whole in the wired fence. Just like that, Desmond was stuck on the wrong side of the boundary barriers. To make matters worse, Desmond suddenly realized that these cows weren't milk cows, but beef cattle. Of course this means that they are intended for the meat market and not the milking stables... Desmond was afraid, but soon became terrified when the farmer started herding the cattle to a big truck... They were headed in one direction and one direction only – the slaughterhouse. The young bull was petrified and called for his mother, but she was nowhere near where he was. He regretted instantly his ungrateful and entitled behaviour. He knew if he had listened to Dusty nothing like this would have ever happened. He cried bitterly and was shaking with fear. Just then the vehicle transporting the cattle stopped. A man jumped on the back of the truck and shouted at the driver. The driver got out, took his mobile phone from his pocket and was soon speaking to someone. Suddenly the back of the truck opened up and the animals were let out. The truck was overloaded and the driver had to unload some of the cattle. To Desmond's great relief he was identified as belonging to another farm by the tag he wore in his ear. The driver called Desmond's owner who came rushing to the scene. He loaded Desmond on the back of his truck and took him home. His family and his best friend were ecstatic to see Desmond. The young calf cried and hugged his loved ones. He told them the story about how he was almost taken the slaughterhouse and felt foolish for not listening to Dusty. Desmond's father, Sire was a quiet bull and only ever spoke when absolutely necessary. He walked straight up to Desmond and said, “very few things are always better somewhere else. The grass often seems greener on the other side, but more often than not, the best place to be is exactly where you are.”
  3. A story of idioms focussing on love, affection and emotions Learn idioms about emotions and how to express these feelings with the correct phrases. Oliver is a adorable little dog loved dearly by his family. Find out about his charming personality and BIG secret. Man's best friend Language focus: Idioms one in a million - a person or thing that is very unusual, special, or admired crept straight into my heart – when something or someone has become very special to you. Turned heads - attract a great deal of attention or interest had words with – have a serious discussion or argument trace your roots – researching your family origins or ancestors in your family From the very first day I laid eyes on him, I knew he was one in a million. This cute little brown and white fur ball crept straight into me heart. He was adorable and the best part was, he knew it too. He was the runt of the litter and when the litter was born, he was given a very small chance of survival. Oliver, as he is now called was then known as Endeavor as it was quite a challenge for Pat, his breeder to help delicate him. He was weak, fragile and struggled to take his first few breaths. Pat was an experienced doggy midwife and instantly knew this doggy was something special and he deserved a fighting chance to survive. Fast forward 5 years and the little timid, fragile and helpless puppy had turned into a healthy, happy and content little scoundrel. He had a new family – two cats (Sam & Cassie) a loving mommy (Stephanie) a human sister (Ella) and a devoted dad, me... Oliver (Ollie is he was now affectionately known) went everywhere with us – he never stayed home alone and holidays without his wasn't even in the cards. He preferred the couch and our bed to his doggy mattress and was more like a child in our house than a dog. This young man turned heads wherever he went – most people wanted him and most dogs wanted to be him. He didn't like the attention, he love it and thrived on the adoration. He would look at me when he was being gushed over, so as to say – see, this is what I was put on this earth to do. This dog wasn't just close to me, my wife basically imprinted on this K9 and true to her animal-lover-nature, this is exactly how things should be. Ella, my eldest now, but only child then) didn't understand that dogs and humans weren't exactly alike, and had words with anyone who dared disagree. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are not overly renowned for superior intellect, they are far too cute and beautiful to have people waste precious compliments on brains and agility when there was so much handsomeness to praise. Don't get me wrong, Ollie wasn't stupid – he simply had too much swagger that it overshadowed every other aspect of his personality. We spoke with Ollie and not to him. Much the same way as we would address a child and later on like we would chat to one of our adult friends. We had a bond with this Blue-Blood hound. True story, this Blue-Blood talk – Regal Endeavor Of Kavakin (aka Ollie Waldeck) can track his roots back three generations to quality stock from the UK... Remember those paintings of Kings Charles with his brown and white lapdogs? Ollie's ancestors were among those, make no mistake... Okay, so now that Oliver's pedigree is beyond reproach and you've had a small glimpse of his royal existence in an unmistakable middle class, suburban family, maybe it's time I get to the point. This is going to sound downright crazy, but I'm going to tell you anyway. My daughter Ella has a bad case of the night terrors – always had and it's still to this day. This isn't as much a problem as it is a slight inconvenience... She has a nightmare, wakes up, walks to our bed, tells me to move over and makes herself comfortable slap-bang between the missus and I... I have protested and complained, but it has fallen on deaf ears – this arrangement is here to stay... Ollie doesn't even wake-up when she gets into bed, he just kind of grumbles in his sleep... Lately though these grumbles have been sounding a lot like mumbling, you know, the mumbling of a human being. At first I thought I was imagining it but last week I clearly made out a muffled word. I sat up in bed and moved my ear right up to Ollie's mouth, and there it was again. He “said” the word “our”. He was clearly having a dream as I could see his hind leg twitching as if he was chasing something in his deep slumber. The next day as we were having breakfast, I mentioned to my wife what I believe I heard. She is not a morning person and I am, so she thought I was playing a trick on her. “Please let me have my coffee before you start your nonsense” she said. “I'm not joking” I protested, “I genuinely think he spoke in his sleep”, I said again. “Whatever you say”, came the swift reply. I suddenly knew how silly it all sounded, but I had to be sure before I dismissed it completely. My day went by without anything exciting happening and I had all but forgot about what I thought I had heard the night before. We went to bed, Ollie came to our room a little while after we went to bed and at around 11pm my eldest daughter swapped her bed for ours. That night my allergies acted up and this caused me to snore, more than was normally the case. Before long I was banished to the guest bedroom where my wood-sawing wouldn't bother anyone. Ollie saw that the men in the room were outnumbered and he dutifully followed me down the hall. I was tired, so I fell asleep almost instantly, Oliver didn't waste anytime either and before we knew it we were harmonizing like two hibernating bears. Somewhere during the night I a noise woke me and I slowly opened my eyes. It took me a while to register where I was and what was going on. When my eyes finally allowed me clear focus, I found my dog staring at me – his nose inches away from my face. To say I freaked out, would be an understatement. But somehow I managed not to scream. I tried to gather myself as I said to him, “hey boy, are you alright?” He continued to stare at me for a brief moment more and the turned away and fell asleep instantly. I wasn't sure if I was the one dreaming, so I got up, went to the kitchen and made myself a coffee. Upon returning to the bed, I found Oliver fast asleep, snoring away without a care in the world. I convinced myself that my imagination got the better of me again. Within minutes I drifted away to dreamland. I woke up again suddenly at around 3am with something bumping my leg. It was Ollie having one of his chasing dreams again, so paid no noticed and just turned on my side to go back to sleep. Then I heard it, clear as day and no louder than a whisper... “little”. Oliver had uttered the word “little” and this time there was no denying it - he said it and I heard it. My mind was racing and I didn't know what to do or who to tell. When my youngest daughter came into the kitchen and sat down to have her breakfast cereal, she could see that something was bothering me. She asked what it was and I said that it was nothing. