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



Hi Mario,

Looks to be a good fluency development exercise. I hope to conduct this activity in the comming days.


Praveen Raj.V



Dear Praveen,

                    Mumbling works as a homework exercise precisely because it is a natural procedure. In a language in which we lack proficiency inner rehearsal before a communicative encounter is a thing all good language leasrners do instinctively. When I was in Germany and had very little language I would stand in a ticket queue at the rail station and repeat to myself over and over " Frankfurt hin und zuruck, zweite Klasse [Frankfurt return, second class]. The procedure allowed me to check pronunciation and intonation and dissipate the fog of linguisitc anxiety all around me.

I guess you may well have done similar things in your lesser known languages.

Warmly yours,    Mario

Hi Mario,

The techninque really worked. I won't it say it all went well but the class really did its best. After that mumbing and viualisation, I was able to make them partcipate in the class. but the drawback was they got struck inbetween,since their they had limited language poficiency  and so the next day what we did was I made everyone to write some clues in a card and then we conducted the activity again.This time they were more confident  and at the end most of them said they wanted similar activities often.Anyway Thank you Mario... Cheers,Praveen Raj





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