StoryAsking & StoryTelling: TPRS in the Language Classroom
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StoryAsking & StoryTelling: TPRS in the Language Classroom

TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling): Making stories and students come alive.
4.6 (6 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
33 students enrolled
Last updated 9/2017
Current price: $10 Original price: $20 Discount: 50% off
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  • 2.5 hours on-demand video
  • 5 Articles
  • 39 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • At the end of my course, students will be able to "ask" stories using a questioning technique called "circling."
  • At the end of my course, students will be able to create their own "StoryAsking" materials.
  • At the end of my course, students will be able to instruct using the TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) method.
View Curriculum
  • Learners should have an intermediate level of English skill.
  • Learners should believe in the importance of stories in the English classroom.
  • This course will help both teachers and parents who want to be more active and engaging in their storytelling.

You can have better students because you can become a better teacher.

There is an old saying, "You can't swim in a pool until it is full."  For most children, their minds are full of ideas, but devoid of the language they need to express it; their language lags behind their experience. Most children have more going on in their heads than they are able to communicate in speaking and writing. 

In this course, students will learn the basics of "StoryAsking & Storytelling" a method for teaching children through the use of stories. We are all aware of the what and why of storytelling, this course is about the HOW! Students will learn how to teach children to build up their listening, reading, writing, and speaking fluency through stories. 

Who is the target audience?
  • Parents of young children
  • Teachers
  • Teachers of English
  • Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
  • ESL/EFL Teachers
  • Language Teachers
  • People interested in TPR Storytelling
  • Anyone who wants to be a more interesting storyteller
Compare to Other Storytelling Courses
Curriculum For This Course
30 Lectures
StoryAsking & Storytelling
2 Lectures 25:29

Learning a language is a valuable skill because of how the process transforms the learner. Learning English is great for a number of reasons, economically, socially, culturally, but I'd like to argue that the best reason is how it transforms you mentally. Learning a second language teaches us patience, empathy, how to delay gratification, how to set goals, how to overcome set backs and endure lulls in improvement, and how to break problems down to their component parts.

Again, learning a language is not about what we learn, but who we become.

A storyteller is like a TV. Bad storytellers remind us of old black and white TVs with rabbit-ear antennas and fuzzy, snowy picture. Good storytellers, on the other hand, are like curved, flat-screen, 8K UHD smart TVs with sharp, crystal clear, high-resolutions pictures. This is the difference between a kid's stick figure and a Salvador Dali masterpiece. And when it comes to capturing a child's attention, there is no dispute which storyteller will win.

The aim of this course, the methodology, and associated activities is to provide learners with comprehensible, repetitious and interesting stories that can be used in a variety of ways to help create successful activities and increase student participation and confidence through the development of their storytelling abilities.  

This course will teach you how to tell stories in a way that makes others want to listen.

What is TPRS?

Many approaches to English as a Second (Foreign) Language attempt to teach reading and writing without first developing the necessary and sufficient readiness skills. TPRS addresses this problem and will help you succeed in building effective communication skills in your students by training you how to do repetitive, interesting comprehensible input by asking stories.

TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) is an input-based approach to teaching language that focuses on the systematic instruction of vocabulary in a highly comprehensible, personalized and contextual manner. 

TPRS classes: 

  1. provide an abundance of repetition
  2. are highly engaging and comprehensible
  3. tell stories that are of high-interest to students
  4. make use of the target language 95-98 percent of the time

These classes speed up language development, jump-start communications with only the most essential vocabulary, facilitate a more interactive, close-knit teacher-student relationship, and greatly enhance student interest. 

The goal of TPRS classes is to scaffold language so that it is comprehensible and engaging to students. Input in TPRS classes comes from many different sources including: graduated questions, circling questions, personalized questions, cooperatively created stories, mini-stories, short stories, illustrated stories, picture-based readers (my personal favorite), news stories, fairy tales, songs, poems, and a wide variety of other readings.