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “if you look like that, it cannot be nothing!” I decided to tell her what I think happened and how I believe Oliver spoke in his sleep. Without batting an eye she said, “I believe you daddy, Ollie has always had lots to say”. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Had my daughter actually just confirmed that Ollie could speak and if so, why would she say that? I asked her straight-up, “have you ever heard him speak?”. She didn't even look up form her bowl of cereal she said, “just two words...” “How?” “When?” “Where?” This time she looked up and simply said, “I dunno daddy, he just said the words and I heard them” “One night he said “our” and the following night he said “little”. I was stunned, as I had not told anyone which words I heard Ollie say, so there can be no doubt that she heard him say them too. We hatched a plan to sleep in the guest bedroom with Ollie that night to see if we could hear him speak again. We settled in for the night and before long my daughter was fast a sleep. I stayed awake and promised to wake up my daughter up when I hear anything. As Ollie drifted off to sleep, he started snoring and before long I could see he was dreaming too. When he started kicking with his hind leg, I woke up my partner in crime and we both listened intently. The excitement was tangible and we could hardly contain our excitement. After a minute or so, the grumbling started and then came the muffled sound we've both heard before... We sat motionless and waited. Suddenly he opened his eyes and said “secret”... We were stunned and happy at the same time. He has said three words and we have both heard him, there was no denying it... We were so happy and immediately wanted to tell my wife and other daughter... But then we realized why he chose those particular three words, “our little secret...” he wanted to keep it quiet and it was not our secret top share... We woke him up and gave him the best cuddle he's ever had and promised that his secret was safe with us.
  4. Everyone can think outside the box, even Fingers McPhee. See how he changed his family's fortunes Idioms are wonderfully creative ways to express yourself. Native speakers use it daily and almost 20 000 of these phrases exist today in the English language. See these expressions used in the context of a funny and colourful story. Teaching an old crook new tricks Language Focus: Idioms counting on him - to rely or depend on someone sell the idea - to persuade (someone) to be interested in and excited about (something) stuck (to stick to) to his guns - hold fast to a statement, opinion, or course of action proof was in the pudding - effectiveness of something can only be determined by putting it to the test put out feelers - ask questions to find out the thoughts or opinions of other people Fingers McPhee was a very proud man. He’s been in the family business from when he was a young boy. It’s a tough old industry and only the very best survive this type of work. You have to be a certain kind of personality to thrive in this game and Fingers had everything that was required. He was motivated, had a keen eye for detail, was always punctual and did his homework very carefully before every assignment. It was no surprise then that the call came for him to be promoted. He was going to run the organisation instead of his older brother, Mumbles. Their father Tony T-bone saw in his son what he wanted in a leader and he was very proud to promote Fingers to his new role within the family. It was an extremely tough time for any crime family and for the McPhees this situation was no different. See, the McPhee Gang were house burglars and made their money from robbing homes. However, these home invasions were not so easy any more as security had become very advanced. Housebreakers had to know how to navigate these hi-tech systems. The McPhee gang was old school and unfortunately hopelessly out-of-date with current security technology. They knew nothing about complex alarm systems, motion sensors and perimeter security. Tony T-Bone had a huge problem. His gang, once one the most crafty and smooth criminals in town were becoming ineffective and losing big contracts to rival gangs. He had to make a plan and Fingers was the man for the job. Fingers knew his father was counting on him to deliver and he was sure he had just the solution for his dad’s problem. However, he was going to have to sell the idea to Tony T-bone very carefully. What he was planning had NEVER been done in housebreaking history, but he was sure it was going to work. He made an appointment to meet his father and discuss the way forward. He arrived early and made his way to a quiet table in the restaurant, right at the back. When Tony T-bone arrived, Fingers had already ordered his father’s favourite dish – a T-bone steak, medium rare with crispy, chilli fries and a double-thick strawberry milkshake. His dad’s smile was wider than Fingers has seen it all week. As Tony sat down, Fingers started discussing his plan. Tony’s smile disappeared and his mouth hung open in disbelief… Was his son really suggesting that the McPhee Gang attend a team building workshop to learn about home security? How is this even possible? We’re criminals, not an under performing sales team. Fingers stuck to his guns, explained everything carefully and had thought of every last detail. For every tough question his father asked, Fingers had a clever answer. Tony T-bone was speechless, but he knew his son and if Fingers said this would work, then he had to give it a try. Tony phoned the crew and gave the instruction to meet at the airport in two days’ time. The McPhee gang had no idea what was planned, but when T-Bone gives an order, they listen. The day of the departure, everyone met at the airport early in the morning. They boarded the flight and within two hours, they were in a hotel conference room being trained on the finer details of sophisticated home security. It wasn’t easy and often it took some real crafty teaching to make sure some of the McPhee crew got the hang of the finer aspects of this trade. After two days, the McPhee men were as close to experts as humanly possible. Things like time management, focussing on your partner’s strong suits and constructive criticism were now part of how the new, improved McPhee Gang spoke and thought. Fingers knew that the proof was in the pudding though. His men had to show what they could do. He put out feelers for the most difficult jobs for he could find. His men were up to the task, and boy, did they deliver! They performed even better than was expected, simply by using their newly learnt skills. They were able to trust each other's judgements, delegate parts of the job to the best suited men and appreciate each other’s advice. There was a new-found energy in the gang. They managed to do things they never even knew existed. Before long, Fingers suggested that the gang re-brand. They were now known as McPhee Enterprises. Housebreaking numbers in every area soured, but the police and security firms had no idea how to stop this crafty and smooth brand of home invaders. Life was good and Fingers found great respect in the underworld because of his out-of-box thinking. T-bone made him head of the family and Fingers rightly deserved the position. The men from McPhee Enterprises started attending a team building session every two months and even looked forward to it. Their abilities went from strength to strength. It was time for Tony T-bone to retire and he did so happily, knowing that his business was in good hands, or shall we say fingers…
