The Interactive Stories Technique

You can find links to examples of interactive stories and full courses here: Interactive Stories.

There are many techniques which are useful in the teaching of languages and different individuals respond variously to different methods of teaching language. This paper illustrates the use of stories as a technique for language teaching and discusses some of the issues which arise from this approach. It came about because the writer is an author of fiction who turned to language teaching as a profession and found the two activities: storytelling and language teaching, to have a remarkable symmetry. We use the term “story” loosely to refer to a coherent or meaningful narrative.

The following article explains the technique and some ways to use it.

The Power and Ubiquity of Story

Stories permeate our lives. Our lives are stories in which we are the main character and, since we belong to communities, we are also minor, or major, characters in the stories of other people’s lives. When we communicate with people, we exchange information which is to a greater or lesser extent, part of a story. A large part of communication is in fact telling stories and participating in a common story. Little anecdotes, gossip and reports are stories. Language in its natural habitat is essentially the medium of the story.

Even in the immediacy of passionate human verbal exchanges where arguments over property or rights or security can bring events to such a head that language is replaced by action and even violent action, we are still participants in a story. It is a story which is still coalescing. If somebody is killed, the story may be told on the television news that evening, or in the newspaper the following day and then it will be in language which describes the actions, what happened and what was said. It difficult to think of a situation or circumstance which cannot be seen in one way or another as part of a story.

Continuity and Meaning and Transcendence

Stories have continuity. They interest us and give things meaning. They reinforce what we know, help, us deal with what we do not quite understand, and introduce us to things that we did not know before. They give us other perspectives and help us to grasp things. Learning stories in general is a very educational activity and in terms of language learning, it shifts the focus from form to content.

When we become interested in a story we focus on the content rather than the form. We see the story rather than the words. It is true that we marvel at erudite literary styles and it is true that some of us are more easily appealed to by one particular style rather than another, but if we are interested in the story, we are all inclined to slip from a focus on form to a focus on content. Storytelling by its very nature is transcendent. It takes us away. This is what stories do and this is what they exist to do. They take us away and enable us to experience more than what was here a moment ago. They give things depth and meaning. They give life itself depth and meaning. They give life meaning and they arouse our interest. They arouse our interest in life and they come to us and do this in language. Sometimes we do not even notice the language because we become lost in the story.

If language teaching focusses exclusively on form and there is no content other than the form, our interest is not aroused. Stories interest us but lists and quizzes do not. Information can be conveyed in the form of a story or in the form of a list but if it has a story with an interesting narrative, the information is more quickly imbibed. We seem, as human beings, hardwired to seek out meaning and function best when we are interested, worst when we are bored or uninterested.

If we learn the use of “present perfect continuous tense” or “present perfect passive voice” in the context of a story, we have some hope of doing it. If we look merely at the form devoid of context, we find it hard to engage or sustain anybody’s interest. Yet in a language teaching syllabus, the topic for today or this week may be “present perfect continuous tense in passive and active voices”. It is vital to give the language context and not just at the level of the sentence but at a deeper level which can make the language contextualised enough to be meaningful. Yet in a syllabus where structures and syntax are required to be taught, how do we make a foreign language meaningful and interesting and accessible?

Making an Interactive Story

By inserting questions into a text we can make it an interactive story where the storyteller reads the story to the listener and then pauses to wait for the listener to answer the questions. The idea of the interactive story is to create a dialogue between the storyteller and the listener and to do this orally and aurally. The story is a written text but it is read or spoken to the listener (one sentence at a time) and the listener interjects and answers the questions which are contained in the text.

These questions are what makes the text interactive but they have another function. The text is graded so it has patterns of a certain level of complexity and not beyond, according to the level, and the questions are also graded so they introduce the learner to successively more complex stages of the language one at a time. A beginner will work through a story which is in present simple tense while an advanced student will grapple with the passive voice in present perfect continuous tense, but by couching the grammar in language which is in the context of a story, the interest factor is not threatened by an undue emphasis on form and the interaction can proceed naturally or organically. It will not be artificial or boring.

