Thursday, February 28, 2008

Motivate Your English Language Learners Using Comedy, Anecdotes and Stories

Add These Suggestions to Your “Bag of Tricks”
Inherently, most people really do like to talk. That includes your English language learners too, although sometimes you have to literally pry the speech from their frozen lips by any means necessary. Have you tried using comedy, anecdotes, stories and fairy tales to lure them into speaking activities? If not, consider adding these five suggestions to your English or foreign language teaching “bag of tricks”.

1. Tell an Anecdote
Everyone has a personal store of humorous stories, happenings or anecdotes that they’re willing to tell. With learners and teachers alike, many of these might even originate in the EFL classroom. Family, friends, romantic interludes and vacation travels can also account for a number of these.

2. Tell a Story
In many countries there is a tradition of passing down stories, fables and history through a series of verbal sessions by “Griots”, or village story-tellers. Your learners may well a few of these they’re willing to share before the class. Why not open up this option to them? There’s no problem either, with using a few small, well-chosen props to aid in the story telling exercise.

3. Narrate a Fable
It’s not only children who love stories, fairy tales and fables. Whether the origin is European, African, Latin American or Asian, your learners can try their hand at relating a well-known, or not so well-known, story or fable they know. If it originates from a local culture, it could be quite interesting for you too and is an excellent way to help to delve more deeply into the local or national culture.

4. Re-Tell a Fairy Tale
The most popular fairy tales, in practically any country, are often ones you heard or learned as a child. Allow your English language learners to try their hand at telling or re-telling these fairy tales in English using their own words, idioms, expressions and language skills to do so. They needn’t stick to the “original” version either. A change of endings, modified characters and plot twists are most welcome, thank you very much.

5. Tell a Joke
Who doesn’t enjoy humor? Everyone knows a few good jokes or a joker or two who can give you a few good jokes to tell. Go onto the internet for a slew of these. Check out your local library for collections of riddles, jokes and humorous stories that might be used to stimulate speaking practice in English class. Did you hear the one about …

So if you haven’t tried using comedy, anecdotes, stories and fairy tales to lure your English language learners and reluctant students into speaking activities consider adding these five suggestions to your English or foreign language teaching “bag of tricks”. Remember, if you have any further questions, comments or assistance, just e-mail me. I’ll be happy to help.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" or "7 Techniques to Motivate Your English Language Learners and Make Your Classes More Dynamic" by requesting the title you want at:


Kazahn said...
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Anonymous said...

Talking about personal anecdotes gives security to students because this is a very familiar theme. To narrate a story or a fable and change the text or the context of a story invites the student to participate, as they do not feel stress to adhere to a strict script.