  5. Enjoy the story of determined little ballerina who learns a valuable lesson. Anyone can realize their dreams and become who they were meant to be. Discover the importance of friendship and accepting who you are. Language focus: Idioms, adjectives & synonyms Persistent Paulina Focus vocabulary: Persistent adjective (continues doing something or tries to do something in a determined way) Awkward adjective referring to a person (clumsy, uncoordinated, graceless) Awkward adjective referring to a situation (Uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing situation) Focus grammar: Turn her frown upside down idiom (To become happy after being sad.) Made or make fun of idiom (tease or make jokes about.) If there was one thing Paulina wanted to do, it is dance. Not just any type of dancing mind you, Paulina wanted to be a ballerina. She dreamt of this since she was a baby and her desire to become a professional dancer was overwhelming. There was just one small problem… she had extremely short legs, which made dancing, and especially ballet dancing extremely challenging. If her short legs were the only difficulty she faced, that would have been fine, however this was not the case. Ballet dancers are tall, lean and agile to be able to move graciously as they twirl and sway. Paulina on the other hand was short, plump and slightly awkward. The chances of realizing her dream was slim for young Paulina, but this did not deter her from her goal of becoming a ballet dancer one bit. She practiced every day, twice or three times longer than the other dancers did. She watched every YouTube and TikTok video she could find to refine her routine. The other kids laughed and made fun of how she moved and struggled. However, this made Paulina even more steadfast to succeed. Her parents tried to suggest other activities for her do pursue, as they could see how hurt poor Paulina was at all the teasing. She refused and remained tenacious in her mission for ballerina stardom. It wasn’t until her instructor had a talk with Paulina that our little hero decided it was time to move on. “You’re simply not suited to be a ballerina, Paulina,” Miss Davis had said to her one day. So, she left, went home and cried herself to sleep. This went on for weeks and nothing could cheer her up. She did not eat, never smiled anymore and lay on her bed all day long. One evening late, things changed. There was knock at the door, who could it be at this hour? In the doorway stood Roxy who lived three houses down. She asked to speak to Paulina as she had some news that could turn her frown upside down. She grabbed a carrot from the fridge, bounced up the stairs to Paulina’s room and immediately started to talk. The sad, little girl did not feel like listening, but the more Roxy spoke, the more Pauline began to smile, even laughing out loud. See Roxy was part of a modern dance studio on the other side of town. At this dance school everyone and anyone was welcome. There was no time to waste, are you in or out, Roxy wanted to know? “Oh, I am most definitely in,” Paulina said with a smile as wide as a mile. The next morning was Saturday and Roxy came jumping down the road. Paulina was already waiting outside ready to go and happily joined Roxy on her way to the studio. Once Paulina got there, she felt instantly at ease – suddenly she was not the shortest, plumpest or most awkward dancer in the room. Not that it mattered anyway because nobody made fun of anyone – everyone was there to dance and be merry. Roxy took one last bite of the lettuce in her lunchbox and fluffed out her tail. Paulina smiled at her new, silly friend and grabbed Roxy’s furry arm very tight. Together they walked to the dancefloor excited and delighted. Instantly, kind faces, warm smiles and heartfelt hugs welcomed them. A girl called Sally rushed over to say hi and complimented Paulina’s tutu, right behind her were two more dancers, Bernadette and Melanie. The teacher called everyone together and welcomed Paulina as a new member. “There was only one rule”, Miss Hillary said, “Have fun and dance like nobody’s watching”. It was in that moment that Paulina the Pig knew that Roxy the Rabbit came into her life at just the right time. She had found her special place. Gone were the nervousness and worries, replaced by happiness and joy. Pauline danced the night away with Bernadette the Beaver, Melanie the Mouse, Harriet the Hamster and Sally the Squirrel – none of who looked like dancers, but danced very well in their own special way. Questions: What clues did I give that Roxy might not be a person, but an animal? We learnt the new word “persistent”; there are two synonyms (or words that mean the same) in the story. Can you tell me which ones they are?
  6. Students who mostly navigate English at an intermediate level require more challenging vocabulary and phrases, while not losing sight of the story-learning fundamentals 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. 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
  7. When a story peaks our curiosity and interest, it compels us to stay the course. Mini stories are roughly 3–5 minutes long, they consists of audio and text and is made up of three sections, where the vocabulary and patterns are repeated in each section. The stories introduce the basic patterns of a language and a lot of basic vocabulary. Typically, these stories depict people acting in a variety of everyday life situations. Mini Stories & TPRS engaging & effective language learning Curiosity might have killed a cat or two in its time, but it has certainly had a rewarding and overwhelmingly positive influence on language learning. When a story peaks our curiosity and interest, it compels us to stay the course. In a sense, the feeling to find out more can be compared to the widely used, urban acronym FOMO, short for fear of missing out. Coined by author, speaker, venture capitalist, expert entrepreneur, and the host of a thriving podcast Patrick J. McGinnis, the term was widely popularized in a 2004 op-ed in The Harbus, the magazine of Harvard Business School. Basically, a person has a fear of being left out of the loop. The good people at The Urban Dictionary defines it as, “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.” I can totally relate as this condition can often cripple my state of mind at any time… Needing to know and wanting to be included as human, some folks just experience it worse than most. Mini stories are roughly 3–5 minutes long, they consists of audio and text and is made up of three sections, where the vocabulary and patterns are repeated in each section. The stories introduce the basic patterns of a language and a lot of basic vocabulary. Typically, these stories depict people acting in a variety of everyday life situations. The first part of the story is relayed in the third person and makes use of pronouns like he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves. The nature of the story is simple and ordinary as mentioned before. We incorporate everyday, relatable actions and themes for better understanding and credibility. An example might be: Dave works for the San Diego Zoo. He loves all kinds of animals. From childhood, he has always wanted to work with different kinds of animals. When he wakes up in the morning, he is always excited to go to work. Every day he wakes up early, at 6am. His day starts with a cup of coffee, but no breakfast. He drinks his coffee and starts planning his day with the animals. The second step in the mini story process is a first person delivery of the same story. We recount events from the main character’s point of view by using the first person such as "I", "us", "our" and "ourselves". All the while, we are very aware to use the same verbs, vocabulary and language phrases as in the first part. For example: My name is Dave. I work at the San Diego Zoo. I love all kinds of animals. From childhood, I have always wanted to work with different kinds of animals. When I wake up in the morning, I am always excited to go to work. Every day I wake up early, at 6am. My day starts with a cup of coffee, but no breakfast. I drink my coffee and start planning my day with the animals. The third part of the story is where we ask questions about the story to determine comprehension and further engrain context. To make sure that the students understand the questions and the targeted language is clear, it helps to encourage answering in full sentences as opposed to just YES or NO. For instance, you may ask questions like: Q: Does Dave work in the bank? A: No, Dave works at the Zoo. Q: Does Dave only love certain animals? A: No, Dave loves ALL animals. Q: Does Dave wake up at 7am? A: No, Dave wakes up at 6am Unfortunately, to the untrained eye & ear or the intermediate level learner, this type of narrative can seem trivial and almost boring. It makes sense, and if I were to be brutally honest, it is partly true. In spite of this view though, the repetitive nature is in fact the very aspect that makes this language acquisition tool so effective. The fact that TPRS is based entirely on the quality of the content through which it is delivered, is the secret to its success. To ensure it has the impact the language learner deserves, the input needs to comprehensible, yes, but it needs