Let’s look at a short text and explore ways to adapt it to the teaching of various aspects of language structure. Look at the basic story without any questions. At this stage it is not an interactive story. It is just a brief anecdote:

A Business Fairy Tale – Story

There is a young man. He does an MBA course. The young graduate is employed by a large multinational biotechnology company. He works very hard but he experiences conflict with some colleagues. He learns about law-breaking and corruption in a company that is huge and complicated. The stressed-out manager has a nervous breakdown. Then he regains his health and publishes a book about his experiences. He becomes an activist. He campaigns against his former employer. He is sued by the company and the case goes to court. The judge decides in the whistle-blower’s favour. The honest individual triumphs and the evil corporation reforms. Everybody lives happily ever after.

If we want to make the story interactive in present simple tense it is a simple matter to add questions in this tense:

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – short example

There is a young man. Does he have a beard? He does an MBA course. Does he complete it in the required time? What kind of grades does he get? The young graduate is employed by a large multinational biotechnology company. Does he move to another city to get the job? ….

Let us look at what has happened here: The printed text (which includes questions to make it an interactive story) has been read aloud by Student A, one sentence at a time and Student B (unable to see the text) has listened and responded to each statement with a nod or an “uh-huh” or some indication of understanding then Student A has continued the narrative. In practice it works like this:

Student A: There is a young man.
Student B: Uh-huh.
Student A: Does he have a beard?
Student B: No, he does not. He is too young.
Student A: He does an MBA course.
Student B: Ok.
Student A: Does he complete the course in the required time.
Student B: Yes, he does.
Student A: What kind of grades does he get?
Student B: He gets really good grades.

What has happened is that we have made a practical distinction between the statement and the question. This fundamental distinction between two elements or modes of discourse has been introduced merely by means of the situation. Student B must answer the question or the story will not proceed. Student B must understand each sentence and acknowledge this, one sentence at a time, or (s)he will lose track of the story and be unable to answer questions coherently.

This is an interactive story. It is oral and aural and interactive. It teaches speaking, listening and reasoning as elements of language. It is also imaginative because the answer to the questions has to be made up. When we ask:

Does he have a beard?

, the answer can be:

Yes, he does

or

No, he does not..

When we ask:

What kind of grades does he get?

the answer can be:

“He gets really good grades.”

or

“He gets average grades.”

or

“He gets lousy grades.”

or any other variation which is coherent and relevant. The point is that the there is a free choice to say:

“Yes, he does.”

or

“No, he does not.”

but it is not allowed to say:

“Yes, he did.”

or

“Yes, he is.”

as this would be incoherent, since verb and subject do not agree for number and person and time.

Note that the narrative was in present simple tense. It could have been in the past simple tense. Those are the two main story-telling tenses in English.

In this first stage we have worked through a present simple tense activity but this tense has more variations and to work with students at this lower level we would not necessarily expect to use more syntactically complex language like “the required time” or a passive voice structure like “is employed by” so we might rather flesh out the story using simpler syntax and giving more details, meanwhile holding passive voice and past participle as adjective in noun phrase for a later lesson. Look at this variation, in present simple tense:

A Business Fairy Tale – Present Simple Tense – do/does – longer example

There is a young man. He lives in the city. Does the city have a ring road? He lives with his mother and his sister. Do they have a good relationship? His father lives in another city. Does he live in an apartment? His father lives away from home. Does your father live at home? His father visits on the week-end. What do you do on the week-end? The young man’s father has a job in another city. Does the young man miss his father? There are four people in the young man’s family. How many brothers and sisters do you have? On the week-end the young man goes to a pizza restaurant with his family. Do they all like pizza? Do you like pizza?

In pairs the students work through this text and they practice:

Do you … ?
Yes, I do
No, I do not

Doe she … ?
Yes, she does?
No, she does not?

Does he .. ?
Yes, he does.
No, he does not.

Do they … ?
Yes, they do.
No, they do not.

The full answer with the auxiliary “do”,or “does” is required in this activity as it seeks to point out that learners who attempt conversations with native speakers (or anybody for that matter) experience a serious breakdown in communication if somebody says:

“Have you been to China?”

and the answer is

“Yes, I do”.

The ability to find agreement between verb and auxiliary for number and tense is a fundamental concept in English and the inability to manoeuvre it is a serious impediment to understanding. It becomes clear as we move through the tenses that we are exploring each structure and eliciting questions of Yes/No and of WH type. Students quickly learn to distinguish a question from a statement and to answer WH questions as well as Yes/No questions.

