Dear Everybody, when I am going to tell a new story I need to "try it on for size".

Dear Everybody,

                       When I am going to tell a new story I need to "try it on for size". To do this I shut my eyes and mumble the story to myself. This could be in the bath, it could be while going for a walk, it could be in any situation where I feel in good contact with myself. The first time I mumble the focus is on getting the plot right and not leaving vital bits out. The second mumbling brings descriptive and linguistic enrichment. The third time I mumble I concentrate on voioce, pauses and timings.

"Mumbling" to oneself is a major language learning tool and is not the preserve of teachers. Let me share with you this exercise that I learnt from a brilliant teacher of adults in Toulouse, France, Anne Pechou.

Give your students ( intermediate up) a collection of short stories ( I have used Dahl) and ask each of them to read a story. Designate which story so that all the stories are being read. (Some stories may be rad by two or three people.) Tell the students that for homework they are to mumble their  story to themselves several times as preparation for telling in class. Tell them to "mumble" and not to write or take notes. ( Some students may find this a bizarre instruction and may be unused to this kind of very auditory strategy.)

In class choose the students who has had time to do the homework properly. If you can, sit about 10 of these people in a circle facing inwards with the rest of the students in a concentric outer circle also facing inwards. If fixed benches make this seating arrangement impossible then have the circle of ten in an inward facing circle at the the front of the classroom.

 Ask each student , including the ones in the outer circle to shut their eyes and mumble their story soundlessly from beginning to end.

Now ask the people in the inner circle to start to mumble again from the beginning but tell them that when you call out a name that person will bring their story "up above ground" and speak the next bit aloud, while all the others hold their stories at the point where you called out the first name. Only allow the narrating aloud student to say a snippet of a couple of sentences and then call out another name and so on round the group until all the people in the inner circle have been heard. Now ask all the inner circle student to carry on mumbling for about 90 seconds and then have another round of snippets.  By now the whole group will have heard two snippets from each of the ten story-telling students.

Tell all the students to up, move and gather round the teller whose story they  now want to hear from beginning to end. Make sure each teller has at least one listener.

I know of no better way of introducing a collection of short stories than the Pechou activity just outlined.

Try it yourself.  Instead of short stories you might ask the students to mumble-prepare a personal story.

Warmly yours,   Mario


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