Ask a Story

Updated: Mar 19

In this post:

Stories make us human

The teacher becomes the learner

What is story asking?

Why is it effective?

Tip: Try reading this post with Language Reactor!

Stories make us human

We connect with other people through the stories we tell. It’s through stories that we experience our lives, our family, even our nationality.

Children love stories, of course. We grow up enjoying books that our parents read to us before bedtime. Do you remember the pictures in your favorite book? Or maybe the smell of the paper, the crackle of the pages as they turn? Or maybe you remember the closeness of your parent, the melody of their voice. It’s an important bonding experience for young children.

If you like stories (and you probably do), let me tell you a story. This is a story about a teacher - me.

The teacher becomes the learner

During the pandemic, I was teaching all my lessons online like most other teachers. I quickly discovered how very different it was, how difficult it was to hold someone’s attention, especially when technology got in the way - bad sound, unstable connection, poor picture, too many people in a group, etc.

So I started looking for more effective ways to teach English in Zoom sessions. I decided to become a student myself.

I signed up for online language courses, teaching methodology workshops, and I even earned a Neurolanguage© coaching certificate. It was all a good experience for me and it opened my eyes to the limits of online learning, but also the potential.

One online workshop in particular illustrated the bad and good aspects of online courses. In the Zoom sessions there were more than 50 people attending! Only a few people could actually participate. It was difficult to sit in front of the camera and look “interested”. A lot of people simply turned off their cameras.

But the subject of the workshop was really useful. It was about using stories to teach languages.

Of course, telling stories isn’t new. Storytelling is as old as humanity itself. And language textbooks are full of stories for reading, listening to, and analyzing grammar and vocabulary.

This technique isn’t about story telling, but rather about story asking.

What is story asking?

This is a language teaching technique that builds on one of our brain’s favorite activities: telling stories.

Story asking starts with a character, a place, a desire, and a problem. Then we ask questions to discover the story. We meet more characters in the process, maybe have some adventures, and in the end we discover the solution to the problem.

That’s it! It’s so simple.

Why is it effective?

Conversation practice

The story asking technique is basically a conversation. The first questions are simple: Who is this? What’s her name? How old is she? Where does she live? What does she want? The rest is asking and answering questions. The process of suggesting, accepting and rejecting ideas creates a discussion. Students learn cooperation, negotiation and problem solving - all conversation skills.

Learning to be conversational is one of the main aims of many language learners. And it can be one of the most difficult achievements for some.


Neural connections


All levels

The End

My story ends happily: students are learning in every lesson, and I am enjoying their growing confidence and satisfaction. I now use Story Asking in many of my group lessons, both online and face-to-face.

If you are interested in starting a story with me, I invite you to join to my mailing list today. I offer a free private consultation with me, and one free group lesson, too.

If you’re looking for another way to learn, please check out my podcast with my friend Ruth Taylor, “Grammar Conversations.”

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