THE ADULT ESOL
March 25, 2010
Evans Community Adult
717 N. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
(213) 250-3235 fax (213) 250-7595
The Why and the How
✔A language cannot be separated from its culture:
My thirty seven years of experiences as an English as Second Language teacher, at Evans
Community Adult School in Los Angeles, (we have over 10,000 students from 96 different
countries) plus current research findings in the schema theory and Hirsch’s theory of the need for
cultural literacy, make it very clear one cannot separate a language from its culture.
My recent deductive research has unearthed an astounding corollary to that: For our ESOL
students to truly attain fluency, especially our adult students, they must be exposed to the
same core stories and rhymes as native speakers; i.e. the folk tales, fairy tales, myths and
rhymes of childhood.
This presentation attempts to prove that theory with examples of how to use folktales to teach
vocabulary, grammar and culture, plus the astonishing prevalence of vocabulary and allusions to
those stories found in everyday basic adult discourse and the media, (collected and organized
mostly by students).
I posit the following:
☞ We must expose our adult students to the basic stories and rhymes accessible to all native
1. Folktales and children’s rhymes are the foundation to learning the core vocabulary and
grammar of any language. Children are sponges and pick up their native language from the song and
story of the nursery.
2. The values of a culture are deeply embedded in the folktales of that culture. Children learn
what is right and wrong, good and bad from the stories they are told. Their sense of morality is
deeply imprinted by the age of five.
3. Introducing our adult students to classic American folktales helps explain and clarify basic
American cultural values.
4. When English as a Second Language Adults are not exposed to children’s stories and rhymes,
they have great gaps in their comprehension. They do not have the core vocabulary and lack the
cultural hooks to idiom and allusion.
☞ Language and culture are learned in the nursery:
The frustration of teaching a language, separately from the culture in which it is used, led me to
experiment with a content and literature based approach. The research subsequently led to the
discovery that there was magic in using classic children’s stories of fairy tale, folk tale, fables,
legends, and myth. As I started teaching those stories I was astonished to notice with what ease
the students caught the rhythms of American English, developed an appreciation for the styles of
literature, and quickly learned grammar and vocabulary. I was also struck by the strong moral
lessons of the stories and how they clearly mirror American cultural values.
☞ Startling amounts of allusions to classic folktales and myths are used daily by adults
A further surprise was that allusions to these “childrens’ stories are myriad; from stock
market reports to the sports page, commercials to cartoons, in common everyday conversation and
idioms and in television, songs, movies, etc.
☞ To achieve complete fluency, adult ESOL students must be introduced to classic children’s
stories and nursery rhymes:
Be they adults studying in the university, community college, adult school, or teen-agers in high
school, knowing the core stories and rhymes of American English empowers them not only by
teaching the core vocabulary they lack, but by giving them the cultural hooks they so desperately
need to understand the schemata of the American English language. Students see and hear the
allusions everywhere and the stories then become truly a magic wand for learning English. As the
students learn the “in-jokes”-- the idioms of the culture, their affective filter lowers, their fluency
soars and for both teacher and student, acquiring English becomes fun, enjoyable and stimulating.
☞ We must encourage our students to go out of the classroom, look for and collect
vocabulary from, and allusions to, those basic stories:
Knowing the importance of positive reinforcement and with the amazing discoveries in current
brain research of the importance of tactile/kinesthetic experiences for learning, I suggest you give
your students the projects of Word Hunting, Allusion Hunting and Fishing, found on the nest page.
You and your students will become serious “clip-aholics”. You will be as amazed as I at the
amount of folktale/myth/rhyme allusions that abound. This power point shows you just a few years
of occasional clipping and “fishing” from what my students and I we have found in the Los Angeles
Times the New Yorker, and now on the Internet, as well as what my students bring me daily and
their “fishing” expeditions (putting a blank tape in the radio/cassette player or vcr and waiting to
catch something). Just think what more is out there in other newspapers and magazines, not to
mention print ads, television, radio, song, film and common conversation. SO BE CAREFUL! In your
family, you must be sure to look at the paper and magazines last. My husband has gotten so tired
of “holes” in the paper, he has forced us to become a two-paper family.
I hope you enjoyed this presentation and please let me know what you and your students think
and find. You can contact me by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, check out my website at
www:realistically-speaking.com, fax me (213) 250-7595 or call me at home (213) 250-3235. Or
come visit our classes at Evans!!!!!
