Using anecdotes in English language classroom

Defining communicative competence. The value of communicative language teaching. On the value of audio-lingual approach. Using of humor in teaching foreign language. On the structure of an anecdotes. Using anecdotes for intermediate and advanced learners.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
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Язык английский
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Using anecdotes in English language classroom


The presented graduation paper presents information about the definition, the structure, the usage and types of anecdotes.

The purpose of this study is to view anecdotes as a way for teaching students foreign language. For this it is necessary to analyze the anecdotes and find their advantages and disadvantages for teaching.

The accomplishment of this purpose was possible through the use of such methods of investigation as: analyses, explanation, classification, description, observation, comparison, contrastive exemplification and data collecting. I analyzed a number of anecdotes, chosen from the immense quantity of anecdotes all over the internet and over the books, in order to show their value for teaching foreign language; I gave examples of using them in the lesson activities, and finally divided the activities and the investigated material into two parts - for young students and for advanced and intermediate students.

The result of the investigations leads to the conclusion and once again proves that the anecdotes are of great value for every teacher whose main goal is to stimulate the students, to encourage the students for a free communication at the lesson, to motivate them to speak a foreign language and of course to accomplish all the tasks of the pedagogical process.


1. Communicative Competence - what a speaker needs to know in order to be communicatively competent in a speech community.

2. Communicative Language Teaching - teaches the language needed to express and understand different kinds of functions

3. Audio-Lingual Approach - a technique of foreign-language instruction that emphasizes audio-lingual skills over reading and writing and is characterized by extensive use of pattern practice.

4. Humor - the quality that makes something laughable or amusing.

5. Anecdote - a short usually amusing account of an incident, esp a personal or biographical one


Teaching has been described as 'the most privatized of all public professions". "Teaching is a moral activity, because it is founded upon a relationship which involves making decisions and taking actions that influence the social, emotional, intellectual and moral development of others in one's care.

Teaching has no use without communication. The ever-growing need for good communication skills in English has created a huge demand for English teaching around the world. Millions of people today want to improve their command of English or to ensure that their children achieve a good command of English. And opportunities to learn English are provided in many different ways such as through formal instruction, travel, and study abroad, as well as through the media and internet.

The main goal of the methods is that they help teachers to achieve better results in teaching. For such a help acts anecdote as well.

So, the object of this research paper is the anecdote, as a specific form of narrative writing, a tool, as a means of accessing and using the reflective process, its usage in English class.

Examples of anecdotes:

1) It is good to work on two works! It is a lot of money! But not because it is paid a lot of, but because there is no time to spend the money...

2) Look at all schools of the country: a super blockbuster "Sit down"! And continuation "Sit down - 2"!

The main goal of this research paper is to view anecdotes as a way for teaching students foreign language. For this it is necessary to analyze the anecdotes and find their advantages and disadvantages for teaching.

This work aims:

- to determine Communicative Competence

- to determine the Audio-lingual Approach

- its connection with Communicative Language Teaching

- to describe what is an anecdote;

- to describe the types of anecdotes;

- to explain why anecdotes are useful in language teaching;

- to explain how to use them in language teaching;

- to analyze some anecdotes in order to show their potential value for the lesson.

The research paper consists of three chapters: APPROACHES TO DEVELOPING COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCES, ANECDOTES and ANALYSIS OF INVESTIGATED MATERIAL. The first chapter is about the role of communication in teaching foreign language. The second chapter includes detailed information about the origin, typology, meaning of the anecdotes. And the third chapter consists samples of anecdotes used in the classroom for different ages.

communicative competence anecdote language


For most people communication is simply talk. It is a natural event. Students enrolling in an introductory undergraduate communication course will quickly reference a convenient and aging dictionary when asked to define communication and provide the following:

“Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” (Webster, 1983, p. 266).

The field of communication focuses on how PEOPLE use MESSAGE to generate MEANINGS within and across various CONTEXTS, CULTURES, CHANNELS, and MEDIA. [1]

1.1 Defining communicative competence

The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia suggests that communicative competence is a term in linguistics which refers to a language user's grammatical knowledge of syntax, morphology, phonology and the like, as well as social knowledge about how and when to use utterances appropriately.

The term was coined by Dell Hymes in 1966, reacting against the perceived inadequacy of Noam Chomsky's (1965) distinction between competence and performance. [2]

Hymes's theory of communicative competence was a definition of what a speaker needs to know in order to be communicatively competent in a speech community. In Hymes's view, a person who acquires communicative competence acquires both knowledge and ability for language use with respect to:

1. whether (and to what degree) something is formally possible;

2. whether (and to what degree) something is feasible in virtue of the means of implementation available;

3. whether (and to what degree) something is appropriate (adequate, happy, successful) in relation to a context in which it is used and evaluated;

4. whether (and to what degree) something is in fact done, actually performed, and what its doing entails.

