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Life Stories

“Listening, Reading, and Critical-Thinking Development”

Frequently-Asked-Questions About New Activities

Randall explains the purpose and development of this section of his website called Life Stories.

What are the main learning objectives of this section of your website?

These activities are specifically designed to encourage the development of critical thinking and overall discussion skills, for independent learners and for students in multi-level classes.

Anyone can do basic activities to improve their language skills in isolation; however, it is quite another task to help learners think better, and thus act better, within our family and communities by combining reading, listening, and thought-provoking discussion questions. Simply put, we need more careful thinkers, not simply English speakers, to make a meaningful difference around us, and not enough learning focuses on that.

To accomplish these goals, this section of my website contains:

  1. pre-listening discussion tasks
  2. fictional, yet realistic/humorous, life stories narrated in one of several accents
  3. comprehension questions
  4. thought-provoking discussion questions, role-play scenarios, and other classroom activities that target different learning styles (modalities)

If these materials are used in a classroom environment (either in person or online), the teacher can supplement their regular classroom activities with one of these as a warm-up activity, or build an entire lesson or group of lessons around it.

Furthermore, the stories in this website section recycle topics, vocabulary, and idioms found in the other listening activities. By listening to related stories with various voices, learners can recycle and retain language better.

Of course, learners can study these materials on their own and benefit from the topics and questions.

How did you select the topics for the stories?

Most of my website’s content focuses on everyday, functional language, and the topics for these activities in this section are often related to the listening activities in the Easy, Intermediate, and Advanced sections of this website, allowing greater cross-pollination of topics, language structures, and vocabulary.

What accents are used in the stories?

One element of these activities is the audio narration of the stories in a variety of speaking styles and accents.

However, keep in mind that an accent represents a very broad category of speech, it is impossible to speak of a single accent as Canadian, American, Australian, and so forth.

Furthermore, rather than use these voices for creating conversations between two people on Randall’s website, they will be used in narrating stories, and thus, you will notice more pronounced pauses at times. That said, hearing such stories can be a great way to understand the English language.

Currently, there are plans to include at least 15 new voices in the stories over time.

How long are the stories? Are the stories based on real events?

The stories are all non-fiction between 1-3 minutes long. However, the events seem realistic enough and represent the types of experiences people encounter in their lives.

What levels are these stories?

The stories, recordings, and comprehension questions are mainly geared toward high-intermediate to advanced learners. 

The discussion questions are meant to stretch students’ language and critical-thinking skills, and therefore, are aimed at advanced students, not only in terms of language, but also in terms of analytical thinking skills.

How are the individual parts of each lesson organized?

Each lesson will have several key parts:

  1. Pre-listening ideas to stimulate interest and background knowledge on the topic. 
  2. The audio for the activity.
  3. The transcript of the story.
  4. Comprehension questions and answer key.
  5. Thought-provoking discussion questions.
  6. Role-play situations and other class activities.
What suggestions do you have to make the most of these lessons for independent learners and teachers who have mixed-level classes?

First, these materials can be used by independent learners and by teachers. Because the purpose of the activities is to become a more mindful critical thinker, there are a variety of ways to practice these skills.

If you are studying these lessons on your own, then I suggest using the materials to build your comprehension and thinking skills in the following ways:

  1. Listen and answer the comprehension questions.
  2. Carefully consider the discussion questions and how they relate to your own life and community.
  3. Whenever possible, share your new perspectives on these topics with your family, friends, and colleagues, even if you do so in your own language.
  4. Share thoughtful posts and/or videos and engage in meaningful conversations on social media.

If you are a teacher, many of the teaching skills you currently use would work well with these lessons, In addition to the ideas mentioned above for independent learners, you could also do the following, particularly in mixed-level classes:

  1. Divide students strategically into groups and have them discuss one or more of the pre-listening questions. Such groupings can be done based on interests, mixed abilities to support each other, or level of engagement.
  2. If available, use the picture below the pre-listening questions to stimulate discussion on the topic.
  3. Decide on whether to review the reading beforehand before listening to the story. One option is to give students 10 words from the story, or any number that are needed, to guess the content of the story.  Some higher-level students may choose not the review these words.
  4. Listen to the recording, with listening comprehension being one goal. 
  5. Ask students in groups to answer the comprehension questions.
  6. Ask students in groups to answer the comprehension questions. In many cases, there will be three levels of questions, and students can approach those within their linguistic reach.
  7. Select one of the role-play and class activities at the end of the lesson to process and synthesize the ideas found in the lesson. Customize the roles of the activity to the interests, needs, and levels of your students.

