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.

14.01.2013
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William Phelps, marking exam papers shortly before Christmas one year, came across a curious answer to one of his more perplexing questions: "God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas." Phelps returned the paper with the following annotation: "God gets an A, you get an F - Happy New Year!" [6]

However, there can be a lot of other classifications made to classify anecdotes. The most popular division is the thematical. Here are only some of the great amount of items:

1) Animal World

A dog thinks: Hey, these people I live with feed me, love me, provide me with a nice warm, dry house, pet me, and take good care of me... They must be gods! A cat thinks: Hey, these people I live with feed me, love me, provide me with a nice warm, dry house, pet me, and take good care of me... I must be a god!

2) Children

A son comes to his dad and says: - Dad, i gotta tell you something - Ok, Quick and clear! - 100 bucks

One day Mongo is in his back yard digging a hole. His neighbor, seeing him there, decides to investigate. "Whatcha doin?" he asked. Mongo replies, "My goldfish died and I'm burying him." "That's an awful big hole for a goldfish, ain't it?" asked the neighbor. Mongo shot back, "That's because he's inside your cat!'

3) Drunks

An ancient Irishman. Three Irishmen, Paddy, Sean and Shamus, were stumbling home from the pub late one night and found themselves on the road which led past the old graveyard. "Come have a look over here," says Paddy, "it's Michael O'Grady's grave, God, bless his soul. He lived to the ripe old age of 87." "That's nothing", says Sean, "here's one named Patrick O'Tool, it says here, that he was 95 when he died." Just then, Shamus yells out, "Good God, here's a fella that got to be 145 years old!" "What was his name?" asks Paddy. Shamus stumbles around a bit, awkwardly lights a match to see what else is written on the stone marker, and exclaims, "Miles, from Dublin." [7]

The stories may be used to illuminate current problems and, as a result of experience also frame understandings. Alcoholism-is a physical (for the body, health), spiritual (for our feelings, emotions, decisions) illness. It affects, attacks not only the drunker, but his surrounding and relatives, causing unhappiness, depression, broken lives, diseases, etc. For some time the alcohol provides fun, liberty, as the heroes from the anecdote aforementioned. But we can also observe that they are acting foolish, going nowhere, and doing unusual acts. Many of the pupils face the horrors of alcoholism personally. So this theme should be discussed. Pupils develop speaking and reading skills, pronunciation, learn native Irish personal names (Paddy, Sean and Shamus), get cultural awareness (Dublin), abbreviations (fella), new words, synonyms (`graveyard' instead of `cemetery'), etc.

4) Famous People

EINSTEIN was asked by his hostess at a social gathering to explain his theory of relativity. Said the great mathematician, "Madam, I was once walking in the country on a hot day with a blind friend, and said that I would like a drink of milk." "Milk?" said my friend, "Drink I know; but what is milk?" "A white liquid," I replied. "Liquid I know; but what is white?" "The colour of a swan's feathers." "Feathers I know; what is a swan?" "A bird with a crooked neck." "Neck I know; but what is this crooked?" "Thereupon I lost patience. I seized his arm and straightened it. "That's straight," I said; and then I bent it at the elbow. "That's crooked." "Ah!" said the blind man, "Now I know what you mean by milk!" [8]

Donald MacDonald from the Isle of Skye (or maybe it was Neil McNell from Barra, but anyway..) went to study at an English university and was living in the hall of residence with all the other students there. After he had been there a month, his mother came to visit him (no doubt carrying reinforcements of tatties, salt herring, oatmeal and whisky). "And how do you find the English students, Donald?" she asked. "Mother," he replied, "they're such terrible, noisy people. The one on that side keeps banging his head on the wall and won't stop. The one on the other side screams and screams all night." "Oh Donald! How do you manage to put up with these awful noisy English neighbours?" "Mother, I do nothing. I just ignore them. I just stay here quietly, playing my bagpipes." [9]

