What happens after the story?

As a teacher who loves using Story Listening and Reading to facilitate language acquisition, the question I get asked the most is: “What happens after the story?” I am excited to provide a response in this post. Ready?

Nothing has to happen after the story.

The heart of Story Listening and Reading is that the story itself, if compelling and comprehensible, is enough. An interesting story delivered using Comprehension-Aiding Supplementation provides rich comprehensible language at i+1 to your students in a low anxiety setting, which is exactly what the brain needs to “create a mental representation of language” (Van Patten, 2017).

With Story Listening, “there is no expectation of immediate mastery” (Krashen, Mason, Smith, 2018).

When we tell a story, we are not interested in specific vocabulary targets, we are simply delivering an interesting and comprehensible message. We know it is interesting because these stories have stood the test of time (think Grimm Tales or legends), or have been written by professional authors who have mastered the art of hooking you into a story and keeping you interested (think J.K. Rowling), or they just speak to our soul (think Malala’s story). It is the accumulation of comprehensible and interesting stories that drives retention and eventually acquisition.

If you are asking “What comes after the story” because you are worried there won’t be enough repetition of vocabulary for the language to stick, Dr. Mason has got you covered. She and Dr. Krashen have done several studies comparing vocabulary gained by students who only listened to a story, versus students who listened to a story and did post story activities to study the vocabulary. The studies show that while students who did post story activities gained more vocabulary, they also devoted a lot more time to vocabulary study than the students who only received the story. So, if you bring their vocabulary gain back to words per minute, the story-only group was much more efficient. Because I originally had a hard time believing this myself, I ran my own amateur research, and reproduced these results with a 7th grade class. Mind blown!

So, you have just told a story, and now you have time left. What do you do?

Here are some low-accountability options:

  • Collect feedback about comprehensibility
  • Collect feedback about pace
  • “Review” phrases you have written on the board during the story
  • Explore a cultural point
  • Take a brain break

To view the above suggestions in action, watch the last 10 minutes of this Story Listening lesson.

Other options:

  • Organize a quick class or partner reaction in L1 or L2
  • Read the adaptation of the story together
  • Illustrate the story to demonstrate comprehension
  • Write a retell of the story in L1 or L2 (Personally, I have stopped doing this as it takes too long. I only use retells for formal assessments or for sub plans)
  • Something unrelated and appropriate for your students! (when I taught Elementary for a year, we would do TPR, songs, and/or games after the story)
  • Tell another story

Looking to try Story Listening? Here are 40 Novice stories to get you started (complete with original script, adaptation, and an in-class video)

Story Listening for Elementary? Check these out (and please feel free to also check out a language you don’t understand well to see the power of this method):

French German Spanish

Visit the Storiesfirst.org for more stories and/or join the Story Listening and Reading FB group.


  1. Cecilie,
    Thanks so much for your expertise! I have perused so much of your blog that I feel stronger every day. Thanks for linking the stories to videos of your classroom too. I am learning a lot just by observing the technics you use to tell the stories. I love how you seldom resort to translating too constantly activating your student L2 brain! Do you by chance know of a website to learn how to draw non-sophisticated pictures? So far I have spent lots of time turning fables or fairytales into powerpoint but I feel the repetition and pace are more natural with drawing and writing on the board than describing pictures on a powerpoint. Drawing can be a bit scary but I really need and want to improve in this area!

    • Fabienne, I am glad you are feeling ready to gave this a try. Creating PowerPoint is so time consuming (I create PowerPoint for my Movie Talks, so I feel you). Here are some helpful resources for drawing but please don;t worry. Really, your students will love your drawing!! I can’t draw and students giggle when I try to draw a wolf (looks like a dino) or a frog (looks like.. I am not sure). It actually creates a community because I am showing them I take risks and I am serious about making my story comprehensible. Bonne chance! I know we are connected through CI for French teachers on FB but don’t hesitate to reach out any time you need. https://storiesfirst.org/index.php/knowledge-base/drawing/

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