This theory of what knowing a language entails offers a much more comprehensive view than Chomsky's view of competence, which deals primarily with abstract grammatical knowledge. [3]

Dr. Lane from University of Kentucky dealt with the problem of defining communication competence. He comes with some examples of identifying communicative competence by some linguists. Initially, Spitzberg (1988) defined communication competence as "the ability to interact well with others" (p.68). He explains, "the term 'well' refers to accuracy, clarity, comprehensibility, coherence, expertise, effectiveness and appropriateness" (p. 68).

Friedrich provided a much more complete operationalization (1994) declaring that communication competence is best understood as "a situational ability to set realistic and appropriate goals and to maximize their achievement by using knowledge of self, other, context, and communication theory to generate adaptive communication performances."

He mentions also Parks (1985) who emphasizes three interdependent themes: control, responsibility, and foresight; and argues that to be competent, we must "not only 'know' and 'know how,' we must also 'do' and 'know that we did'" (p. 174). He defines communicative competence as "the degree to which individuals perceive they have satisfied their goals in a given social situation without jeopardizing their ability or opportunity to pursue their other subjectively more important goals" (p. 175).

It must be said some words about the useful framework for understanding communication competence designed by Spitzberg & Cupach (1984) and known as the component model of competence because it is comprised of three specific dimensions: motivation (an individual's approach or avoidance orientation in various social situations), knowledge (plans of action; knowledge of how to act; procedural knowledge), and skill (behaviors actually performed).

Rubin (1985) explains that communication competence is “an impression formed about the appropriateness of another's communicative behavior” and that “one goal of the communication scholar is to understand how impressions about communication competence are formed, and to determine how knowledge, skill and motivation lead to perceptions of competence within various contexts” (p. 173).

At the end Dr.Lane summarizes that communication competence is the degree to which a communicator's goals are achieved through effective and appropriate interaction. [4]

Nonprofit organization SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics, Inc) International uses Carol J. Orwig's online book to give different origin of communicative competence. Communicative competence as a concept was introduced by Dell Hymes and discussed and redefined by many authors. Hymes' original idea was that speakers of a language have to have more than grammatical competence in order to be able to communicate effectively in a language; they also need to know how language is used by members of a speech community to accomplish their purposes. [5]

1.2 On the value of audio-lingual approach

According to the history given by The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia the audio-lingual method was developed due to the U.S.'s entry into World War II. The government suddenly needed people who could carry on conversations fluently in a variety of languages such as German, French, Italian, Chinese, Malay, etc., and could work as interpreters, code-room assistants, and translators. Since foreign language instruction in that country was heavily focused on reading instruction, no textbooks, other materials or courses existed at the time, so new methods and materials had to be devised. The Army Specialized Training Program created intensive programs based on the techniques Leonard Bloomfield and other linguists devised for Native American languages, where students interacted intensively with native speakers and a linguist in guided conversations designed to decode its basic grammar and learn the vocabulary. This "informant method" had great success with its small class sizes and motivated learners. The Army Specialized Training Program only lasted a few years, but it gained a lot of attention from the popular press and the academic community. Charles Fries set up the first English Language Institute at the University of Michigan, to train English as a second or foreign language teacher. Similar programs were created later at Georgetown University, University of Texas among others based on the methods and techniques used by the military. [6]

Writers from Scribd publishing company define the Audio-Lingual Method or Army Method or also the New Key as a style of teaching used in teaching foreign languages. It is based on behaviorist theory, which professes that certain traits of living things, and in this case humans could be trained through a system of reinforcement - correct use of a trait would receive positive feedback while incorrect use of that trait would receive negative feedback. [7]

To understand better this approach let's use Rhalmi Mohammed's description of the approach. He says that the objective of the audio-lingual method is accurate pronunciation and grammar, the ability to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations and knowledge of sufficient vocabulary to use with grammar patterns. Particular emphasis was laid on mastering the building blocks of language and learning the rules for combining them as it was believed that learning structure or grammar was the starting point for the student.

Rhalmi gives the following characteristics of the method:

§ language learning is habit-formation,

§ mistakes are bad and should be avoided, as they are considered bad habits,

§ language skills are learned more effectively if they are presented orally first, then in written form,

§ analogy is a better foundation for language learning than analysis,

§ the meanings of words can be learned only in a linguistic and cultural context.

Following this objective it could be said that the main activities include reading aloud dialogues, repetitions of model sentences, and drilling. Key structures from the dialogue serve as the basis for pattern drills of different kinds. Lessons in the classroom focus on the correct imitation of the teacher by the students. Not only are the students expected to produce the correct output, but attention is also paid to correct pronunciation. Although correct grammar is expected in usage, no explicit grammatical instruction is given. It is taught inductively. Furthermore, the target language is the only language to be used in the classroom.