Try This. You’ll love it.
Here are the directions I give my students. Feel free to copy them. I give books as prizes
(I get a lot of free books from Scholastic Books because the students buy so many). You can also
give pencils, candy, etc. for the reward.
Here are the directions for how to do the word hunting. Each word you find earns you one point and 10 points
= one free book of your choice. (limit to 15 books per trimester). You are responsible for keeping track of
a. Find a word you didn’t know before and a word that we have studied in the class. You can find the word in
the newspaper, magazine, cartoons, catalog, billboard, etc., see it on television, movie, or hear it in a
conversation, song or on the radio.
b. Cut out the word (or quote it) and put it on a piece of paper. In one or two sentences, explain where you
learned the word (page number and chapter, context, etc.) and then define the word. Be sure to put your name
and the date on the page.
c. When you have found ten words, give me the papers, put one point down (for each word) on the word hunting
chart on the library cupboard door. When you have the ten points, tell me and claim your book.
Here are the directions for how to do the allusions. Each allusion you find earns you one point. 2 allusions =
one free book of your choice (limit to 15 books per trimester) Allusions found on the internet earns you one
point but you need 10 internet allusions to claim your free book.
An allusion is a reference to something experienced in the past. Instead of re-telling the whole story, the
speaker (or writer) needs to just say one or two words. If the listener (or reader) has also had the same
experience, he or she understands completely what the speaker is trying to communicate. Allusions are like
family “in-jokes”. Think about your own family and all the special, private experiences you share. The only
thing your mother or father or brother or sister has to do is to say just one word or phrase to you, and that
one word will remind everyone in your family of something that had happened in the past. Just one word, and
the whole family experiences the same emotions and memories. One word communicates so much. You all laugh
(or cry). And yet, the people outside of your family can only say, “HUH??!” A language works the same way.
Just one word or phrase can remind all the language speakers of a shared experience. That experience is
usually from their childhood but adults are constantly alluding to it in everyday adult conversations.
a. Find an allusion to one of the stories or rhymes we have studied in the class. You can find the allusion in the
newspaper, magazine, cartoons, catalog, billboard, etc., see it on television, movie, or hear it in a conversation,
song or on the radio.
b. Cut out the allusion (or quote it) and put it on a piece of paper. In one or two sentences, explain where you
learned the word (page number and chapter, context, etc.) and then define the word. Be sure to put your name
and date on page.
c. Give me the paper and put one point down on the allusion hunting chart on the library cupboard door. When
you have two points, tell me and claim your book.
Here are the directions for how to do FISHING . For every “fish” caught, you will get one free book. (no
limit!!) Sometimes you will be watching television or listening to the radio and you will hear an allusion used in a
commercial, movie, program, etc. But by the time you find a blank VHS tape and turn on your VCR, it’s too late.
The “fish” has swum away. So, just in case you might catch something, when you are watching tv (or listening
to the radio) put a blank cassette in the recorder and press “record”. If you don’t catch anything, just rewind
the tape and try again the next time. Each time you find an allusion and catch it, bring me the vhs tape, DVD,
CD or audio cassette tape. We will share with the class, I will copy it and return it. Be sure to write your
name on the chart and claim your free book.
BOOKS FOR REFERENCE
If you are interested in the two folk tale textbooks I use, they are published by the
University of Michigan Press and available from the Press at www.press.umich.edu/esl or
call 1-800-764-4393 and, of course, Amazon.com. Audio tapes of all the stories are also
available and my students love to listen to them in their cars, or play them to their
Open Sesame : Understanding American English and Culture Through Folktales and
Stories, Planaria J. Price, University of Michigan Press ISBN 0-472-08388-0, $22.95
Eureka! : Discovering American English and Culture Through Proverbs, Fables, Myths, and
Legends Planaria J. Price, University of Michigan Press ISBN 0-472-08547-6, $22.95
Following are just a few of the books I have used for my own reference and for
students who want to pursue these folktales and myths further. (you can find the details
◘ Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales: Jack Zipes
◘ The Uses of Enchantment: Bruno Bettelheim
◘ The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know: E.