to be engaging and peak the learner’s curiosity. A real page-turner. A plot that intrigues, but one that is conventional or everyday enough for readers & listeners to relate to. By most accounts, the repetitive nature of the story creates an interesting trend. Users report that some details are initially noticed, but then forgotten, only to be observed again when going through the stories again. I find that this constant rediscovery of patterns and phrases as one returns to the text, endears to story even more. The process of “learning and forgetting” is actually part of a bigger knowledge acquisition progression known as interleaving. This process is based on the premise that instead of focusing on mastering a skill or ability before attempting to move forward to something more advanced, one would rather learn in association with other competencies. In the case of mini stories, interleaving helps us to acquire chunks of related language simultaneously within the context of the story. The mindset of trying to master everything before you move on to something new, replaces the idea of learning a variety of structures, through association and as part of a whole. If there is one universal truth, it is that humans need freshness and originality. This particularly true of stories and story learning. When we don’t have these we get bored and frustrated with the stale and the old. Mini stories offer us a mixture of repetition and novelty, which brings us right back to the process of forgetting and remembering or “learning and forgetting” as mentioned previously. There is something strangely exciting about continuously being exposed to vaguely familiar ideas that are only roughly understood. Strangely exciting quickly becomes super exhilarating when one understands content that was incomprehensible, or at least very unclear, just weeks earlier. Mini stories improves your laser-focus and helps with instantly recognizing certain words or patterns when you listen to any content in the target language.
  8. Reading comprehension plays the biggest part in the TPRS protocol in my opinion. Naturally, no step is superior to another, but step 1 and 2 can seem rather insignificant should the comprehension in part three fall short. How much easier do you imagine it must be to “remember” something when you also understand it? Even more so, understanding it within the context of the story and the sentence. Reading comprehension underpins the ability to Re-tell the story, and what is retelling else than explaining? In Step THREE, the students are compelled to further interact with their new phrases to help solidify the language-learning lesson. TPRS – Step 3: Reading Comprehension As we continue on our TPRS journey, the process and more importantly, its sequence slowly should start making sense. We have started strong with identifying the target vocabulary and their meanings. The entire exercise is conducted in such a way that we stay on course or in-bounds as the technical term describes it. Once the meanings are understood, unambiguous and clearly recognizable within context, we dive into step 2. Here of course we tell the story, however because engagement foremost in our minds, we actually “ask” the story. By doing this, we gain the students’ buy-in and the story becomes more relatable. Allowing the story to unfold in the way that the students deem appropriate, keeps things vibrant and flexible. Once all the story-stakeholders are happy with the result, the time for reading comprehension, also known as step THREE rolls around. Reading comprehension plays the biggest part in the TPRS protocol in my opinion. Naturally, no step is superior to another, but step 1 and 2 can seem rather insignificant should the comprehension in part three fall short. That is exactly why the final step in TPRS involves reading. The students are compelled to further interact with their new phrases to help solidify the language-learning lesson. I am reminded about the part of step 1 where we spoke of committing definitions and meanings not only to the short term, but to the long-term memory as well. How much easier do you imagine it must be to “remember” something when you also understand it? Even more so, understanding it within the context of the story and the sentence. I firmly believe that one cannot fully claim to understand a concept if one cannot explain it to someone else. Reading comprehension underpins the ability to Re-tell the story, and what is retelling else than explaining? Reading comprehension increases the enjoyment and effectiveness of reading and helps not only academically, but also professionally, and in a person's personal life. We are chasing the joy of learning, if I am not mistaken… You may recall what both Messrs. Kaufmann and Krashan advocate so passionately, in their promoting of TPRS – successful comprehensible input hinges heavily on a balance between subject matter that is neither too intricate nor too simple. I imagine this to be the reason that when it comes time for the comprehension phase, revision of steps 1 and 2 are done before the reading commences. Re-establishing the meaning and ensuring the translation is fresh in the mind of your students, aids with understanding, no doubt, however it also helps to keep the teacher’s and the students’ expectations reasonable. Creating a solid platform for success (through additional revision) reinforces the students’ belief in themselves, but also in that of the process. This step cannot be rushed and therefor it is important to remember that TPRS reading is not the same as conventional reading. Think of it more as translating, so be mindful of providing your students with a text at their level and chockablock full of the target vocabulary. Do not be concerned if you find yourself translating every word in the text, this is actually best practice. You ensure that your students appreciate how each phrase and line fit into the story and help the tale unfold. We have hammered on the fact that engagement from the students is non-negotiable, so putting extra effort into making the applicable to the students and their frame of reference boost efforts tenfold. Ask them some questions like: Have they had similar experiences? What happened in these situations? What was the eventual outcome? Did they learn something from their encounters? Does it apply here? Why do they think so? Take the time to bring the important elements of the story into the conversation by inquiring which characters they liked and if they noticed parallels between the situations. Culture plays a huge roll in identifying with a language. If there are ethnic or social elements that can make the target vocabulary and structures more concrete, try to include those for better comprehension. This practice of going looking for deeper connections is known as enriching. It is incorporated to establish memory anchors and personal association. As a seasoned ESL teacher, I would be remiss not to at least touch on grammar. I was a bit cautious (or maybe cautiously excited) when I realized that comprehension was favoured to language rules and although I can totally understand the thought process, I was skeptical… My fears were quickly laid to rest when I learnt about pop-up grammar. See, the belief that TPRS does not teach grammar is not entirely true. What is true and refreshing, is that it forms a decidedly smaller part of the focus. With the pop-up grammar approach makes use of very short (about twenty seconds or less), meaning-based grammar explanations. This means that true to in-bounds practices, the grammar is touched upon within the context of the word or phrase’s meaning and not simply the mechanics. With TPRS, you teach grammar as it comes up in the story. The grammar is therefor used exclusively to highlight further the meaning of the target-word or phrase. To cap-off the practical application of the three steps inherent to the TPRS process, it makes sense to focus once again on some of its amazing benefits. TPRS is tailored to exactly what your students need to learn. You choose the exact vocabulary a lesson covers as well as the grammar points you include When you use TPRS, you connect with multiple learning styles. Of course you are talking, which brings in your aural learners. But you are also gesturing, asking students to participate and relying on their creativity to some degree as they make up the story It involves students. Not only are you asking students comprehension questions throughout the storytelling process, you are also asking them to create the story. Grammar is taught contextually.
