Ask Thoughtful Questions: Story Listening and FVR

Questions, like circling questions or TPR, can sometimes engage learners.  However, if we see children are already engrossed in a story and pause to question, we disrupt the flow of the story.  Story Listening solves this problem by simply asking children to listen and enjoy the story.  With limited accountability and comprehension checks, there is less risk that students will feel pressure to master or understand words or targets, leading to less risk of skill-building (Krashen, 2013).

Using minimal “comprehension checks” helps learners (Krashen 2011, 83), and frees us to simply observe children sitting on the edge of one’s seat,”oohs”and “awws,” and only ask an occasional question to know children are following.

In the same way, Free Voluntary Reading is more compelling when we get rid of worksheets, quizzes, or comprehension questions.  For example, in Literary Circles, instead of answering comprehension questions after reading, children are simply given a blank journal to doodle or write any impressions; or perhaps they can simply tell the teacher or a friend what they liked the most.  They can ask and answer the questions they want to ask, promoting genuine inquiry, creativity, and curiosity.



Mason, B. (2013). ‘Efficient use of literature in second language education: Free reading and listening to stories’, In J. Brand and C. Lutge (Eds.), Children’s Literature in Second Language Education. London: Continuum, 25-32.

Krashen, S. D. (2011). Free Voluntary Reading. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. (2013). The Case for Non-Targeted, Comprehensible Input. Journal of Bilingual Education Research & Instruction 2013 15(1): 102-110.


Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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