Preview 04:47

This demo class is an A+ example of TPRS or story asking and storytelling. It is one of the most effective teaching methods I have come across in my decade in the classroom.

TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) Demo Class

Check your understanding of the materials presented in lecture one and the supplemental materials.

Section One Review
5 questions
The Question Circling Technique: How to ask a TPRS story.
4 Lectures 16:24

I am a new parent and I have been searching the internet like crazy for tips on how to raise my son, and I bet a lot of you have been doing the same for how to manage your class and teach your own new bundles of joy.

There are plenty of things that you will learn to do well. Some you will learn the easy way and some you will learn the hard way. I didn’t become a good teacher because of my successes, I became a good teacher because I learned to quickly adapt myself from my failures.

Nothing works the same for every parent and child, nothing will work the same for every teacher. You know your classrooms better than I ever could, so you are the ones who have to decide what works and much more importantly what doesn’t work. Let’s take a look from my parenting guide.

As a parent and as a teacher, you have to enjoy yourself. Experience happiness and you will love your “job”. The best way to experience joy in reading is to make the story come alive. The best way to make stories come alive is by asking for students to tell us the story. The best way to do this is by asking the right questions, the right way. StoryAsking is the best way to ask the right questions.

Storytelling is a skill and as is the rule for mastering every human skill, storytelling requires practice. 1 to 4. For every hour of instruction there must be four hours of practice. The rule is the same for music, dancing, tennis, taekwondo or speaking English. This lecture will provide both the instruction and practice needed to begin your journey to circling mastery. This technique will help build student confidence in answering questions, and recycle information using new and progressively more difficult forms of the same question.

Preview 06:43

I think training teachers and students alike to be able to ask better questions is one of the most impactful ways we can change our classrooms.

As a skill is practiced or rehearsed over days and weeks, the activity becomes easier and easier while naturally forcing the skill to a subconscious level where it becomes permanently stored for recall and habitual use at any time.

Once the skill improves, the student no longer needs to consciously think about their participation in the skill-building activity. Likewise, once a new activity becomes really easy it is evident that new skills have been built.

To create enough closely associated repetitions that drive a newly strengthened skill into a subconscious, automatic mode, the skill training should be delivered over multiple days each week and over at least a three-month period.

A lot of problems that occur in class stem from an inability to ask the questions that could bring about the right help.

My curriculum teaches invaluable questions my students need in order to become independent learners. Questions like:
*How do you spell that?
*What does that mean in Korean?
*Can you give me an example? 
*What letter does that begin with? End with?
*Please repeat that.
*What part of speech is that?
*How many syllables are there in the word?

These questions not only enable students to express their learning concerns, they give me a basket full of questions and prompts I can use to check student comprehension.

Here is an example from my own classroom. In the resources below you will find a number of other examples for different types of stories and even vocabulary words.

Preview 03:26

“A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place.But a seed to be planted and to bear more seed. Toward the hope of greening the landscape of ideas”

John Ciardi, 1972

StoryAsking is a technique to help build student confidence in answering questions, and recycle information using new and progressively more difficult forms of the same question. This step-by-step guide will give you the tools (questions) to begin creating your own circling questions. 

A picture is worth a thousand questions!

StoryAsking: Step-by-Step Guide

ESL teachers are often like veterinarians. Our patients frequently do not talk to us, so we have to rely on indicators. Like a veterinarian, teachers need to become more attune at identifying and responding to these indicators.Keeping this in mind, it is important to remember that our children can understand any story, if we tell it correctly.

Children can be helped to understand quite complex stories in language well above their own active command. It is what we expect the children to do which determines the proficiency level required, not the story itself.

Research indicates that using lower cognitive questions with greater frequency is the most effective questioning technique for primary level children, especially those who are struggling.

When you are assessing your students level, begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What do you want students to be able to speak about?
  2. What questions do you want them to be able to answer?
  3. What vocabulary do you want them to use?