  9. A great TPRS story is often slow in developing mainly because the teacher spends quite a bit of time elaborating on each bit of targeted language. In the practice of TPRS, the story need not be complex, in actual fact the more straightforward and to the point the better! The reason for this is of course that it aids in comprehension, however it is also done to improve and reinforce student engagement. The story, as we know, is merely the medium here and the true stars of the show are the words and phrases. Personalization of the story by the students offer them the opportunity to make the story relevant to them and relatable to their lives. TPRS Step 2 - Build a story around the target words Steve Jobs once said that “the most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.” I agree with him and I will even go one step further and say that the storyteller makes or breaks the story. By this I mean that if the storyteller does a shabby job, even the most inspiring story can fail to hit the mark and have the impact it should. In the practice of TPRS, the story need not be complex, in actual fact the more straightforward and to the point the better! What it absolutely has to be is targeted and focused on driving home the meaning, context and the understanding of the target vocabulary. Don't get me wrong straightforward does not mean boring, not by a long-shot. It simply means that it needs to be easily understood. We have said before that the complexities of the story are often overlooked by the story-listeners, while the gist and plot are always committed to memory. It would be extremely foolish to incorporate lavish detail into the telling of the tale, only to have these elaborate elements overshadow the target phrases and vocabulary. A great TPRS story is often slow in developing mainly because the teacher spends quite a bit of time elaborating on each bit of targeted language. The reason for this is of course that it aids in comprehension, however it is also done to improve and reinforce student engagement. The technique is called parking and it happens when teachers momentarily stop the unfolding of events in the story. This is done to allow for checking, re-checking and solid vocabulary understanding. Time is taken to review and this often lasts for quite a bit of time. The story, as we know is merely the medium here and the true stars of the show are the words and phrases. One aspect of the parking method that is absolutely integral to success is how the questions (to the students) are phrased. In a sense, the teacher does not so much tell the story as ask the story. The reason to ask stories instead of telling them is that it gives students increased ownership. Together they determine the characters, the setting and the details. The ask-story questions have to prompt the learners not only to answer in a certain way, but also to incorporate in the their answers, the targeted vocabulary. It is during these pauses that extremely important developments happen. Not only is comprehension nailed down, but in the process of doing this, teachers get students to personalize the story. This personalization of the story by the students offers them the opportunity to make the story relevant to them and relatable to their lives. The norm is that stories from movies, folklore and songs are usually set in stone, but this is not the case with TPRS stories. They develop according to the students' answers – remember it's key for them to engage. When questions are asked, the students' replies will vary and often be a bit off the beaten track. Teachers have to latch on to these twists and turns in the story and adjust their script accordingly. By allowing the students to set the course for where the story is headed has many benefits for the learning journey, but none as great as familiarity and conviction. When they offer a plot twist and it is agreed to that the story moves in that direction, the students feel heard and incorporated. Their ideas are not strange and they have no reason to feel self conscious or silly. Not only does the student who made the suggestion benefit from the teacher's and the story's validation of their ideas, the acknowledgment offers the other learners an opportunity to grow in confidence. They understand that creativity is rewarded and become inspired to push the boundaries of their imagination. All of a sudden there is a certain child-like anticipation in the air and the students are recommitted (or more committed) to the process. Unlike standard narratives that are per-determined, this type or personalizing keeps the story dynamic and adaptable. After completion of the story, the teacher has the option to retell it in a briefer form, or (and this is even better) he/she may ask the students to retell it in their own words. When a process reaches this level of active engagement, incorporates different senses and welcomes all contributions, there can be no other logical outcome than pure enjoyment and most importantly learning.
  10. TPRS begins with choosing words in the target language for the lesson and defining their meaning before telling a story that uses them. TPRS has at its core the starting and ending with the correct words that you want to teach your students. From an language-teaching-angle, target words are the stars of the story. It is absolutely crucial to create an early foundation for meaning in TPRS teaching. The last thing we want is for the learners to guess meaning and misinterpret context. How to implement TPRS correctly for effective language learning As the popular saying goes: "people don't remember facts and figures, they remember the stories". Stories are an old but always current tool for conveying meaning and fixing ideas in our memory. Using stories within the language classroom can turn language learning into a smooth and stimulating process. Today we continue our journey to find more interesting, engaging and effective ways of language learning. TPRS – or Teaching (language) Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, comes under the spotlight once again. Before we jump in, we have to make a very important distinction. There is a marked difference between language learning and language acquisition. The former is a classroom activity with a great amount of focus placed on grammar structures, drilled in through standardized testing. While the latter comes from a natural interaction with language, such as spontaneous communication. Steven Krashen argues that the input (comprehensible input) needs to be easily enough understood on its own. If it’s too hard, people give up, and if it’s too easy, people tend lose interest. One has to look for the perfect blend so that lessons are approachable and learning targets should be within reach. In this way, students feel less apprehensive about language-learning and encouraged to engage with the content. Through spaced repetition, context, and interesting stories, TPRS helps support language-learning efforts. TPRS begins with choosing words in the target language for the lesson and defining their meaning before telling a story that uses them. Finally, the lesson finishes up with reading that reinforces the words covered in the lesson. The three steps involved in the practical application of the TPRS technique each deserve their rightful standing. As such, we will discuss them all in detail and individually. 1. Selecting the target vocabulary and confirming their definitions. TPRS has at its core the starting and ending with the correct words that you want to teach your students. From an language-teaching-angle, target words are the stars of the story. It's vital for learners to become familiar with the targeted words/phrases. get acquainted with the selected words. Therefore, give them time to understand the target words’ meaning and learn their pronunciation. According to most of my research, the most effective approach is to choose a maximum of three words as to not stretch learners' attention and efforts too much. When you’re done choosing the target words, immediately establish their meanings for your students. The fastest way of establishing the meaning of new words is by translation. Write the translations on the board. The translations provide not only the crucial input for comprehension, but also allows the learners a type of safety net – to glance at when needed. You could also attempt to drive home meaning by the showing of pictures representing the words/phrases you want to focus on. Yet another way to drill down on meaning is to gesture or demonstrate the action itself or another action associated with the target word. It is absolutely crucial to create an early foundation for meaning in TPRS teaching. The last thing we want is for the learners to guess meaning and misinterpret context. Teachers have to insure that every word that they use is perfectly understood. This might seem a little far-fetched, especially in the non-native language-learning set-up. The instructor has to be mindful about staying in-bounds by seeing to it that no foreign word or phrase may be considered vague or open to interpretation. TPRS is renowned for its comprehensive comprehension checks. When applied correctly and diligently, there will be strong indicators of understanding. This will signify the readiness of the students to progress on to a new lesson. What works really well in this instance is to identify a student that could serve as measuring mark. Usually it will be a student that finds the process somewhat more challenging than the rest. Once the teacher is happy that this learner grasps the vocabulary, progression to a new lesson is possible. Progression and comprehension, at this stage, is largely banked in the short-term memory unfortunately. Some teachers might move on to new words and phrases and find that the students have forgotten the meanings the very next day. To commit these meanings, pronunciations and comprehensions to the long term memory, repetition and continued comprehension checks are vital.