But before present simple tense with do/does at a very low level we encounter the difficult (for that level) idiom: “there is/there are” which we use to describe existence in English. Look at this variation:

A Business Fairy Tale – Present Simple Tense – there is – there are

There is a young man. Are there any hairs on his chin? He lives in the city. Is there a lot of traffic in the city? He lives with his mother and his sister. How many bedrooms are there in their apartment? His father lives in another city. His father lives away from home. His father visits on the week-end. How many days are there in a week? The young man’s father has a job in another city. Is there a lot of work in that city? There are four people in the young man’s family. How many people are there in your family? On the week-end the young man goes to a pizza restaurant with his family. Are there a lot of customers at the restaurant?

Again the answers must be in correct form:

Yes, there are
No, there are not.

Yes, there is.
No, there is not.

There are three bedrooms in their apartment.

and we have practiced all the forms of this “existence idiom” “there to be” in context, adding details to our story and offering our own opinions perhaps on pizza or anything else we care to interject on.

We can do this for other grammar patterns too. Look at this list:

Grammar Patterns

Present Simple Tense – There to be – Existence and Ownership – Is there a window in his room?
Present Simple tense – Noun Phrases and Adjectives with “be” verbs – Is he happy?
Present Simple Tense – Does he have a girlfriend?
Present Continuous Tense – Continuity and Simultaneity
Present Perfect Tense – Completion and Accomplishment
Past Simple Tense – Past Continuous Tense and Past Perfect Tense – another time frame for the narrative
Past Simple Tense – Verbs of the Five Senses – Transitive and Intransitive
Past Simple Tense – Examples of Rules for the Use of Articles
Present Simple Tense – Passive Voice – Describing Systems and Processes – Language of Science and of Business

Prepositions – Location and Direction
Future going to Tense – Future Plans
Future will Tense – Specific Outcomes in the Future
Future Continuous – will and going to
Passive Perfect
Transitive and Intransitive
Gerunds
Phrasal Verbs
Functions
Vocabulary – work employ word family
Vocabulary – Word Families
Comparatives – Scales and Sequences
Relative Clauses

We can add details to the capsule story, “A Business Fairy Tale” and also questions so it can be tailored to teach any of the language areas in our list. So far we have done “there to be” (is there/are there) and present simple tense (does he/do you/ do they) but present simple tense also occurs with simple “be” verb. This might be confusing for lower level learners, who have to know when to say:

Yes, he does
No, he does not

as opposed to

Yes, it is
No, it is not.

Look at this example:

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Present Simple Tense – “be” verb with adjectives and noun phrases

There is a young man. Is he tall? He lives in the city. Is it a big city? He lives with his sister and his mother. Is he on good terms with them? They live in an apartment. Which floor is it on? The young man’s father lives in another city. How far is it to the other city? The father works in another city. Is his job interesting? The father visits the family on week-ends. Is Friday afternoon part of the week-end? The young man goes to university. Is his course difficult? He studies business and economics. Are his grades good? The young man has a lot of friends. Are they all male?

Here the answers will be:

Yes, he is.
No, he is not

and

Yes, it is.
No, it is not

and

Yes, they are
No, they are not.

We can continue the story at this level of syntax until the patterns have been mastered and then we move on to more complex grammatical patterns:

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Present Continuous Tense – Is he doing his homework?

It is the week-end. What are you doing this week-end? A young man is waiting for his father. The young man’s father is coming home. Is he driving or taking the train? He arrives at the apartment early on Saturday morning. Is his wife cooking breakfast, when he walks in? His daughter is in her room. What is she doing, when he arrives? His son is in his room. What is he doing when the father arrives? The father talks to his family. What is he wearing? He talks about his work. Is he enjoying his work? While the father is talking, the daughter’s telephone rings. Who is calling? The daughter goes into another room to take the call. What does the father do, while his daughter is talking on the telephone?

Present Continuous Tense introduces us to the idea of simultaneity and shows us how to express the idea that two actions are occurring at the same time. It shows us how to put weight on the longer action:

“While she was talking on the telephone, he ate a piece of toast and drank a cup of coffee.”