As a teacher with big experience Rhalmi made an overview of the approach. So the advantages are:

§ It aims at developing listening and speaking skills which is a step away from the Grammar translation method

§ The use of visual aids has proven its effectiveness in vocabulary teaching.

And the disadvantages are:

§ The method is based on false assumptions about language. The study of language doesn't amount to studying the “parole”, the observable data. Mastering a language relies on acquiring the rules underlying language performance. That is, the linguistic, sociolinguistic, and discource competences.

§ The behaviorist approach to learning is now discredited. Many scholars have proven its weakness. Noam Chomsky ( “Chomsky, Noam (1959). “A Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior”) has written a strong criticism of the principles of the theory. [8]

1.3 On the value of communicative language teaching

The NCLRC's web site content is based on the material in Modules for the Professional Preparation of Teaching Assistants in Foreign Languages (Grace Stovall Burkart, ed.; Center for Applied Linguistics, 1998). Its founders Catharine Keatley and Deborah Kennedy instruct that Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) sets as its goals the teaching of communicative competence. NCLRC identifies four dimensions of communicative competence: linguistic, sociolinguistic, discourse, and strategic.

Linguistic competence knows how to use the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of a language. Linguistic competence asks: What words do I use? How do I put them into phrases and sentences?

Sociolinguistic competence knows how to use and respond to language appropriately, given the setting, the topic, and the relationships among the people communicating. Sociolinguistic competence asks: Which words and phrases fit this setting and this topic? How can I express a specific attitude (courtesy, authority, friendliness, respect) when I need to? How do I know what attitude another person is expressing?

Discourse competence knows how to interpret the larger context and how to construct longer stretches of language so that the parts make up a coherent whole. Discourse competence asks: How are words, phrases and sentences put together to create conversations, speeches, email messages, newspaper articles?

Strategic competence knows how to recognize and repair communication breakdowns, how to work around gaps in one's knowledge of the language, and how to learn more about the language and in the context. Strategic competence asks: How do I know when I've misunderstood or when someone has misunderstood me? What do I say then? How can I express my ideas if I don't know the name of something or the right verb form to use? [9]

Adriana Vizental from the university “Aurel Vlaicu” suggests another dimension - cultural competence - which is the knowledge of elements of culture and civilization of the foreign language environment: country, people, history, literature and the culture of the target language, etc. (Vizental, 2007)

These dimensions are important in order to make teachers understand what communicative competence teaching is and in which direction the abilities of language use must be developed.

To understand the value of communicative competence let's begin with its origin explored by Carl Rogers, the founder of Humanistic psychotherapy who says that the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) are to be found in the changes in the British language teaching tradition dating from the late 1960s. Until then, Situational Language represented the major British approach to teaching English as a foreign language. The language was taught by practicing basic structures in meaningful situation-based activities. British applied linguists saw the need to focus in language teaching on communicative proficiency rather than on mere mastery of structures. [10]

That's why we can agree with Ann Galloway from the Center for Applied Linguistics who proposes another version of CLT history according to which the communicative approach could be said to be also the product of educators and linguists who had grown dissatisfied with the audio-lingual and grammar-translation methods of foreign language instruction. They felt that students were not learning enough realistic, whole language. They did not know how to communicate using appropriate social language, gestures, or expressions; in brief, they were at a loss to communicate in the culture of the language studied.

Talking about CLT itself we can refer to Mrs. Galloway. She specifies that communicative language teaching makes use of real-life situations that necessitate communication. The teacher sets up a situation that students are likely to encounter in real life. Unlike the audio-lingual method of language teaching, which relies on repetition and drills, the communicative approach can leave students in suspense as to the outcome of a class exercise, which will vary according to their reactions and responses. The real-life simulations change from day to day. Students' motivation to learn comes from their desire to communicate in meaningful ways about meaningful topics.

Margie S. Berns, an expert in the field of communicative language teaching, writes in explaining Firth's view that "language is interaction; it is interpersonal activity and has a clear relationship with society. In this light, language study has to look at the use (function) of language in context, both its linguistic context (what is uttered before and after a given piece of discourse) and its social, or situational, context (who is speaking, what their social roles are, why they have come together to speak)" (Berns, 1984, p. 5). [11]

Mr. Rogers points out the following elements of an underlying learning theory. One such element might be described as the communication principle: Activities that involve real communication promote learning. A second element is the task principle: Activities in which language is used for carrying out meaningful tasks promote learning (Johnson 1982). A third element is the meaningfulness principle: Language that is meaningful to the learner supports the learning process. Learning activities are consequently selected according to how well they engage the learner in meaningful and authentic language use (rather than merely mechanical practice of language patterns).

These principles, he suggests, can be inferred from CLT practices. They address the conditions needed to promote second language learning, rather than the processes of language acquisition.