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are hiking. They hiked all day long and then, having gotten tired, unpacked and quickly retired. Holmes wakes up deep into the night, wakes Watson and says "Watson, do you see the bright stars and do you notice how clear the sky is? What can you deduce from it?" Watson yawns and tries to play the game. "Well, this clearly tells us the weather tomorrow is going to be dry and sunny." "No, my friend. It's much simpler than that. Someone has stolen our tent." [10]

5) Medicine

When a car skidded on wet pavement and struck a telephone pole, several bystanders ran over to help the driver. A woman was the first to reach the victim, but a man rushed in and pushed her aside. 'Step aside, lady,' he barked. 'I've taken a course in first-aid!' The women watched for a few minutes, then tapped him on the shoulder. 'Pardon me,' she said. 'But when you get to the part about calling a doctor, I'm right here.'

A famous surgeon went on a safari in Africa. When he came back, his colleagues asked him how it had been. "Oh, it was very disappointing," he said. "I didn't kill a thing. I'd have been better off staying here in the hospital."

Patient: (to cosmetic-surgeon) 'Will it hurt, doctor? Surgeon: 'Only when you get my bill, Mrs Brown'.

A woman was terribly overweight, so her doctor put her on a diet. "I want you to eat regularly for 2 days, then skip a day, and repeat this procedure for 2 weeks. The next time I see you, you'll have lost at least 5 pounds." When the woman returned, she shocked the doctor by losing nearly 20 pounds. "Why, that's amazing!" the doctor said, "Did you follow my instructions?" The woman nodded. "I'll tell you though, I thought I was going to drop dead that third day." "From hunger, you mean?" "No, from skipping."

HEGS. The Doctor tells his patient that he has H-E-G-S "What's that?", the patient asks. "It's a combination of Herpes, Encephalitis, Gonorrhea and Syphyllis." The patient wants to know if there's a cure, to which the Doctor responds, "We have to keep you in a hospital room and feed you nothing but pancackes." "Why only pancackes?", asks the patient. The Doctor answers, "They're the only thing that will fit under the door."

Late one night at the insane asylum one inmate shouted, "I am Napoleon!" Another one said, "How do you know?" The first inmate said, "God told me!" Just then, a voice from another room shouted, "I did not!"

A Short History of Medicine

I have an earache...

2000 B.C. - Here, eat this root.

1000 A.D. - That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.

1850 A.D. - That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.

1940 A.D. - That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.

1985 A.D. - That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.

2000 A.D. - That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.

6) Miscellaneous

For all of you out there who've had to deal with an irate customer, this one is for you. It's a classic! In tribute to those 'special' customers we all love! An award should go to the United Airlines gate agent in Denver for being smart and funny, and making her point, when confronted with a passenger who probably deserved to fly as cargo. A crowded United flight was canceled. A single agent was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket down on the counter and said, "I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS." The agent replied, "I'm sorry sir. I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these folks first, and I'm sure we'll be able to work something out." The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, "Do you have any idea who I am?" Without hesitating, the gate agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone. "May I have your attention please?" she began, her voice bellowing throughout the terminal. "We have a passenger here at the gate WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to the gate." With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the United agent, gritted his teeth and swore." Without flinching, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to stand in line for that, too."

An airline captain was breaking in a very pretty new blonde stewardess; the route they were flying had a stay-over in another city. Upon their arrival the captain showed the stewardess the best place for airline personnel to eat shop and stay overnight. The next morning as the pilot was preparing the crew for the day's route, he noticed the new stewardess was missing. He knew which room she was in at the hotel and called her up, wondering what happened to her. She answered the phone, crying, and said she couldn't get out of her room. "You can't get out of your room?" the captain asked, "Why not?" The stewardess replied: "There are only three doors in here," she sobbed, "one is the bathroom, one is the closet, and one has a sign on it that says 'Do Not Disturb'!" [11]

All gardeners know better than other gardeners. - Chinese Proverb

If I'm ever reborn, I want to be a gardener--there's too much to do for one lifetime! - Karl Foerster

When gardeners garden, it is not just plants that grow, but the gardeners themselves. - Ken Druse [12]

7) Marriage

A middle-aged Jewish guy is out to dinner with his wife to celebrate her fortieth birthday. He says, "So what would you like, Julie? A Jaguar? A sable coat? A diamond necklace?" She says, "Bernie, I want a divorce." He says, "I wasn't planning on spending that much."