This implies that the eating and drinking were briefer actions than the taking of the telephone call, since they were in present simple tense and the taking of the call was in present continuous tense. It is easy to illustrate this type of distinction between two simultaneous actions, one longer and one shorter in a story than in any other way. Context gives language meaning. Language arose out of context and the language is only meaningful in context. One can conceptually grasp the idea that “She spoke on the telephone” and “she was speaking on the telephone” are different but in a practical situation like a story, the distinction is driven home.

Similarly with present perfect tense we wish to illustrate the distinction between an earlier completed action and a simple present action as part of a narrative sequence.

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Present Perfect Tense – Has she made other arrangements?

There is a young man. He is a university student. How long has he been a student? He lives with his mother and his sister. His father lives in another city. How long has his father lived in another city? His father works in another city. How long has his father worked for that company? The young man’s father visits his family on the week-end. They go to a restaurant. It is a pizza restaurant. Have they been to that restaurant before? The father orders a large family size pizza with anchovies. Has he ever eaten anchovies before? Have you ever eaten anchovies? Everybody eats and they all get sick. They get food poisoning from the pizza. Has the father ever had food poisoning before? Has the mother? Have either of the children? Have you ever had food poisoning? The whole family has to spend the night in hospital. Have any of them ever spent the night in hospital before? Have you?

Here we have illustrated and practised the use of present perfect tense to show completed actions or previous experiences. It has been simply and in context without resort to lengthy abstract explanation.

So far we have looked at the interactive story to illustrate and practise variations of a present tense time frame with present continuous for longer simultaneous actions (When he walks in, she is reading) and present perfect tense for past experiences (He has not had food poisoning before) but a large part of discourse is in the past tense. Many narratives require a different time frame but this is easily managed by converting a story into the past tense according to the following table:

Present Simple Tense – Past Simple Tense
Present Continuous Tense – Past Continuous Tense
Present Perfect Tense – Past Perfect Tense

He walks in. – He walked in.
She is reading. – She was reading.
He has not had food poisoning before . – He had not had food poisoning before.

It is possible to teach all of these tenses within the framework of the interactive story but not at the same time. With an interactive story, as in life, we must choose whether to narrate our tale in the normal past narrative tense (past simple tense) OR the more immediate present simple tense. Mixing the present and past in this context leads to incoherence and confusion so we must design our syllabus story to cover:

Present Simple Tense
Present Continuous Tense
Present Perfect Tense

and then:

Pas Simple Tense
Past Continuous Tense
Past Perfect Tense

Look how the story works using the past tense cluster of tenses:

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Past Simple Tense

The young man recovered from his food poisoning. How long was he in hospital? He returned to university and the father went back to work. Did the father have to take any time off work because of his illness? The young man was a diligent student and he passed all his exams. Did he take a holiday after his final exam? The following year he enrolled in an MBA course. How long did he take to finish it? After that the young graduate got a job at a large multinational company. Did he move out of the apartment with his mother and sister? Did the father still live away from his family?

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Past Continuous Tense

One day the young man walked into a colleagues office. What was the colleague doing, when the young man walked in? He looked at some papers on the other man’s desk. Were they lying in the middle of the desk or on the edge of it? They were legal documents. Was the other man working on those documents? The other man was talking on the telephone. Who was he talking to? The young graduate manager waited for his colleague to finish the telephone call. Then he asked him about some tests for a new product. Some scientists at a nearby university were testing one of the company’s new products. It was a growth hormone. Were the scientists testing it at a lab at the university in the same city or in another city? The young man talked about the tests with his colleague. What was the young man’s sister doing while the man was at work? Was his father still living in another city? Were his mother and father having difficulty with their marriage?

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Past Perfect Tense

The young man went back to his desk. He sat at his computer. How long had he worked at that desk? He read about the growth hormone on his computer. Scientists at his company had developed it. How long had they taken to develop it? They had developed it but they had not tested it. Had anybody tested it? Scientists at the university were testing it. Had they ever tested any products for the company before? That night the young man went to dinner with his colleague. His colleague said the tests were complete. The young man was surprised. The other man gave the results of the tests to the young man. The results had not come from the university. The results had come from the colleague. The colleague had falsified the results. Had he ever done this before? The colleague had bribed the scientists at the university. Had he ever bribed anybody before? The scientists had taken the bribe. There were three of them. Had the head researcher told the others to submit false results? The young man was shocked. He was shocked by his colleagues actions. Had he encountered bribery and corruption before?

