What happens after the story?

As a teacher who loves using Movie Talk, 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. Are you ready?


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), they speak to our soul (think Malala’s story) or they are anchored in something you know is interesting to your students. 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 my friend Megan Hayes and I put together. Click on the age range that applies to you!

To view some the MS/HS suggestions in action, watch the last 10 minutes of this Story Listening lesson.

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 channels 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.

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