Who introduced you to your wife? We just met. I can't blame anyone.

What do you and your wife fight about all the time? I don't know.She won't tell me.

What makes you think your husband is getting tired of you? He hasn't been home for seven years.

These anecdotes tell humorous stories about marriage, about the relationships between the wife and the husband, unhappiness, divorce. They are humorous, but their deeper analysis opens the real problems existing in families. The family was always one of the most important parts of human's life. That's why the pupils' textbooks are full of tasks on this topic. The examples provided can be used for the elementary school pupils of the awkward age, who already realize the problems in their families. First of all, the use of these anecdotes develops in pupils the speaking skill, learning new words, practicing his knowledge as they share their opinion about the situation in the families and about relationships between the couple and their children. For some pupils it will be a good opportunity to express their feelings, internal conflicts, and the latent pain and may be to change their values. Because this is the function of an anecdote- to make the pupils explore themselves and give to teacher `food' for reflections about each person in the classroom.

8) Religion and Church

A priest is walking down the street one day when he notices a very small boy trying to press a doorbell on a house across the street. However, the boy is very small and the doorbell is too high for him to reach. After watching the boys efforts for some time, the priest moves closer to the boys position. He steps smartly across the street, walks up behind the little fellow and, placing his hand kindly on the child's shoulder leans over and gives the doorbell a sold ring. Crouching down to the child's level, the priest smiles benevolently and asks, "And now what, my little man?" To which the boy replies, "Now we run!"

God, I was wondering...how long is a million years to you?" God answered, "Son, a million years to me is like a second to you." So the man asks, "God how much is a million dollars to you?" And God answered, "Son a million dollars to me is like one penny to you." So the man asks, "God, can I have one of your pennies?" And God answers, "Just a second son."

9) School and College

Should you have any questions during the exam, just raise your hand. This should cause enough blood to flow to your brain to answer it yourself.

Examination to Qualify for Entrance to UNLV (basketball players only)

Time Limit: 3 weeks

1. What language is spoken in France?

2. Give a dissertation on the ancient Babylonian Empire with particular reference to architecture, literature, law and social conditions -OR- give the first name of Pierre Trudeau.

3. Would you ask William Shakespeare to (a) build a bridge (b) sail the ocean (c) lead an army or (d) WRITE A PLAY

4. What religion is the Pope? (a) Jewish (b) Catholic (c) Hindu (d) Polish (e) Agnostic (check only one)

5. Metric conversion. How many feet in 0.0 meters?

6. What time is it when the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 5?

7. How many commandments was Moses given? (approximately)

8. What are people in America's far north called? (a) Westerners (b) Southerners (c) Northerners (d) Easterners

9. Spell -- Bush, Carter and Clinton.

10. Six kings of England have been called George, the last one being George the Sixth. Name the previous five.

11. Where does rain come from? (a) Macy's (b) a 7-11 (c) Canada (d) the sky

12. Can you explain Einstein's Theory of Relativity? (a) yes (b) no

13. What are coat hangers used for?

14. The Star Spangled Banner is the National Anthem for what country?

15. Explain Le Chateliers Principle of Dynamic Equilibrium -OR- spell your name in BLOCK LETTERS.

16. Where is the basement in a three story building located?

17. Which part of America produces the most oranges? (a) New York (b) Florida (c) Canada (d) Wisconsin

18. Advanced math. If you have three apples how many apples do you have?

19. What does NBC (National Broadcasting Corp.) stand for?

20. The UNLV tradition for efficiency began when (approximately)? (a) B.C. (b) A.D. (c) still waiting

*You must answer three or more questions correctly to qualify

10) Travel

Some of the most tactful people on Earth are English. One office supervisor called a secretary in to give her the bad news that she was being fired. He started the conversation with: "Miss Symthe, I really don't know how we're going to get along without you, but starting Monday, we're going to try.