At this point after we have covered this configuration of tenses we can continue the story with them all mixed in together. This makes choosing the correct auxiliary verb to form the answer a little more difficult.

A Business Fairy Tale – A Cluster of Past Tenses

The young man called his father. What was his father doing when the phone rang? He told him about the bribery and corruption at work. Did he name names? The father listened carefully to his son. Had he ever heard anything like this before? He arranged to meet his son for dinner that night. The son took an inter-city train to meet his father. He took the express. It was expensive. Had he ever taken the express before? The father and son went to a restaurant together. Had the son been there before? Had the father been there before? It was a French restaurant. When they walked in a man was carrying a tray of flaming deserts across the room. Was he wearing a white apron? Was he wearing anything on his head? The father and son sat at a table by the window. The menu was in French. Had either of the two men ever studied French? The father ordered orange duck. Had he ever eaten that dish before? Have you? The son ordered beef in burgundy sauce. Had he ever eaten that dish before? What was the special of the day? While the two men ate they talked about bribery and corruption in the biotechnology industry. Is there a lot of competition in the biotechnology industry? Has corruption always existed?

Notice that we have practised “did he” “had he” and “was he” in the same text and we have also added “have you” and “has it”. It is only in a story which imitates real life that we can so effectively merge these different patterns and clearly show how they function to demonstrate sequences (past simple tense) , simultaneity (past continuous tense) and previous experience (past perfect tense) and contrast that with the present patterns “have you” and “has it” which are addressed to the listener directly as himself and not as a participant in the story. By changing to present perfect tense and addressing the question to “you” we have stepped outside the story and made it into a discussion. We have invited comment and conversation.

Something else we have done is we have introduced topics like “the possibility of a troubled marriage” and “the existence of crime and corruption”. It can be difficult to teach vocabulary in certain areas where personal feelings may run strong and personal conversations about such topics may be embarrassing and uncomfortable for some learners yet if the vocabulary is covered in the context of a story which is outside the learner and the learner is only participating in the story as part of a language learning game, then the language can be covered without causing discomfort for the learner. Even highly personal topics like human relationships have a vocabulary and this has to be learned but not everybody wants to empty their heart and their personal experiences and feelings to other members of the class. In the interactive story, as with a movie or a book, we see into the lives of others and learn about their discomforts and indiscretions without being required to look at our own.

Tenses are of course major semantic markers within a narrative but the story can also focus on specialised vocabulary, topic and field of meaning, which may be important for ESP teachers in the airline industry, medicine, business or engineering etc etc. Or it can focus on an area of language like the five senses:

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Past Simple Tense – Verbs of Five Senses

A young employee of a biotechnology company was having dinner with his father. They were eating at a French restaurant. There were fresh flowers in the room. The whole place smelled of jasmine. Does your room smell like flowers? The young man was wearing a woollen jacket. Did it feel too heavy for indoors? What was the father wearing? Does wool feel different to cotton? The father was eating duck. Did it smell good? Does duck smell different from chicken? The young man was eating beef. Did it taste good? Did it smell of red wine? Does red wine taste better than white wine? The young man looked at his father. Did his father look tired? He ran his eyes over the familiar features. Did his father look older than he was? Does your father look younger than he is? The father asked the son about his work. Did he sound interested? The son spoke about some problems at work. Did he sound bitter or disappointed or upset in any way? Did the father seem upset by the son’s story? After the main course the two men ordered dessert. The father ordered ice cream. It smelled of alcohol. What kind of alcohol did it smell of? The son looked suddenly very tired. He felt tired and he looked tired. He was exhausted. The father looked at him. He said that he looked pale. Did he feel bad because of the food? Suddenly the son fainted. The father called an ambulance and they went to hospital. Had the son been to that hospital before? The son had a bitter taste in his mouth. The father felt bad too. Do you like the taste of lemon juice? At the hospital the doctor examined the son. He felt his chest and his back. Did his hands feel cold? He put his stethoscope on the young man’s heart. Did he take his heartbeat? Did the stethoscope feel cold to the touch? The doctor did not talk much. Did he seem cold and impersonal? Did he look kind and compassionate? Did he feel tired? How long had he been on duty when the young man came in? The father sat in the waiting room. Did the waiting room smell of human sweat and cigarettes? He looked worried. There was a dull vibrating noise. It came from his pocket. It was the father’s phone. He answered it. It was his wife. Did she sound worried? He talked about their son. Did the son look like the father or the mother? In appearance do you take after your father or your mother?