  11. TPRS – or Teaching (language) Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling is the practice of teaching vocabulary in a highly understandable and contextualized or appropriate manner. Once the focus moves from only teaching grammar and correction to understanding word-context and appreciating word-understanding, true language learning is the result! The two aspects at the heart of TPRS is reading and storytelling. TPRS keeps the learner engaged and entertained, through careful repetition in a varied and interesting manner. All areas of learning and understanding are maximized in this way. TPRS - Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling TPRS – or Teaching (language) Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling is the practice of teaching vocabulary in a highly understandable and contextualized or appropriate manner. I was immediately attracted to this philosophy because of the two terms at the heart of it – reading and storytelling. With TPRS, however the focus moves from teaching grammar and correction to understanding word-context and appreciating word-understanding. Think of it this way, repeating the same few vocabulary structures in the same way, in the same context and with the same activities makes instruction feel boring and frustrating. If you choose to use stories as the basis of the learning, you can make use of different kinds of stories – fairytales, movie plots, song lyrics or historical events. In other words, keep it interesting and engaging. I have to admit, when I saw the term TPRS, I immediately thought, it had something to do with how you teach non-native children. Especially those in Asian language schools. TPR in this case is short for Total Physical Response. The technique involves using your body (face, hands, gestures and expressions) to explain new words and phrases to young learners. When I thought about if or a minute, I realized that the two practices do actually come down to the same thing – keeping the learner engaged and dare I say entertained, through repetition in a varied and interesting manner. Imagine my surprise when I read (literally a minute later) that Blaine Ray, a Californian teacher of Spanish, developed TPRS in the 90’s. He had his start by borrowing techniques from another teaching method called TPR (Total Physical Response) developed by James Asher. Why is it so successful in the teaching of new languages though? I did some digging and came across some brilliant YouTube videos and some truly constructive blog posts. One of these blogs led me to a man called Steven Kaufmann. Wow. Wow. Wow. How inspiring is this guy? This is what Wikipedia says about him: “Steve Kaufmann is a Swedish-born Canadian polyglot (speaker of multiple languages). As of 2022, he has an understanding of 20 languages; Kaufmann has spent over 50 years studying languages. He advocates total immersion (or engagement) in the learning process. He places great emphasis on absorbing the language by reading texts and by not worrying too much about unfamiliar words, believing that they will gradually be acquired through repeated reading.” Even his bio is impressive, right?! The blog I read first centered on CI – comprehensible or compelling input. It explains why language input that can be understood by learners even when they do not understand all the words and structures in a given text, or bit of audio to which they are listening. It does not have to be 100% comprehensible. Kaufmann explains why TPRS, which is based 100% on comprehensible input, is so effective in learning languages. It’s logical – you read, you listen and THEN you attempt to speak It’s convenient – you can literally practice it anywhere – watching T.V, doing the dishes or while driving No fear of mistakes – when you speak, you can make a blunder, but when you listen, not so much It doesn’t cost much – content for input is available EVERYWHERE It’s custom-made – you choose what you want, so it’s always interesting It has to be noted that Kaufmann’s comments in this regard, has more to do with individual language learners as it does with students in a classroom environment. TPRS however, can be/and is applied with equal success in more traditional educational settings as well. If TPRS is to be successful in the physical classroom environment, teachers have to come to the party, as they say. Their stories HAVE TO be animated. They cannot be static or even seated to a large degree. They have to move around, wave, shrug, nod and point. This is not the time to be shy - raise your voice, break into song and whisper. Get the students to act out the parts of the tale, pretend different areas in the classroom represents locations in the storyline and to drive it home, consider adding costumes and a dress-up. The more emotionally engaging (and comprehensible) teachers make input; the less repetition will be needed. So where do we begin with the practical application of the TPRS teaching method? Well firstly, I feel very strongly that you have to drink the Cool Aid – this is urban slang for accepting the method completely and trusting the process. Buying in, so to speak. Next step, adopt the right attitude – self-consciousness has no place in this type of instruction – park your insecurities and prepare to be goofy, emotional and over-the-top. Finally, remind yourself that there is still a targeted lesson (vocabulary & comprehension) at the end of all of this. Slowly start calming proceedings down and tie all of the input together. Make sure the students have taken from this experience what you intended to provide. Next week we’ll start dissecting the elements of focus during the practical application of this technique. 1. Selecting the target vocabulary and confirming their definitions. 2. Telling the actual story, while making use of these target words. 3. Reading with your students texts that uses the target words.