Three guys are in a plane, lost in fog, and they don't know where they are. The first guy says "I'll find out" and puts his arm out the plane, then brings it back in and says "We're just over Paris" "How do you know" ask the others "Well I've just felt the top of the Eiffel tower." Later on the second guy tries and says "We just flew over London" "How?" asks the others "Well I've just felt the top of Big Ben" Still later on the last guy tries it, puts his arm out the plane, and says to the others "We have just flown over Glasgow." "How do you know that?" comes the reply. "Because somebody has just stolen my watch" [13]

3.3 Using anecdotes for young learners

As far the direction of the analyzing process of this paper should be in favor of the teaching/learning process I chose to divide the anecdotes according to the skill or ability they establish, develop and improve. These are the skills to which every teacher of a foreign language dedicates most of his/her lessons, this are: reading, writing, listening, reading, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, cultural awareness and others.

The theory about the students' levels requires special exercises, methods, activities because each of the age has its own abilities. The elementary level is the first level, so called the level of beginners. The teacher is restricted by the limited competence of the learners. The early introduction of humor makes it necessary to provide students as soon as possible with appropriate vocabulary. Bearing in mind that the students at this stage are far from being proficient, only universal humor is appropriate for it would in most cases be expected that the linguistic and cultural jokes are beyond the level of competence of the students. That's why we need activities with the simplest and funny anecdotes that will raise pupils' interest in learning the foreign language and acquiring the general skills for further deeper studying of the language. I am going to give characterization to the activities with anecdotes for young, intermediate and advanced learners which are used for learning the above mentioned skills.

Teaching the four principal learning skills(reading, writing, listening, speaking). Being the base of all the other abilities many of the activities develop more than one of them.

1) Teaching listening:

- Are you fishing?

- No, just drowning worms?

- I don't like the flies in here.

-Well, come around to tomorrow. We'll have some new ones.

- Last week I went fishing and all I got was a sunburn, poison ivy and mosquito bites.

- Gee, Dad, that's a swell fish you caught. Can I use it as bait?

- Are you fishing?

- No, just drowning worms.

- Do fish grow fast?

- Sure. Every time my Dad mentions the one that got away, it grows another foot. [14]

The humorous texts in (1) deal with real world situations, human behavior (lying, exaggerating, bragging and asking obvious questions). For EFL learners there are no language internal or linguistic problems in getting the humor of these texts. The material in (1) can be presented as reading, used as dictation or as a brief listening- comprehension activity.

2) For teaching speaking funny pictures are best of all:

The choice of picture that you choose to demonstrate or practice a particular point will naturally depend on the theme, grammatical or cultural component you are teaching or examining. For example, this picture is very colorful and contains many objects and people. Students have a great possibility to check their basic knowledge in speaking, for example the construction There is/ There are; the colors, etc. The absence of a title or any written dialogue allows the students to use their imagination and express themselves orally or in written form. The teacher asks some questions to avoid simple answers.

3) Teaching writing.

Teacher: What's wrong?

Boy: I can't find my boots.

Teacher: What kind of boots are they?

Boy: They're long green ones.

Teacher: There's a pair of green boots right here. Are you sure these aren't yours?

Boy: No, those aren't mine. Mine had snow on them.

After the reading of the anecdote teacher asks the pupils to write the following exercise by choosing a word to make the opposite expression: wrong, find, sure, short, here.

1. I've no idea about the answer.

I'm ________ about the answer.

2. I don't want to lose the dog in here.

I don't want to ________ the dog in here.

3. The animal has very long legs.

The animal has very ________ legs.

4. The classroom is over there.

The classroom is right ________.

5. How many right answers do you have?

How many ________ answers do you have?