Finally, Mr. Rogers concludes that Communicative Language Teaching is best considered an approach rather than a method. Thus although a reasonable degree of theoretical consistency can be discerned at the levels of language and learning theory, at the levels of design and procedure there is much greater room for individual interpretation and variation than most methods permit. It could be that one version among the various proposals for syllabus models, exercise types, and classroom activities may gain wider approval in the future, giving Communicative Language Teaching a status similar to other teaching methods. On the other hand, divergent interpretations might lead to homogeneous subgroups.

CLT appealed to those who sought a more humanistic approach to teaching, one in which the interactive processes of communication received priority.

Now that the initial wave of enthusiasm has passed, however, some of the claims of CLT are being looked at more critically (Swan 1985). The adoption of a communicative approach raises important issues for teacher training, materials development, and testing 'and evaluation. [12]

1.4 Using of humor in teaching foreign language

Paul-Emile Chiasson from University of New Brunswick (Saint John, NB, Canada) states that for many the simple mention of humour condors up notions and protests of, "I'm not funny, I don't use humour." " I can't tell a joke; let alone use one in class." For others it is something to be feared, synonymous with classroom disorder and chaos. "I'm not about to start telling jokes, it will mean complete loss of control."

He continues saying that for some this resistance to using humour may simply be a lack of knowledge as to how one may use it effectively in class. "I enjoy humour, but I don't know how to go about using it, so I don't. I don't want to look foolish." Others associate humour and its use with non-productivity. Students can't be learning if they are laughing. Yet humour is as authentic and as communicative a human reaction and social skill as is greeting and conversing with friends. [13]

Adam Chee W.S. from The International TEYL Journal says that humor is the characteristic that makes something laughable or amusing but humor in the English classroom has more than just the 'effect to induce laughter'; it brings together a chain-reaction by increasing the learner's motivation and self-confidence which creates a positive classroom atmosphere for the smooth acquisition of the language. Joseph Gatt (2000) explains it best:

"It is the 'breathing-out of the soul'. When during the lesson the pupils only listen to the teacher, who may be teaching in the same tone, then it is as if they only breathe in and have no opportunity to breathe out. They need humor, which the teacher can find in very different places. Therefore the teacher must bring in humor during his lessons and this humor should result from the vitality and momentum of the lesson."

But how do we go about using the humor in our lessons? How are we going to make the students laugh? Adam Chee W.S. classifies humor in the language classroom into four major categories:

1. Textual Examples: Stories, Jokes

"Humor in the form of a joke should be the spice of a lesson but it should not over-stretch the attention of the class." (Gatt 2000)

"As for stories, young children tend to enjoy humor books that were easier to read and they are more interested in humor based in characters' actions than humor of language and wordplay." (Shannon 1993)

2. Pictorial Examples: Cartoons, Comics

"Pictures used either on their own or with text help creates valuable stimulus in the classroom as it can help liven the story. When both text and picture are used together, it can help the young learner in the memorization of language structures." (Wieggers, Grooters &Tormo 1996)

3. Action/Games Examples: Theatre, Video, Role play, Simulation, Contests

"Young children learn without being aware of it when they are learning through games because it is spontaneous and natural. They have to think and react quickly in a game without tension or fear and for ESL games, they would have to concentrate on the vocabulary and grammar." (Vadillo 1998)

4. Verbal Examples: Puns, Word games, Acronyms

"Young children often have difficulty interpreting kidding, they are dead-serious when they take the meaning of words literally because that is the only meaning they are capable of understanding;

They tend to enjoy the humor of broad discrepancies such as slapstick humor as they cannot process subtle categorical discrepancies such as in acoustic puns and idiomatic expression (two different strands of thought tied together by a sound, which belongs to both words. E.g. alcoholiday).

There are some risks however, for foreign learners in word play as the double meanings may not be apparent." (Gatt 2000)

From Adam Chee W.S.'s point of view there is little or no doubt that humor is an invaluable teaching aid in the English classroom and that almost all English teachers use humor at one point of time or another in their lesson. As a matter of fact, students have listed humor as an essential quality of a good teacher (Sylwester 2001) and the best teachers are known for their ability to release tension in class with humor (Kenner).

But what exactly is so special about the use of humor in the ESL classroom that helps get the language to flow so freely? It has been observed by Marklin (Walker 2002) that "students enjoys humor in forms of funny anecdotes" and it is this very 'enjoyment' that makes humor a popular content for teaching English because positive humor helps,

1) Increases Motivation and Self-confidence
"Humor can help the shy and/or timid students to feel that they are a part of the class and to allow them to contribute or participate without feeling humiliated or vulnerable" (Chiasson 2002). This can act as a means of enhancing student motivation to learn English as well as stimulating recall to the materials taught. (Vadillo 1998)

2) Creates a Positive Classroom Atmosphere
The nature of positive humor helps create a "positive atmosphere" which encourages the learners' desire to take part in class conversations by decreasing anxiety and stress. (Chiasson 2002) [14]

Richard L. Weaver I. and Howard W. Cotrell from Bowling Green State University designed a Systematic Sensitization Sequence used to help instructors become more comfortable using humor in the classroom.