  12. Story Telling is the most wonderful method of teaching When you learn with stories, you don’t just learn a language, you learn to use the language from a practical perspective. The biggest pull when reading a story is to discover what happens next. So, learning with stories means you to focusing on the events of the story, instead of the grammar of the language. This focus on meaning, helps you communicate in the language from the start. Storytelling – learning as old as time Story Telling is the most wonderful method of teaching. This traditional approach to teaching can be traced back to our ancestors thousands of years ago when they sat around the campfire hearing stories, myths and legends passed down from generation to generation. Without getting too hung up on the ancient practices and cultural relevance of storytelling, let’s focus on something practical and contemporary – your job or livelihood… How many times have we heard this line before - ‘Tell me about yourself?’. This is a common question that many of you have probably faced in job interviews. Many of us simply summarize our education, work experience and our current situation. But is that enough to make an impression on the interviewer? What employers really want is to feel comfortable with the idea of hiring you. This is where storytelling comes to the rescue. Stories give you an opportunity to create an emotional rapport with the person you’re speaking to. Read on to understand the importance of storytelling in the corporate world. Businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of storytelling. It’s a vital communication skill that helps employees engage better at work. You can sharpen your leadership and management skills by embracing powerful storytelling techniques. Storytelling has wonderful and diverse benefits like: CREATEING RELEVANCE INCREASING UNDERSTANDING ENHANCING CREATIVITY IMPROVING DECISION-MAKING INCREASING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT Back to why we’re here… Language learning and how to simplify the process. In my opinion too much focus is placed on short term gains – passing a proficiency exam or preparing for an interview. The goal or destination overshadows the journey and in most language learning instances, the journey cannot be discounted. Storytelling is all about the voyage, or actually the expedition! The details are vital, the unusual and intriguing become remarkable and … memorable. Learning a language does not just mean acquiring vocabulary or language rules. Knowing a language means appreciating the culture, and being able and willing to interact with others. When you learn with stories, you don’t just learn a language, you learn to use the language from a practical perspective. The biggest pull when reading a story is to discover what happens next. So, learning with stories means you to focusing on the events of the story, instead of the grammar of the language. This focus on meaning, helps you communicate in the language from the start. In stories, every word appears in context. You are more likely to learn the correct way to use a word if you see it in context, especially if the new word is important to the story. Learning through story is no longer just black and white information on the pages of a textbook. Every detail of the language appears in glorious colour. Stories allow you to focus on communication, and lead to a deep, powerful knowledge of the language, in just the same way as children learn their first language.
  13. Learn to grasp these completely abstract terms, which are often vague and open to interpretation. Idioms, expressions and metaphors form an integral part of the English language. It is vital that language learners understand and appreciate the abstract nature of these figures of speech. Storytelling helps not only by forming a mental picture, but a concrete sense of understanding as well. The sequence of the story affords the students chronological order and assists with crucial association. Understanding idioms through storytelling I am a non-native English speaker teaching English as a second language. I have been doing it for close to 15 years and I love to see the process unfold. There are two types of language learners – the auditory and visual learners. Visual Learners are those that need to see pictures to visualize. Auditory Learners: those who need to hear the information. I have two extremely auditory children, with amazing creative imaginations. They couldn't be more different in other ways though – a pragmatist and a dreamer... Nevertheless, my kids constantly join me on my language teaching journey and I really enjoy seeing them grow and develop with me. They are fortunate to hear and speak English daily, but sometimes even they need to be corrected or guided. This is especially true with things like abstract language... But more on that a bit later. It wasn't until my late thirties that I became fascinated by storytelling and the awesome benefits good copy can have on how a story is understood and appreciated. I became very interested in copy-writing and understanding sequencing in stories. The ability to sequence events in a text is a key comprehension strategy, especially for narrative texts or stories. Sequencing (in language learning) refers to the identification of the components of a story — the beginning, middle, and end — and also to the ability to retell the events within a given text in the order in which they occurred. The beginning of the story usually introduces the main characters, setting, and problem faced by or purpose of the characters. The middle part of the story usually focuses on the characters as they try and solve the problem. The end of the story focuses on how the problem is resolved, or the end of the characters' journey. Sequencing is often made easier by the use of transition words. Beginning your story – first of all or in the beginning Continuing the story - You can continue the story with the following expressions, or use a time clause beginning with "as soon as" or "after." Interruptions and Adding New Elements to the Story - Suddenly, all of a sudden, without warning etc. Ending the Story - Finally, in the end Movie directors often use sequencing in storyboards to help them visualize what will happen in each scene. Storyboards show what will happen in each camera shot just like the panels of a comic book tell a story. As a reader (or storyteller), you can also think of the sequence of events like a storyboard. But it's not only sequence of events that often have to be described and explained. It's very likely that (as a teacher or a parental explainer) you have come across metaphors and abstract language (naming things that are not available to the senses). You probably had a tough time explaining these concepts, and rightly so – they are difficult to understand, especially for a non-native. Back to my daughters for a bit now... My eldest is an inquisitive little person that has a mind of her own. She loves figuring out puzzles, rubric cubes and riddles. She likes things to work systematically. Her younger sibling however wings life (and everything else) at the best of times. She can often be found expressing herself through pictures. Very emotional, but also very emotionally mature. She makes no secret of how she feels, and because she feels very intensely, she can be a bit dramatic. To get her to relax before bedtime, we often tell stories – made up ones mostly, but also ones from folklore and history. It was one such evening while we were lying in bed together that my daughter asked me about something she's heard at school – an idiom or expression... She made it very clear that even though she understood the meaning of EVERY word the teacher used in the sentence (in question) the meaning of the phrase turned out to be something completely different to what she's thought. Now she was confused, but also intrigued – let's look at more idioms and make up stories so we could both discover and rediscover what was meant when they were coined originally. We ended up making up stories (about animals mostly) in the most bizarre fashion. There were pigs who ran marathons and went on diets, a rooster and a hen who swapped gender roles for a week, a hamster ballerina, a fox who lost his precious tail and bull who always thought the grass on the other side of the fence was greener... It was amazing to witness how quickly she grasped these completely abstract terms, which were often vague and open to interpretation. A non-native learner may find it hard to pin down the exact meaning. Every story had a moral or a little life lesson. This lesson is then tied to a character(s) who had a few things in life thrown their way, but survived and excelled to spite all the setbacks. We also practice these lesson with her narrating the story. She of course has a rather illuminating view of the world, so her narrating tends to be slightly long-winded! I find the process of internalizing the idea and making the concept your own/familiar and relate-able is far more effective and rewarding that learning it by heart – from a book! My students get to practice sequencing, vocabulary building, descriptive language, analytical thinking, cause and effect, as well as collocations or word pairings. I believe we're on to something and my daughter is already putting out feelers about the feasibility of making our stories into a book. In other words she is re-telling the story to her friends and getting some awesome feedback. I like where this is going!
