Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Fable of Aesop

One day, an ESL Teacha was thinking of ways to make his conversation students actually speak English in class. The Teacha thinked and thinked until he was all thunk out. "Oh well, I guess I will just repeat the Aesop's Fables lesson plan I have done before. It wasn't too bad, and some students did actually speak English." In the lesson, teams of students performed one of Aesop's fables in front of the class.

The Teacha also knew that this lesson plan forced students to wrestle with English comprehension in a way that was new to them--they had to simplify the language of an old-fashioned story and make it clear and easy-to-understand.

The time came for the lesson to be implemented. In the first session, teams of students got an Aesop fable of their own to read and simplify, and make into a script. The story was already in English and students were told to rewrite or restate complicated words and sentences in easy English.

Alas, some of the ESL Teacha's helpers "helped" students to rewrite their story in Korean and then translate it back into English. Using "grammar-translation" like this impedes fluency and should rarely be done according to modern language teaching theory. When the Teacha found out, he chewed up the bad assistant helpers into small pieces, spit them out, and buried them behind the library in a kimchi pot, never to be seen again.

In the second session, the students presented their stories in front of the class. As the teacha expected, some of the teams just stood in front of the room and took turns reading parts of the original story without much change. But many of the teams stripped away arcane language, found the key parts of the story and acted it out so other students could understand it! Also, they enjoyed themselves a little bit.

The moral of the story: "Aesop's fables are still accessible today--2500 years and 10,000 miles away!"

I've montaged together one of the stories above, the Bear and the Two Travelers, and will do the same treatment to two or three others if I have the energy. However, I would appreciate feedback on whether you were able to hear and understand the story as told this way--does it need subtitles or captions? Thanks.

For the record, I started with a version of each story at, then did some amount of editing and simplifying myself before printing out two copies per team. I chose stories on the basis of: 1) did I like it? 2) did it have some action, not just dialogue? 3) did it have some dialogue, not just action? 4) is it short? 5) could it be staged sensibly, with just a desk, a chair and some paper plate masks? 6) did it have 4 characters? (I also have one story with 3 and one with 5 to cover my bases.)

1 comment:

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

I'm jealous of your enthusiastic students. That is all.