or it can be used to illustrate a difficult grammatical challenge like the mastery of the many functions of articles in English (a, an, the, zero article):

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Present Simple Tense – Various Functions of Articles

There was a young man. Was he the oldest sibling in his family? He was an employee of a biotechnology company. Did that company produce agent orange for the Vietnam war? What do you know about the Vietnam War? The young man was stressed. He was in hospital. He was in a hospital bed. Was it a clean bed? The man’s father was sitting on a chair. Was it a comfortable chair? His mother was also sitting on a chair. Were they sitting on the same chair? The sister arrived. She sat down. How many chairs were there in the room? The doctor came into the room. Was it the same doctor as before or a different doctor? He wrote a note for the nurse. Nobody could read it. Doctors always have illegible handwriting. Do you agree that doctors always have illegible handwriting? Do most doctors work in hospitals or in small clinics? Meanwhile in a laboratory at a large research institute two men were discussing the results of a test. The results were fake. Did the young man in hospital know about the fake results? The results were for a new product. Was it a growth hormone? Was it genetically modified? The new product was an additive for stock feed. Is the cow a carnivore? The additive increased beef production. Do cattle eat meat? Do growth hormones increase beef production? The two men were discussing the side effects of the new additive. Was the same additive banned in other countries? Back at the hospital the mother was talking about food poisoning. Is food security a problem in your country? What threatens food security in the beef industry? The biotechnology company was a supplier to the beef industry. What is the name of the meat that comes from sheep? The son had had food poisoning from fish. He had not had it from beef. What is the name of the meat that comes from pigs? Pork can be a source of disease, because the pig is an unclean animal. Are you a meat eater? Vegetables and rice are healthier than red meat. Are meat eaters more violent than vegetarians? The son groaned. The two corrupt scientists finished their meeting. Tell me the names of two famous scientists.

Within the context of this biotechnology farce we have examples of the zero article, and the definite (the) and indefinite articles (a, an) in multiple functions. It is difficult to bring together such diverse grammar rules in a way that is not exceedingly dry, but the interactive story, as a story adds continuity and context to the language and gives it meaning. This makes it possible to learn for we cannot learn what is meaningless.

Indeed the dryness of traditional grammar translation techniques of language instruction is what we seek to evade here. We seek transcendence and perspective and continuity and meaning. We seek coherence in language and it is only by contextualising it that we can really find this meaning and as we reiterate: Language in its natural habitat is the medium of the story. Language belongs in a story. We cannot ignore this and be coherent, though it has been ignored. Without story or context, language may as well be jumbled letters. It becomes nonsensical.

Description and Narrative

Story consists of descriptions as well as narratives though many narratives contain long descriptive passages. Much of the language of science is found embedded in descriptions of processes and in passive voice. It is perhaps a loose definition of “story” to conflate description and narrative and even dialogue and conversation into one all embracing “story” and in other contexts this may be problematic but description still functions as an aspect of story for our language learning purposes:

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Present Simple Tense – Passive Voice – Describing Processes and Systems

The biotechnology firm has its head office in one city but it has branch offices all over the world. Is it listed on the New York Stock Exchange? There are research laboratories in several countries. Are the labs staffed by casual staffers or permanent employees? Are they required to sign contracts with non-disclosure clauses regarding their research to protect the company’s trade secrets? The research staff develop new products and then these products are produced in factories. Are they produced in factories in countries with low labour costs? The products are then shipped all over the world. How many countries are there on earth? The company has several divisions. Does it have a large legal department? It produces pharmaceutical products as well as agricultural products. Are all of its products eventually intended for human consumption, if you follow the food chain? Recently the company has come in for criticism as a result of side effects from its products. Has it produced any bovine growth hormone? It has also been criticised for marketing harmful pesticides. Is it responsible for birth defects in agricultural areas in India? When a product is made illegal in one country, the company takes it off the shelves, but it still sells it in other countries as they are outside the jurisdiction of the court ruling. Is this an unethical practice? What is the difference between an unethical practice and an illegal practice? What is corporate sustainability?