Many teachers, parents, and language learning programs attempt to teach reading and writing without first developing sufficient readiness skills. This is a mistake. You have to get to know your students ability level and craft your stories appropriately. Then when students are ready, they will begin to take over the storytelling themselves. In order to best assess your students abilities, I suggest using Personalized Questions and Answers (PQA). PQ's are level-appropriate questions that are personalized to specific learners that elicit an engaging conversation that will provide context and repetition.

For example:

  • T: Is Bryan Teacher strong?
  • C: Yes
  • T: Yes, Bryan is strong. Bryan is a man, right?
  • C: Yes
  • T: So, Bryan is a strong man! Is his wife Michelle a strong man?
  • C: NO!
  • T: No, Michelle is not a strong man! Michelle is a strong WOMAN! What about The Rock? Is he a strong man?
  • C: Yes. 
  • T: Oh yeah! The Rock is a strong man! Are Bryan Teacher and The Rock friends?
  • C: No.
  • T: Of course, we are GREAT friends!
  • C: No way!

The goal is to keep the conversation comprehensible, engaging, and compelling so that the learner is focused on the story instead of trying to learn or memorize the vocabulary.

TPRS: StoryAsking & StoryTelling leverages a child's natural aptitude and method for acquiring a new language and allows you to lay the foundation for basic fluency, incremental growth, and eventual proficiency. 

Remember, a truly great teacher should aim to get the most from the least, and the best from the best.

Determining What Questions to Ask

Check your understanding of the materials presented in lecture 2-5 and the supplemental materials.

Section Two Review
5 questions
How do you ask questions more effectively?
3 Lectures 18:54

To feel more confident when planning opportunities for teacher-led and student- generated questions in our lessons.

Preview 05:52

Increases in wait-time seem to result in teachers and students carrying out recitations at higher cognitive levels.

The Importance of Wait Time

Questions asked strategically of students by teachers have been the heart of teaching for about as long as there have been teachers and students. Effective questions tend to come in groups that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts, and questioning is the art of sequencing those questions in groups.

Good questioning builds solid mastery of even complex ideas by uncovering and explicating each component piece of a concept in progression. Assembling questioning sequences, then, is like building steps. If each step yields a steady and manageable rise and the organizing structure is sound, the staircase can lead students up any height.

Challenging Students to Think Critically
How to Tell a Better Story
3 Lectures 20:35

While storytelling may come naturally to some, for others this skill is a learned one. Never fear, you can learn to tell a better, more engaging story.

Mastering Storytelling Fundamentals

Using Your Voice and Body

Getting it Right
How does StoryAsking & Storytelling work?
7 Lectures 38:15

To a teacher, time is water in the desert, the most precious resource. In this section, you learn why it is crucial to make use of each and every minute you're with your students.

Reading activities, for a communicative teacher, often involve helping learners know how to read using a number of different strategies. While many of your learners may think that reading simply involves going word by word and sentence by sentence, researchers now understand that reading is an involved process that can be aided by a number of different techniques and activities. 

Your job as a teacher is to help learners recognize that reading is an elaborate process that might involve predicting, scanning, skimming, and asking questions (to yourself and to others). Having a specific focus can also help to improve reading skills, such as an attempt to focus on general meaning, specific facts, a particular grammatical item, guessing a word in context, and so forth. Please recognize that a teacher plays a significant role in helping learners “unpack” written language through the use of multiple reading strategies. What follows are a few very simple ideas to help stimulate interaction and thought while using the StoryAsking & StoryTelling method in your home or classroom.

You know your audience. What works for you, might not work for them. You know what will work and what won’t. Take my advice for what it is, things that have worked for me. Be a student of this technique, not a follower. Learn what you can and apply what works, then throw out the rest. 

Preview 04:00

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

It is never easy deciding how much is "too much" or "not enough". Language learners are like engines in that we need to find the right speed for them to run at. Too high and too fast and they redline and blow up. Too low or too slow and they idle out and stall.

Try and keep this in mind when you are deciding if your students are ready for Le Mans.