Of course, you may consider modifying and/or simplifying any of the questions or activities to the specific needs and circumstances of your students.

What methods did you use to create these new activities?

For reasons of intellectual and ethical transparency, I want to acknowledge that I use ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, in a collaborative process to generate ideas and text for these lessons. 

In addition, I use an AI voice generator to produce a wide range of accents and voices that narrate the text in the stories.

Such innovative AI technologies can greatly facilitate content creation in ways not possible in the past, and weaving my real human experience and expertise together with the judicious use of a new generation of tools can enhance content creation and learning in a whole new way.

Audio Demo of Voices

Listen to a sampling of the voices that will appear in these stories. 

Newest Lessons

Healing in the Jungle – FEATURED

  • Topic: medical remedies
  • Voice: male – American accent

                    High-Intermediate to Advanced

                    Adventures in Education: Claudia’s Quest for Self-Discovery

                    • Topic: education and college majors
                    • Voice: Female – American Accent

                      Acting vs. Waiting: Can Jenny Handle Both?

                      • Topic: education and motivation
                      • Voice: Female – British accent

                      A Bear-y Scary Camping Trip

                      • Topic: outdoor recreation
                      • Voice: Male – American accent

                      Between the Pages: A Story of Love and Friendship

                      • Topic: friendship and love
                      • Voice: Female – British accent

                      Breaking Out of the High School Bubble: Tim’s Story

                      • Topic: education and relationships
                      • Voice: Male – American accent

                      Bridging Cultures, Igniting Minds: The Journey of an International English Teacher 

                      • Topic: college majors and careers
                      • Voice: Male- British Accent

                      Dancing to Your Own Beat: A Lesson in Self-Expression

                      • Topic: fashion and personality
                      • Voice: Female – American accent

                      Foreign But Fabulous: Thriving as an International Student

                      • Topic: study abroad and college study
                      • Voice: Female – American accent

                      From City Lights to Starry Nights: Paul’s Wyoming Adventure

                      • Topic: overseas travel, study abroad, homestay
                      • Voice: Female – American Accent

                      Love, Scams, and Unexpected Heroes 

                      • Topic: identity theft
                      • Voice: Female – American accent

                      Lucky or Not? Tom’s Quest for the Perfect Apartment

                      • Topic: apartments and housing
                      • Voice: Male – British accent

                      Nervous Teacher, Big Heart  

                      Topic: language teaching and learning

                      • Voice: Female – American Accent

                      Peak Performance: Daniel’s Climb to Business Success 

                      • Topic: international business
                      • Voice: Male – American accent

                      Room Services Riddles: Hilarious Encounters with Hotel Menu

                      • Topic: hotel room service
                      • Voice: Male – American Accent.

                      “Shell-ebrating” (Celebrating) a Day at the Beach

                      • Topic: family relationships
                      • Voice: Male – American accent

                      Smart Hospitality: A Case Study on Effective Hotel Vacation Packages

                      • Topic: hotel tours
                      • Voice: Male – British Accent

                            Sweating With a Smile: Bob’s Fitness Adventure

                            • Topic: physical and emotional health
                            • Voice: Male – British accent

                            The Chore Shuffle: Finding a Balance in Shared Living Spaces

                            • Topic: apartment living and housework
                            • Voice: Male – American Accent

                            The Eccentric International Student’s Guide to Birthday Parties

                            • Topic: party activities, food, and games
                            • Voice: Female- British Accent

                            The Art of Customer Support: Turning Challenges into Solutions 

                            • Topic: call centers and customer support
                            • Voice: Woman – American Accent

                            The Tale of Global Business Success

                            • Topic: business marking
                            • Voice: Male – American Accent

                            The Uniting Power of Christmas: A Heartwarming Story

                            • Topic: friendship and gratitude
                            • Voice: Male – British accent

                            The Unpaid Overtime Dilemma: Working Beyond Hours 

                            • Topic: working hours and overtime pay
                            • Voice: Female – American Accent

                            Tim’s AI Writing Escapade: Whales, Woes, and Creativity 

                            • Topic: AI technologies and academic writing
                            • Voice: Male – American Accent
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