Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, April 29, 2005

Exaggeration

by AJ

There is a baby. He walks to the fridge. He takes out ice cream, chocolate, and milk. He carries them to a table. There is a bowl, knife, and banana on the table. He picks up the knife and cuts the banana into pieces. He puts the pieces into the bowl. Then he puts the ice cream on top of the banana. He pours milk into the bowl.

He doesnt have a fork. He doesnt have a spoon. So he eats with a knife. He gets food on his face, his chest, and his arms. He gets food on his shirt and pants. His mother comes into the room and screams. She takes him to the sink and washes him. Now he is a clean baby. The baby is happy and so is his mother.


That, more or less, is a story I used for Monday's classes. Its taken from Blaine Ray's book, Look I Can Talk. The story went reasonably well. Not great. Not bad. Most students listened, but not with rapt attention. But they learned the language and grammar within it.

Blaine Ray and Contee Seely both recommend using exaggeration to boost the memorability of stories. Its excellent advice. I found that a few changes make a big difference.

For Wednesday's and Thursday's classes, I changed the story... added exaggeration:

There is a fat American baby. He has a cowboy hat and two guns. He walks to the fridge and takes out ice cream and milk. He carries them to a table. There is a knife, a bowl, and a banana on the table. He grabs the knife and cuts the banana into pieces. He puts the pieces into the bowl, and puts ice cream on top of the banana. Then he pours milk into the bowl.

He doesnt have a fork or spoon. So he eats with a knife. Suddenly, he cuts off his nose. He screams! His mother comes into the room and screams! She grabs him (and his nose) and takes him to the hospital. The nurse sews his nose back on. The baby is happy and so is his mother.


OK, its not genius,... but the second story is much more exaggerated and much more interesting.

And what a difference. Students were more attentive and reactive. Their retellings were more dynamic. They seemed to remember the story more easily.

This shouldnt be surprising. A good story evokes strong images, and is full of conflict and emotion. The first story had much weaker images and little emotion. The revision contains more drama, a powerful twist (off with the nose), and more excitement.

What Ive learned: Using stories from TPRS books is a great time saver (very important to me at my current job). It also helps teachers new to the technique (like me) guage the appropriate vocab and grammar level. It seems more effective, however, to modify these stories-- inject more exaggeration and personalization, than to use them as-is.

"He cuts off his nose", I yelled. I grabbed my nose and made gushing sounds for blood. Then I moved towards the class and pretended to spray blood onto them. They laughed and recoiled.... absorbed in the story. "Aha", I thought...."Ive got em".

...........

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