One of my favorite ways to figure out how much students know about the topic covered in a story is to do a "Rank Order Activity,"

Rank order activities help build speaking fluency, practice or learn specific vocabulary, and practice or learn language functions such as expressing opinions, giving reasons, persuasion, and disagreement.

A ranking activity challenges students to use language persuasively and gives them lots of practice at genuine communication.

Give students a list of items. Ask students to rank the items individually. Group students in pairs or small groups. Students tell each other their rankings, discuss reasons for their choices, and try to come up with an agreement on a joint ranking.

Pre-Reading Activities

The goal of our activities is not just mastery, but automaticity. We want students to use the language without even thinking about it. We want them to get to the point where it just "sounds right." We want an unconscious reaction in the language. 

The way to achieve these goals is repetition. Repeat the story many, many, many times in various and interesting ways. Then repeat again some more. Lower-level students many need to hear a word in context 200 times or more to get it. 

This activity is one of my favorite ways to provide the type of repetition you need in your class. 

The activity goes as follows: I find a true story from the news I think my students would like. High-interest stories garner high-interest from students.

I have strips of paper with the English & Korean (L1) sentences of the story printed out.

Then each student received a piece of paper. It either had a Korean (L1) or English sentence. Their goal was to find a partner. Ex. I like pizza / 나는 피자를 조하요. (This is considered 1 set)

Once they find their partners then they write the Korean & English on the worksheet I have attached.

After they finish, they then have to find another pair of students to switch papers with.

Students had a total of 12 sets of sentences.

The reverse of the worksheet had 12 Q&A to help us see what they remembered & understood from what they wrote.

All of the class got really into it trying to race and wanted to see who could finish first.

The teachers work is mostly complete when the activity is prepared. You just need to make sure that there is a smooth transfer of the sentence strips. This was a hugely important part of the process because if students are not able to find the next sentence easily, they may quickly lose interest in the activity.

There was close to full participation, even by the lower level students were being helped by their partners and the Korean translations.

Everyone had a real sense of accomplishment by the end of the activity.

Reading Activities

Even when students think they get it, they don't get it like they need to get it. When the teacher thinks they get it, they still don't get it like they need to get it. Don't forget that you already know the story and the language, plus you are good at language. You may think you don't need so much repetition, but your students DO! 

This activity is another one of my favorite way to recycle vocabulary, phrases, and the story and make sure students are really understanding the story because it really shows me, with evidence, that students are understanding the story.

Reading with Half the Words (Learn to Guess from Context)

Reading Activities Part 2: The Missing Half

When I feel students are ready to move on from StoryAsking, I give them a chance to do the "StoryTelling". One of my favorite activities to do in a TPRS class it to have students illustrate, rewrite, and retell the story in their own words. This is an examples of my students work.

These activities compel students to recall the target language structure needed to describe each event or detail of the story. These higher order thinking skills are developed as students learn to tell, retell, and embellish stories and exten plots beyond the story told in class.

Post-Reading Activities

Story Scavenger Hunt & Puzzle Activity

I often print, laminate, cut up, and put story pictures into a bag and have students put the story back into the correct order. I love this activity, but it is time and energy intensive, so I came up with another idea.

Students listen to the sentences on the right and match them to the mixed up pictures on the left.

1. Listen.  2. Match.  3. Write the number.  4. Check the answers.  5. Give students a sentence and have them illustrate it.

Fun and interesting way to introduce a story.

The alternative is to hide the sentence cards around the classroom and let students get up and get moving around the classroom to find them.

Teacher Tip: Be sure to include some hints for your non-readers & lower-ability students, this way you'll get a far greater level of participation.

Story Scavenger Hunts

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.

—Dr. Linus Pauling

These are my best practices, not the best practices. Don’t confuse what works for me and what will work for you. Try and take the best of what I show and leave the rest. 

These are examples of the work done by students in my 3rd-6th grade English classes in South Korea. Their work is a small example of the endless possibilities of StoryAsking & StoryTelling. Have a look at their examples and see what might work for you. Take the good and discard the bad.