Dialogue or Conversation

The fact that dialogue or conversation are included in a story is not remarkable but the fact that the dialogue between listener and storyteller is an integral part of the interactive story is significant because it takes us to the crux of our topic. The power of story to enliven us, give us meaning and transcend the forms of language as we intellectually explore new realms of experience is unlocked in an exciting and participatory way because the story is interactive. The fact that the learner contributes to the story adds a dimension which is empowering for the learner and also provides the opportunity to use language in the oral/aural situation. This has always been a challenge perhaps more so in EFL (teaching English in Asia, Africa or Europe or Latin America) than in ESL (English in UK, Australia, USA etc) but it is a challenge which the interactive story overcomes. It works everywhere.

While it is true that for technical reasons of composition there are limitations on the degree of interactivity of the story, (a close study of plot reveals that only details not crucial to the plot can be interactive and hence variable to enable successive chapters to be prepared in advance) the fact that the pair-work of an interactive story is an ongoing dialogue or conversation between two or more learners who may also enter into dialogue with the teacher who is in the same room, puts the focus of the lesson on speaking, listening and real interaction or dialogue with the target language and with each other. This is the goal of the interactive story. Once this democratic methodology or style of interaction has been achieved, it is a matter of technical details to go through the list of topics or functions or syntax on the syllabus to adapt them to the new technique. As we look to the future we see:

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Future “will” Tense

A young man is lying in a hospital bed. Is he lying on his back? He has been in hospital for three days. Will he get out of hospital soon? He is thinking about his job. Will he be able to go back to work? His employer is a large multinational biotechnology company. Will one company eventually control the world food supply? The young man looks out the window. Will windows one day all have bars on them? He thinks about the world food supply. Will MacDonalds eventually have a restaurant on Mt Everest? He thinks about his employer. Will his employer pay him compensation for his time in hospital? The young man does not want to go back to work. Will he be able to get his things from his desk without going into the office? He thinks about a different career. Will he be able to start a new career? He thinks about a new job. Will he be able to find a new job?

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Future “going to” Tense

It is a warm afternoon in the human relations office at a large multinational biotechnology company. Is it going to rain in the afternoon? The sun is shining in the windows. All of the people in the room have taken off their coats. Everybody has taken off his coat except the boss. She is from Hawaii. Is she going to take off her coat? The boss is worried about a corruption scandal. Is the story going to be in the newspapers? Some lawyers from the government have visited with federal police. is there going to be a national inquiry? The weather is warm and the sun is warm and the room is warm and everybody in the room is hot but the boss is cool. The boss is not going to take her coat off. She is from Hawaii. She is from Hawaii and she likes hot weather. The air conditioning is broken but she does not mind. She is not going to faint. She is not going to melt. She is not going to experience any discomfort. She likes hot weather. She enjoys high temperatures. She is a beach girl. Will you be at the beach this afternoon?

A Business Fairy Tale – Interactive Story – Future Continuous Tense “will”

One of the people in the conference room mentions a manager who is in hospital. Will he be staying in hospital for long? The boss asks if the manager knows about the scandal. She is told that he does not. He has not been briefed. he has not been briefed on the company strategy. The boss must get to him. She must give him instructions. It is the only way to protect him from the media. if the media interviews him, he will not know what to say. If the media interviews him he could give the game away.

Examples of Interactive Stories:

Advanced English

The Banjo Player’s Brother

Upper Intermediate English

World of Water
The Story of Green Willow
The Obsession
Tibetan Story
The Children of Kenji Takeuchi

Intermediate English

Yamashita’s Gold
The Water Car
The Ghost of Phra Ka Nong
The Two Lovers
The Odyssey
The Adventures of Roy Bean

The History of Pirate Island

A Business Fairy Tale

The Secret of the Black Drink

The National Motor Company

Our Lady of the City

Lower Intermediate English

The Big Dream
Nurse Story

High School English

Asian Odyssey

Business English

International Business Story

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