Story Listening + Book Talk

Is it a Book Talk or Story Listening? Is sharing your favorite cars magazines Free Voluntary Reading or can it morph into content-based instruction?  When sharing books and stories that inspire genuine curiosity, my classroom will not be limited to a single method.

Here I combine Story Listening with a Book Talk on the book Cardboard by Doug Tennapel.  The overlap between Story Listening and Sheltered Popular Literature is obvious: there is no test or comprehension questions, just an invitation to join in a good story.  (Note, the book was swooped up by an eager reader before the end of the Book Talk.)

A Story Listening Identity

My students have started to identify as folklorists.  “I know so many stories,” they boast.  Like generations before them, they succumb to the urge to retell the stories to friends and family.  On their own time, they research and request lesser known folktales.  Just like FVR, Story Listening helps children develop an identity that connects them to the world in a bigger way–a Story Listening identity.

Story Listening: Frequently Asked Questions


1.   What is Story Listening?

Story Listening is orally telling stories with: illustrations, gestures, and modified speech our students will understand.  Story Listening was developed and researched by Dr. Beniko Mason, who has many resources here.


2.  How do I get started? 

Story Listening does not require special training, however watching a live demonstration helps. Here’s my full explaination of getting started with Story Listening.  Consider watching videos in a foreign langauge like Kathrin Shechtman’s German Story Listening videos to experience the story from a learner’s perspective.


3.   How do I prepare for the story?   How do I actually tell the story? 

Continue reading Story Listening: Frequently Asked Questions

Early Writing

We do not learn to write by writing; we learn to write by reading (Krashen 2; Smith 558).   Writing can (1) assess and celebrate growth and (2) give students a voice and engage them with text so they will want to read more.

Writing serves its purpose best when we allow children to write on their own timetable with limited correction or prompting.  No comprehension questions, only good stories and blank paper (and maybe a candy cane or other such silliness around Christmas).

20161213_163451415_ios-1 Continue reading Early Writing

Just Try Story Listening

Running on emotion and very little sleep and sporting a very sloppy ponytail, I opened the door to my classroom. Returning to school after the deadly fire that rampaged through my small, rural Tennessee town was the most difficult day of my career. My children were reeling from great loss and insecurity.  I struggled for words to calm their nerves and soothe their hearts.

I turned to the simplicity of Story Listening to tell the story of the phoenix: a story of hope rising from the ashes, as we were going to need to do. Continue reading Just Try Story Listening

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.

Students should feel they understand

Students just need to understand messages and do not need to be “taught” individual targets like grammar, phonemes, or vocabulary (Krashen 2013).   Occasionally, we target or hone in on confusing words to clarify.  But if students feel clear on the message of the story, there is no reason to target.  Feeling you understand is all that matters.

According to Dr. Krashen, “If only the feeling of full comprehension is required” we do not necessarily have to “provide a one-to-one mapping from form to meaning” (2013, 110).

Hearing some words or structures that are not 100% clear while we understand the overall message allows students to make “a prediction regarding a previously unknown vocabulary item…(then) read and understand the word in subsequent contexts, we gradually build up the full meaning of the word…” (Krashen 69, 2011).

Incidental vocabulary acquisition happens when targets repeat so subtly, they “stay on the periphery” (Ellis).   Students acquire best when they don’t realize they are hearing a second language (Krashen, 2011, 84).  With subtle, natural repetition of targets, students feel they understand and “just enjoy the story” as Dr. Beniko Mason suggests.


Ellis, N.C. (1994). Consciousness in Second Language Learning: Psychological Perspectives on the Role of Conscious Processes in Vocabulary Acquisition. AILA Review, 11, 37.

Mason, B., & Krashen, S. (1997). Extensive reading in English as a foreign language. System, 25(1), 91-102.

Krashen, S.  (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.

Krashen, S. (2016, July 26). Targeting 1 and Targeting 2: Working paper [Web log post]. Retrieved from