Beyond Graded Readers …How Short Stories can Stimulate Classroom Language Learning (Skills).

In my 25 years of teaching I have encountered more than my fair share of language course books. Some were excellent whilst others left little to be desired. One recent book left me so uninspired that I even decided to write my own book at the beginning of Lockdown.

As a source of inspiration, one of my favourite books I distinctly remember from when was a young EAL teacher was the Heinemann Integrated Skills, (it included Ronald Dahl’s famous ‘Leg of Lamb’ story), which was both captivating and involving – just what was needed for a Friday afternoon class! There were various resources and activities linked with this story which promoted a ‘multi-lingual’ approach to learning which, for me at the time, seemed very Avant-Garde and a way to stimulate deeper-learning than just going through a bog-standard, topic-based EAL book, (which unfortunately are sought after by a wider world where exams seem to be the measure of just about everything!). This particular story was not only riveting but, when other resources were added to it, the learning environment could be truly stimulating and interactive. From this story, we created role-play, drama and other interactive language skills ranging from listening activities to dictogloss and creative writing exercises.

Everyone loves a good story and, of course, the power of a good story is that it can keep the reader enraptured, it can concentrate ‘wavering’ minds and assist students in a multilingual approach if used correctly- through the conscious to the sub-conscious. Rather than just being viewed as simply a reading or possibly a listening and reading exercise, stories are full of language which can help incorporate speaking and listening activities, as well as pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary exercises to name but a few. 

Of course, Graded-Readers provide EAL students with the opportunity to read and perhaps listen to the language within a story but, in my mind, they are only skin-deep and should be tapped further to extract their full linguistic potential as they could offer so much more.

Thankfully, I am pleased to report that I have nearly finished writing my skills-based EAL book which is centered around a story at B2 Level. It is a Thriller and should be out before long. It can be used for learners of General English though it has been set up to include, practice and consolidate individual skills elements relating to the main B2-level EAL exams – B2 First (First Certificate), IELTS, & IGCSE. There is a grammar and vocabulary section and students can, in many ways, pick and choose the exercises they do. The book will be coming out in the next few weeks and there will be more to follow on this in next week’s Blog.

Have a good week!


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