1. Smile/Be lighthearted.

2. Be spontaneous/natural.

a. Relax control a little /break the routine occasionally.

b. Be willing to laugh at yourself/don't take yourself so seriously.

3. Foster an informal climate/be conversational and loose.

4. Begin class with a thought for the day, a poem, a short anecdote, or a humorous example.

5. Use stories and experiences that emerge from the subject matter. Use personal experiences.

6. Relate things to the everyday life of students. Read the student newspaper. Listen to “their” music; see “their” movies.

7. Plan lectures/presentations in short segments with humor injected. Plan a commercial break. Use a slide or overhead.

8. Encourage a give-and-take climate between yourself and students. Play off their comments. Learn their names.

9. Ask students to supply you with some of their jokes, stories, or anecdotes. Share these.

10. Tell a joke or two. Do outrageous things. Admit you're no good at it. Appear human. [15]

Humor should not be encouraged and this can easily be done through proper preparation. Differing from above mentioned instructions some general guidelines suggested by Adam Chee W.S. for using humor in teaching English are :

· Don't try too hard. Let humor arise naturally, encourage it.

· Do what fits your personality.

· Don't use private humor or humor that leaves people out of the topic.

· Make humor an integral part of your class, rather then something special. Humor works best as a natural on-going part of classroom learning.

· Be careful not to over use it, it could loose its value and effect.

· Using humor, like teaching, has to be well prepared.(Chiasson 2002)

The most important in using humor is to avoid jokes and puns related to cultural, religion, customs, or racial issues, also considered taboo are the learner's personality and their family relationships (parents, siblings, etc). [16]


Anecdotes are stories, usually from personal experience, that people tell to make a point or to entertain others during a conversation. [17] It may be as brief as the setting and provocation of a bon mot. An anecdote is always based on real life, an incident involving actual persons, whether famous or not, in real places. However, over time, modification in reuse may convert a particular anecdote to a fictional piece, one that is retold but is “too good to be true”. [18] These personal stories have a considerable role in everyday human interaction (Jones 2001), and according to Wright (1995, 16), “the whole world is full of storytellers.” Anecdotes often have an emotional component, such as happiness or sadness, excitement or embarrassment, or amusement or disappointment. [19] Sometimes humorous, anecdotes are not jokes, because their primary purpose is not simply to evoke laughter, but to reveal a truth more general than the brief tale itself, or to delineate a character trait or the workings of an institution in such a light that it strikes in a flash of insight to their very essence. A brief monologue beginning “A man pops in a bar...” will be a joke. A brief monologue beginning “Once J. Edgar Hoover popped in a bar...” will be an anecdote. [20] While it is not possible to remember all of the anecdotes we know, we do remember the content of noteworthy ones, and often we pass them on to others. It is well known that inserting anecdotes in essays and oral presentations is a good strategy to attract and hold audience attention (Benson 2000; Lukey-Coutsocostas and Tanner- Bogia 1998). This also applies to the second language classroom; using anecdotes is a good technique to arouse student interest and establish a meaningful and memorable context for learning. [21]

2.1 On the definition

The literary history of the Anecdote carries us back to the classic ages; though this form of composition was scarcely employed by the ancients in the sense in which we now use it. 'Anecdote' from Greek anekdota "things unpublished," neutral plural of anekdotos, from an- "not" + ekdotos "published," from ek- "out" + didonai "to give". (in Greek: "unpublished", literally "not given out") . The word comes from Procopius of Caesarea, the biographer of Justinian I, who produced a work entitled ?нЭкдпфб (Anekdota, variously translated as Unpublished Memoirs or Secret History), an unpublished memoirs of Emperor Justinian full of short incidents, gossips from the private life of the Byzantine court, gave the word a sense of "revelation of secrets," which decayed in English to "brief, amusing stories" (1761), which is primarily a collection. Gradually, the term anecdote came to be applied to any short tale utilized to emphasize or illustrate whatever point the author wished to make. The anecdote is now used, after the French, for a biographical incident, a minute passage of private life. And it seems to promise that kind of information which Sir Walter Scott has somewhat grandiloquently described in the opening sentence of his paper on Pepys's 'Memoirs,' in the Quarterly Review: 'There is a curiosity implanted in our nature which receives much gratification from prying into the actions, feelings and sentiments of our fellow creatures.' [22], [23], [24]

There for, the dictionaries give the following definitions of the word:

§ short account of an incident, often humorous

§ an account which supports an argument, but which is not supported by scientific or statistical analysis.

