Randall explains the purpose and development of this section of his website called Life Stories.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Each lesson will have several key parts:
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:
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:
Of course, you may consider modifying and/or simplifying any of the questions or activities to the specific needs and circumstances of your students.
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.
Listen to a sampling of the voices that will appear in these stories.
High-Intermediate to Advanced
Acting vs. Waiting: Can Jenny Handle Both?
Between the Pages: A Story of Love and Friendship
Breaking Out of the High School Bubble: Tim’s Story
Dancing to Your Own Beat: A Lesson in Self-Expression
Foreign But Fabulous: Thriving as an International Student
Lucky or Not? Tom’s Quest for the Perfect Apartment
“Shell-ebrating” (Celebrating) a Day at the Beach
Sweating With a Smile: Bob’s Fitness Adventure
The Tale of Global Business Success
The Uniting Power of Christmas: A Heartwarming Story