Activities: Student Examples

Check your understanding of the materials presented in lecture 6-11 and the supplemental materials.

Section Three Review
Planning Lessons for StoryAsking & Storytelling
3 Lectures 09:27
Simplifying Instruction

Different learners are expected to be able to use at different vocabulary at different proficiency levels. Choosing the right vocabulary to teach and highlight in a TPRS class in not easy task. This lesson will help you identify the core vocabulary which is common to most learners, regardless of their specific L1 linguistic and cultural background.  

Choosing the Appropriate Vocabulary

Learn what words to teach and what meanings to use.

Choosing the Appropriate Vocabulary
2 questions

A good plan executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.  

I was recently asked what advice I would give a new teacher (ESL or otherwise). Here's what I said:

"Begin with the end. Write specific, achievable, and measurable goals for each unit, lesson, semester, course, and your career.

If you do this, you'll always know what you want out of each day, feel a sense of accomplishment when things go well, know how to improve when things go poorly, and a have a guiding light when you lose your direction."

Teaching EFL learners and ELL is a unique skill set that takes time to master. It requires knowledge, wisdom, and insight that is different from mainstream teaching.

As always, training and planning are the keys.

We all want our students to tell stories more fluently, but many of us aren’t comfortable storytellers in English. This may have nothing to do with your English ability and everything to do with your communicative ability.

Being a good communicator is a skill, and like any skill, it can be refined with application and sustained practice. This lecture will teach you the basic elements of instruction that will be of use to you as a storyteller. 

Each lesson is made up of and will cover the following elements:

  1. Warm Up
  2. Objective Discussion
  3. Present and Model
  4. Guided or Controlled Practice 
  5. Less Guided Practice
  6. Independent Practice
  7. Assessment

The lesson plan below demonstrates each of these steps to lesson planning in this lecture, so that by the time you finish, you will know exactly how the StoryAsking & StoryTelling approach works and looks. It is very easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of thought that needs to go into a single lesson, let alone an entire academic year. Do your best to start with a lesson and build your units, weeks, months, semesters, and years from there. 

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
- Theodore Roosevelt -

The Lesson Plan

Check your understanding of the materials presented in lecture 11 and the supplemental materials.

Section Four Review
5 questions
2 Lectures 04:24

Review the steps of the circle questioning technique.

Final Quiz
10 questions

For completing this course, I am giving you a free digital copy of my textbook "Storytelling the News".

StoryTelling the News: My book, my gift, your opportunity.

Thank you for being a part of this course and giving me the opportunity to share my teaching philosophy. As I say to all my students, "Once a student, always a student." Please feel free to post any questions you have on the course page and I will do my very best to answer them as completely as possible in as timely a manner as possible.

Preview 02:35
Bonus Materials
6 Lectures 35:47

BrainPOP ESL is a tremendous teaching tool. Now, make it even better by transforming passive video watching into active storyasking.

StoryAsking with BrainPOP ESL

StoryAsking the News - Genesio's Gift

Learn the story of an elderly couple who had ENOUGH of each other's pet peeves.

StoryAsking the News - Neighbors

Learn the story of a waitress with a heart of gold.

StoryAsking the News - The Kind Waitress

Learn the story of a quick thinking boy with big squirt gun and an even bigger heart.

A Super Soaker and a Super Kid

Learn the story of a long-distance love that just wouldn't sink.

Storytelling the News - The Bottle
About the Instructor
Bryan Betz M.S. TESOL
4.6 Average rating
6 Reviews
39 Students
2 Courses
Make sure whatever you are saying is worth hearing.

Bryan Betz has been an English teacher in South Korean public schools for the last decade. Over this time he has served as a teacher trainer for the Gimpo Office of Education, a mentor in the GEPIK program, and written two ESL textbooks”Table Talk” and “Storytelling the News”. He is the founder and owner of Kaizen Teaching a training organization dedicated to the continual improvement of teachers with a focus on conversation-based learning. Bryan can be reached at

“When something can be learned without effort, great effort has gone into its teaching.”