§ A previously untold secret account of an incident. [25]

§ a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident [26]

§ a short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature.

§ a short, obscure historical or biographical account.

§ a short usually amusing account of an incident, esp a personal or biographical one [27]

§ a short account (or narrative) of an interesting or amusing incident, often intended to illustrate or support some point

§ An anecdote is a short little scene or story taken from a personal experience. Anecdotes can be useful for setting the stage for a speech or personal essay. An anecdote often relays a story that can be used as a theme or lesson.

§ An entertaining and often oral account of a real or fictitious occurrence: fable, story, tale

§ a brief narrative of a particular incident. An anecdote differs from a short story in that it is unified in time and space, is uncomplicated, and deals with a single episode. The literal Greek meaning of the word is "not published," and it still retains some such sense of confidentiality. Sometimes an anecdote is inserted into a novel as an interval in the main plot, as in Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy. Famous books of anecdotes include the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus and Plutarch's Lives. [28]

2.2 Types of anecdotes

There are by Mark Crislip different kinds of anecdotes, used for different purposes. Anecdotes are used for one purpose by one speaker/writer but interpreted in a different context by the listener/reader. People love anecdotes, especially if the anecdotes are about them or their beliefs. Anecdotes are how patients transmit the particulars of their disease to their health care providers. The medical history, as taken from the patient, is an extended anecdote, from which the particulars of the disease have to be extracted. Anecdotes are how physicians explain disease and treatments. Anecdotes are a tool with which teachers instruct their students. Anecdotes are how CAM proponents validate their particular system, and how skeptics invalidate them. [29]

Anecdotes told in the classroom express our feelings, ideas, and experiences, just like the ones in daily conversations. However, since anecdotes are an excellent way to generate discussion to help students use their language skills, teachers usually have an additional intention in mind: a teaching objective to describe, explain, clarify, or emphasize an aspect of language or content. In practice, we can divide anecdotes used in class into three groups: (1) planned anecdotes, (2) semi-planned anecdotes, and (3) unplanned anecdotes.

1. Planned anecdotes are similar to those used in essays or in oral presentations. The teacher plans when to use the anecdote in the lesson, how to use it, and what kind of an exercise or questions will follow the anecdote. For example, if a language point will be presented, the teacher should decide beforehand which vocabulary items or grammatical structures to emphasize while sharing the anecdote. The anecdote may be written down so the teacher can either read it aloud or tell it using notes. The significance or evaluation of a planned anecdote is also considered while planning and is indicated either at the beginning or at the end of the story.

2. Semi-planned anecdotes differ from planned anecdotes because the complete details are not worked out in advance. In this case, the exact words or sentences are not written down, although teachers do have one or more anecdotes in mind and are prepared to tell them at the appropriate time in the lesson. One strategy is to keep a list of anecdotes and let the student reactions or the flow of the lesson determine which one to share. It is also good to base semi-planned anecdotes on the events experienced by the whole class or by one group of students. For example, an anecdote about a school night or an extracurricular activity that all students participated in reduces the need for explanation and saves time. Individuals can share their personal anecdotes as well, and if the teacher knows a student's anecdote, she may plan to ask the student to share it at an appropriate time. As with planned anecdotes, it is important to consider the purpose and significance of semi-planned anecdotes beforehand.

3. Unplanned anecdotes come up naturally in the flow of classroom activities and are spontaneously activated by a response, a question, or a discussion that suddenly reminds the teacher of a story that is worthwhile to share with the students. In this sense, unplanned anecdotes are like those that appear in everyday conversation. These impromptu anecdotes may also be provided by students, as one of their experiences may be enlightening or thought-provoking for both their classmates and the teacher. If the point of the anecdote is not clear, either the teacher or the students can indicate the need for an evaluative element, just as a listener might do in a naturally occurring conversation. [30]

In addition the anecdote can be: Interesting, amusing, often quite tactless and biographical - in part like a close-up picture, fairly odd or halfway so, like a sketch also, deals with intimate matters, differs from articles.

Further, anecdotes are pointed and often barbed tales. Many of them may give the impression of being quite lenient. Some may seem fantastic. However, anecdotes differ a whole lot.

Many sorts of anecdotes: Things can be blended: Soft-looking, bold and pertinent, quant - or modern and at times also adequate. Some serve much as an apropos; others suggest - perhaps suggest adaptations out of hand, and alternative outlooks.