  14. Storytelling has been described as the oldest technique in second language (L2) learning. Some of the benefits of storytelling in teaching and studying second languages include: Increased development of language skills, Improved comprehension and personal interaction community building, and multi-cultural understanding. Storytelling – the gateway to better English It doesn't matter who you are and where you're from – everyone enjoys a good story! Storytelling connects us, helps us make sense of the world, and communicates our values and beliefs. A good story makes us think and feel, and speaks to us in ways that numbers, data, and presentation slides simply can't. Perhaps the thing that makes us human is the stories (real and imagined) that each of us has inside. Many people think that the gift of storytelling belongs only to writers, shamans, and the very old. The reality is we are all storytellers from the very earliest days of our lives. As a copywriter and ex-digital marketer, storytelling has become second nature to me. I have been tasked many times before with putting a face to a brand and making the product or service more familiar and relate-able. In my attempts to blend my copy-writing skills with my teaching offering, I have learnt quite a few things. None of them were as crucial as this - A great story must be true, authentic, and honest. This tag-line ties in very nicely with how storytelling relates to teaching ESL. The storytelling in English Language Learning must be true (if the story is factual, the details are easier to remember and re-tell.) Authentic (if the story is genuine and original, it makes it more relate-able) Honest (when sharing their reason for learning a new language, students need to be realistic and forthright with both their teacher and their expectations. As a second language teacher, I too build my lessons on the solid foundations that stories provide. I often spend up to (and on occasion, more than) 20 minutes on asking my students to tell me their life story. I ask open-ended questions and encourage my learners to speak openly, but most importantly freely – without hesitation. The results are amazing – every single time. Not only do we create and atmosphere of comfort and safety, we also learn to trust each other and the process. A relaxed learner is a confident learner. Confidence is a crucial element in the acquiring of any skill, language learning is no different. Familiarity enhances confidence and adds authenticity. What I mean by this is that because my students are intimately familiar with their own stories, they are less anxious about telling them. They add some much-needed detail in their recounting and in the process provide me with rich and colourful mental pictures. Storytelling has been described as the oldest technique in second language (L2) learning. Scientists contend that our minds are literally wired to comprehend best the world through narrative or storytelling. Some of the benefits of storytelling in teaching and studying second languages include: Increased development of language skills, Improved comprehension and personal interaction community building, and multi-cultural understanding. Language Learning classes has been shown to enhance the four language skills of listening, speaking, writing and reading. Using storytelling gets the learner interested in the process; thereby, allowing students to become engaged with the use of the target language. When engagement is increased and personalized, learners start expressing their own stories in meaningful ways. The benefits of teaching through storytelling are multifaceted. Beside the language skills benefits, storytelling helps students with: increasing motivation, stimulating imagination, and developing fluency in language skills Telling a story produces an immediate response from the audience and is one of the surest ways to establish a rapport between the listeners and the storyteller. There is a personal relationship set up between individuals involved, since the storyteller establishes direct eye contact with the group. I have found most of my students to be decidedly more comfortable with expressing themselves through the written word, than orally. In my teaching of Cambridge BEC Vantage preparation, I have found great value in the written cues instructors offer candidates to spark the conversation and get the momentum going. I've started using a similar method in my classes to transform written text into oral presentation via storytelling. In my case, linking the oral and written forms of language definitely helped students whose preparation had been largely based on the written word to participate more fully in oral interaction.
  15. Your accent does not define your ability to speak English. Use it to your advantage. Your accent as a non-native English Speaker will not hold you back when you speak. See how Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Cruz and Shakira got over accent bias and used their accents to their advantage Your accent is unique and part of your heritage and culture. Be proud of how you speak, but know how to fix pronunciation! Schwarzenegger's accent becomes his biggest asset Arnold Schwarzenegger is arguably the biggest action hero of the nineties and many believe to be one of the best body builders to ever take up the sport. It is virtually impossible to mention his name without immediately referencing other former Hollywood greats like Willis, Stallone and Jean-Claude van Damme. He has starred in many blockbuster movies, most notably The Terminator franchise, however his comedic side has also been on show, often with awesome effect and fantastic results. Movies like Kindergarten Cop, Twins and Junior comes to mind and call up nostalgic memories at their mere mention. But not only has Arnie made killer movies, be crowned the youngest EVER Mr Universe and marry a Kennedy (which is as close as the Americans can get to a Royal Family), he also managed to run successfully as governor of the state of California. A pretty impressive resume for a self-proclaimed immigrant from a small town in Austria, wouldn't you say? A poster-boy for guts, determination and drive, if ever there was one. But what makes his achievements especially remarkable is the fact that he was constantly met with negativity – from anyone and everyone. His accent was too strong, his vocabulary too weak, his name awkward and impossible to pronounce... How silly do these folks feel today? Not only has Arnie's name become instantly pronounceable, but that very same thick Austrian accent has become his trademark... Everyone has an accent, it's unavoidable. Accents are born when speakers of the same language become isolated and, through evolution, unwittingly agree on new names or pronunciations for words. The “quality” of your English does not depend on the origin of your accent. There’s no such thing as a “good” or “bad” accent. “Accent bias” often finds its way into a situation where natives and non-native English speakers speak. This is a kind of prejudice that causes a person to make unfair judgements about another person based on that individual’s accent. So, even though your accent doesn't necessarily point to accuracy in spoken English, an understanding of clarity in English, and how your pronunciation can affect communication, does matter, and that’s something you can improve. Arnold Schwarzenegger recognized that if he wanted to learn English well, he had to be surrounded by as much English as possible. He took English classes in order to be able to read newspapers and magazines, and to be able to take classes on other subjects, in English. He, along with other famous non-mother-tongue English speakers like Penelope Cruz and Shakira all have inspiring stories of their English journeys, but there are THREE distinct aspects that overlap in their approaches: Use Materials from Real Life Arnold read newspapers. Penelope read movie scripts. Shakira read English language books. These are examples of materials from real life. Understand Why You Want to Learn English All three celebrities had a specific goal in mind when learning English, and kept focusing on it as they progressed in their studies. This forces you to take your learning more seriously, instead of treating it as a hobby. Immerse Yourself in English You can watch TV shows in English, join local conversation groups in English, or even participate in online forums.
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