D. Hirsch, Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefoil
◘ The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (multiple publishers)
Aesop's Fables (Dover Children's Thrift Classics) Aesop(Editor), Pat Stewart (Illustrator)
/ Paperback /
◘ The Classic Fairy Tales: Iona Archivald Opie
◘ A Wonder Book for Girls & Boys Nathaniel Hawthorne ,
◘ D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths -- Ingri D'Aulaire, Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
◘ The Greek Myths -- Robert Graves; Paperback
◘ Mythology : Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes -- Edith Hamilton
Recent books (on the best seller’s lists) based on folk tales and fairy tales are:
◘ all by Gregory Maguire: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the
West, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Son of a Witch, What-the-Dickens: The
Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy, Lost and Mirror Mirror, The Dream Stealer, and
Leaping Beauty: And Other Animal Fairy Tales
◘ The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime and The Fourth Bear: A Nursery Crime both
by Jasper Fforde
◘ You might also be interested in Carol Goodman’s magnificent novels which are filled with
fairy tales allusions: The Seduction of Water, and The Lake of Dead Languages
Also, check out the research being done on “schema” theory (check it on the web–
keyword: schema ) as well as two books by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. on Cultural Literacy. Last but
not least, a good reference book on American Proverbs is A Dictionary of American
Proverbs, Mieder, Kingsbury and Harder.
The power point selections show just a infinitesimal amount of the corpus collected by my students
in the past few years Please note that these statistics are from the print media only: some movies
are cited but most references on the air and in music are not counted here, (but very often heard).
Just type in a name in You Tube and you will be amazed!!!
FOLK TALES: Perhaps the most important cultural icon in America is
1, THE WIZARD OF OZ (over 300 clippings so far!!!): plus students have brought me, on video,
allusions from the films, Good Morning, Vietnam; Top Secret; Wild at Heart;, Lost in Space; ET; The
Two Towers (Lord of the Rings), and Volunteers, as well as n countless t.v. and radio commercials
and in second place:
2. HUMPTY DUMPTY (200 clippings) plus allusions in the films, Manchurian Candidate, Serial
Killer, Carlitto’s Way, Mulan, Mission Impossible
3. PINOCCHIO (65 clippings) Particularly great when politicians, etc get caught lying
4. THE THREE LITTLE PIGS (65 clippings) plus allusions in the film The Shining
5. CINDERELLA (55 clippings ) plus allusions in the film Pretty Woman, You’ve Got Mail, several
6. SNOW WHITE (45 clippings)
7. GOLDILOCKS (40 clippings) plus allusions in the Bush/Gore debate: 2000
8. THE FROG PRINCE (40 clippings and 5 greeting cards plus the new Disney movie)
9. LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (35 clippings)
10. CHICKEN LITTLE (30 clippings) Particularly great during Y2K and the Sotck Market Disasters
11. HANSEL AND GRETEL (25 clippings )
12. THE PIED PIPER (23 clippings )
13. RAPUNZEL (20 clippings ) plus allusions in the recent Red Bull ad and Disney is coming out with
a movie called Tangled.
MYTHS, FABLES AND PROVERBS
1. VARIOUS PROVERBS (over 200 CLIPPINGS)
and in second place:
2. EUREKA! (45 clippings)
3. THE TROJAN WAR (37 clippings)
4. THE LITTLE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF (25 clippings)
5. PANDORA (24 clippings )
6. KING ARTHUR AND CAMELOT (20 clippings )
7. HERCULES (18 clippings )
8. THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE (17 Clippings)
9. ROBIN HOOD (12 Clippings)
10. THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR (9 clippings each)
ESL TEXTS BY PLANARIA PRICE
Open Sesame : Understanding American English and Culture
Through Folktales and Stories, Planaria J. Price, University
of Michigan Press ISBN 0-472-08388-0; $22.95
Eureka!: Discovering American English and Culture Through
Proverbs, Fables, Myths, and Legends, Planaria J. Price,
University of Michigan Press ISBN 0-472-08547-6, $22.95
Achieving Competency in English: A Life Skills Approach,
Planaria J. Price, University of Michigan Press ISBN 0-472-
Life in the USA: an Immigrants Guide to Understanding
Americans: by Planaria Price and Euphronia Awakuni:
University of Michigan Press ISBN 978-0-472-03304-1,
Also, if you are interested in Pronunciation, including
Realistically Speaking: a Practical Approach to the Basic
Sounds and Rhythms of American English; Planaria J. Price,
Data Reproductions, ISBN 0-9766077-0-0, $19.95: there is
also a companion video or CD-rom available.