Heinz Grothe discerns between gossip anecdotes, anecdotes of social differences, historical anecdotes, anecdotes of being fellows, and wandering anecdotes. And through anecdotal stories, country people remember funny incidents and persons, village originals, remarkable occurrences, buildings and things, says Ann Helene Skjelbred (Hlv 39, 40, 41, 176). [31]

2.3 Structure of an anecdote

The concept of genre is used in developing a description of the internal structuring of the longer turns of talk. The concept of genre originated in literary studies but this concept has been broadened within the fields of functional linguistics and critical theory, to describe both literary and non-literary texts. (Eggins and Slade 1997: 227)

Following Fairclough genre is defined as “a socially ratified way of using language in connection with a particular type of social activity” (Fairclough 1995a: 14). (Eggins and Slade 1997: 230-231)

Following Plum (1988) the storytelling genres are: anecdote, exemplum, recount and narrative. The differences between these storytelling genres are evident in their different generic structures, in particular middle stages of each genre.

Plum's staging structure for these genres is outlined in Table 1










-Remarcable Event-Reaction








-Record of Events-Reorientation


Researchers in sociolinguistics and discourse analysis (Labov 1972; McCarthy 1991, 1998) have identified six elements of anecdotes, which differ from the Plum's structure elements with some additional elements.

1. Abstract--the abstract introduces the anecdote and may give essential context to the story: “Did I ever tell you about …?”; “I remember when I was …”

2. Orientation--the orientation sets the scene for the story by identifying where and when it takes place and the people involved: “Do you know that every year we have this school fair?”; “You remember last year's school picnic, right? There, we…”

3. Complicating events--the complicating events are the main events of the story and are what makes it intriguing and interesting: “The next thing she did was try to put out the fire.”

4. Resolution--the resolution tells what happened at the end of the story and how things worked out: “…and finally he passed the test.”

5. Coda--the coda signals that the story is over and brings the storyteller and listener back to the present: “Now I look back and say…”

6. Evaluation--the evaluation is how the storyteller indicates the essential point of the anecdote and why it was worth telling: “It's not the worst thing that happened to me, but…”

These six elements are not always present. For example, an abstract and coda may not be found in all anecdotes. However, according to McCarthy (1998, 134), evaluation is not an optional element, since “without it there is no story, only a bland report.” That is, evaluative statements identify the significance of the anecdote and prevent the audience from asking “So what?” (Labov 1972, 366). The evaluative element may appear at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the anecdote. Evaluation can be either explicitly stated or rendered through implicit devices such as exaggeration, repetition, mimicry, intonation, and figurative use of language (Jones 2001). Moreover, the listeners may collaborate with the teller and add their own evaluation of the anecdote or comment on its worth.

2.4 The usage of the anecdotes

Anecdotes are extended speaking tasks which give students the opportunity to talk about things that matter to them. The main purpose of an anecdote is to develop fluency, improve accuracy and encourage the use of more complex linguistic structures.

Anecdotes are one of the most economical, easy, and enjoyable ways to introduce meaningful language and content, to practice language skills and subskills, and to help manage classes of various ages and proficiency levels. Experience shows that students are always highly interested in experiences of their teachers and peers. Although some teachers may not feel comfortable with the idea of sharing personal information with their students, others may love to share their experiences and ask similar questions about the students' experiences. How much the teacher shares and asks the students to share depends not on being friends with them but on creating a friendly atmosphere in the classroom. The ideas listed below summarize the benefits experienced while using anecdotes in the classes.

* Classroom management is an important aspect in teaching any course, regardless of subject matter. It is an issue for novice and experienced teachers, for teachers of young or adult learners, and for teachers of beginner to advanced levels. Thus, an attention grabbing anecdote may wake up sleepy students, engage unmotivated ones with the task, and reinforce a context so it is not easily forgotten.

* Genuine communication occurs in language classes when learners provide their own experiences and information. By listening to anecdotes from the teacher and classmates, asking questions for extra information or clarification, and contributing evaluative feedback as in real life dialogues, the language learners engage in authentic communication. Moreover, by telling an anecdote or responding to their friends' anecdotes, students organize their ideas and contribute to the discussion (Wright 2000). The language and conversational skills used while telling our stories are different from the skills we use in controlled, inauthentic classroom tasks. Therefore, using anecdotes in language classes has the benefit of modeling the customary daily storytelling skills, and emphasizing those skills develops students' conversational skills (Jones 2001).

* Sharing anecdotes gives students the chance to reflect on their own and on others' concerns, perceptions, and values (Wright 2000). This reflection develops higher level cognitive skills, including the ability to evaluate and synthesize information, as well as affective skills such as empathizing.

* Anecdotes can also be used in content courses where the material is more demanding than language courses. Even advanced learners of English, especially at the tertiary level, may at times have difficulties in content courses. Thus, the use of anecdotes to explain, exemplify, and evaluate the new content aids learners' understanding, learning, and retention.

* When an anecdote is told by a native speaker English teacher or when it is about an experience in an English speaking country, the anecdote provides cultural information. In this respect, anecdotes represent a more realistic reflection of the target language culture and its people than the views presented in many textbooks.

* While students learn more about each other and their teacher, the teacher learns more about the students. Anecdotes therefore reinforce the friendly relationship between teachers and students and among the students themselves. (Deniz Salli-Copur 2008)


3.1 About investigated material

The anecdotes that I used in this paper were taken from different sources, but most of them from different websites. As I didn't need simple, ordinary anecdotes, it was a little bit hard to find the appropriate ones to fit the task of the research.

As far as anecdote topics need to be meaningful to virtually all the students, they should have been subjects about which most people have something to say: a film they've seen, a close friend, a journey, an evening out in a restaurant or a childhood memory. However, even though the topics are universal, many students will find it difficult to think of what to say on the spur of the moment. They may not be able to elaborate without some kind of framework to follow; they will need to have their memories jolted, their ideas `activated'.

This is achieved in the anecdote activity by careful preparation of a series of leading questions designed to trigger ideas. That's why the farther description of the material will be set later in the corresponding section.

3.2 Types of division

Here are some samples of anecdotes according to the classification suggested in the theoretical part:

1) Planned anecdotes are similar to those used in essays or in oral presentations. The teacher plans when to use the anecdote in the lesson, how to use it, and what kind of an exercise or questions will follow the anecdote.

§ Pilot to tower . . . pilot to tower . . . I am 300 miles from land . . . 600 feet over water . . . and running out of fuel . . . please instruct! Tower to pilot . . . tower to pilot . . . repeat after me: "Our Father, which art in heaven . . ."[1]

This is a great instrument to work with - to warm-up the pupils, to captivate their attention and to adjust them on the lesson. The warm-up should be as funniest, as more vigorous, as more creative as possible. And though the anecdote is a little bit sad, I think its humor will cover the negative part. It can be presented in many ways: reading, performing in roles, etc. and also used during the other stages of the lesson to make the pupils listen to the teacher. The sample contains numerals (300, 600), repeated words (pilot, tower), so after the activity with this anecdote the teacher can for example teach the numerals.

§ The Lovely Rose. While a violet stood pitying herself for being short, a rose said to her. "I for my part think you are lovely, little sister. Be satisfied with being just the one you are. "That afternoon a man came to the garden to take a rest, attracted by the delicate beauty and lovely smell of the rose. He cut its long, graceful neck, and just a moment later, when he had sniffed the lovely fragrance to his satisfaction, he threw the rose away. "See?" gasped the rose to the violet. [2]

Central to the process and purpose of anecdotes is reflection. Self-esteem is an important quality to be developed. Every pupil should respect himself/herself and his/her mates, because everybody is unique, special, and beautiful in his/her way. This is the teacher's aim. Happiness doesn't depend on the ideal forms and universal recognition, but being satisfied with being just the one you are! I think the best to use this anecdote is to give it as homework to be commented on, imply it also at the beginning of the lesson or after reading a text on the similar theme. Pupils learn new words. It will be better if pupils could try to write a dictation on this anecdote. Thus, they will practice writing new words and memorizing the meaning of the anecdote.

2) Semi-planned. In this case, the exact words or sentences are not written down, although teachers do have one or more anecdotes in mind and are prepared to tell them at the appropriate time in the lesson.

§ A duck walks into a general store and asks the manager,"Got any fresh fruit?" "No." "Got any fresh vegetables?" "No. We have only canned and dry goods." The next day, the duck returns. "Got any fresh fruit?" "No." "Got any fresh vegetables?" "No. I told you yesterday, we have only canned and dry goods. If you come back tomorrow and ask me the same question, I'll nail your flippers to the floor." On the 3rd day, the duck walks in and asks, "Got any nails?" "No." "Got any fresh fruit?" [3]

§ “Doctor! I have a serious problem, I can never remember what I just said.” “When did you first notice this problem?” “What problem?” [4]

§ Plato tells of how spirits of the other world came back to find bodies and places to work. One took the body of a poet and did his work. Finally, Ulysses came and said, "All the fine bodies have been taken and all the grand work done. There is nothing for me." "Mind," said a voice, "the best has been left for you - the body of a common man, doing a common work for a common reward." [5]

Anecdotes often have great entertainment value. Humorous anecdotes may not always be just jokes, and their main or somewhat hidden purpose may not simply be to evoke laughter, but to reveal some truth or higher insight of general ideas and persons in a light that may evoke insight and humor together. So, these examples can be a benefit whenever the teacher would need help in managing the class, in improving learning, just keeping them in his/her mind.

3) Unplanned anecdotes come up naturally in the flow of classroom activities and are spontaneously activated by a response, a question, or a discussion that suddenly reminds the teacher of a story that is worthwhile to share with the students. From the time we begin to understand language until our death, we are perpetually surrounded by narratives, first of all in our families, then at school, then through our encounters with people. Here is an example of such a type. This is a true story that can be caused by a situation, for instance, student's ingenuity at an exam. A good teacher can use pupils' sayings, acts and turn them in advantage.

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