4) Teaching reading. The teacher uses role play of the dialogue. The usage of the pictures will develop not only their reading skill, but also the pronunciation and intonation, and will increase their motivation. To involve all the class the teacher can give such a simple exercise to check whether they understood the anecdote.

Teaching pronunciation.

What do you say to a cow that crosses in front of your car? - Mooo-ve over.

Some students have trouble remembering the correct pronunciation of words that sound similar (almost the same) such as "horse" and "house". For this reason the teacher can use this funny sentence. She can read it aloud and give the possibility to the pupils to correct it.

"When I have enough money, I want to buy a big horse with three bedrooms and two bathrooms." [18]

Teaching grammar.

POLAR BEAR CUB: Mum, am I a real polar bear?

POLAR BEAR MOTHER: Yes, dear, of course you are.

POLAR BEAR CUB: Really?

POLAR BEAR MOTHER: Yes, son. I'm a polar bear. Your dad's a polar bear. Your grandparents are polar bears. Your sisters are polar bears. Your brothers are polar bears.

POLAR BEAR CUB: I know that, mum. But am I a real polar bear?

POLAR BEAR MOTHER: Of course you are. Be quiet and eat your fish.

POLAR BEAR CUB: But I'm not a polar bear, I'm sure.

POLAR BEAR MOTHER: Listen to me. You are a real polar bear. Why do you ask the same question again and again?

POLAR BEAR CUB: Because I'm freezing![19]

Using this sample the teacher can practice present simple tense. Having given the rules of forming present simple tense, its positive, negative and interrogative forms the teacher asks pupils to find in the anecdote examples of present simple tense.

Student to teacher," Are 'pants' singular or plural?"
Teacher, "They're singular on top and plural on the bottom."

Teacher; What is the plural of mouse?

Pupil: Mice.

Teacher: Good, now what's the plural of baby?

Pupil: Twins. [20]

These anecdotes can be good for a warm-up activity before the presentation of the singular and plural form of the noun.

d. Teaching from mistakes is a great way for developing the memory of the pupils, but also the conscious answer.

"Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33."

e. For teaching grammatical constructions. This anecdote made because of a grammatical mistake can be used as a simple exercise for practicing collocations.

"On weekends, I enjoy playing in the piano." [21]

Teaching vocabulary.

Mum: Alice, what are you doing in here [in the bathroom]?

Alice: I'm standing on a chair.

Mum: But why are you standing on the chair?

Alice: I'm looking into the mirror, mum.

Mum: But you've got your eyes closed, Alice. Why are you doing that?

Alice: I want to see what I look like when I'm sleeping. [22]

This anecdote can be an aid for learning new words, for instance for the theme In the bathroom. To practice the new vocabulary here is an exercise. The pupils need to choose the correct word to complete these sentences.

mirror bath bathroom chair eyes

1. She's wearing sunglasses to keep the sun out of her ______.

2. Jack's standing on a ______ to get a book from the top shelf.

3. Kathy's having a shower in the ______.

4. Lucy's looking into the ______ to see what her hair looks like.

5. Simon's having a ______at the moment. Can I take a message?

Teaching cultural awareness. Teaching through this anecdote, pupils get acquainted with the cultural features of English people to express their politeness.

TEACHER: What's your name?

Pupil: Ravi.

TEACHER: You should say "Sir".

Pupil: OK, Sir Ravi! [23]

3.4 Using anecdotes for intermediate and advanced learners

In intermediate language courses, the possibilities are naturally much wider for the students at this level have a larger vocabulary and more solid control of the syntax of the language. Universal humor should of course be continued throughout the program. Teaching the four principal learning skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking).

1) For teaching speaking teachers often ask students for a personal response to something they have experienced in a funny form.

a. For example, students tell anecdote about a time they did something challenging.

a. Something that scared you when you were young.

b. Something embarrassing that happened to you.

c. Something involving animals.

d. A time that you became very angry with someone.

e. Something involving the supernatural or that cannot be explained.

f. A time that you were late - and the consequences

g. Something that started off badly but turned out well in the end.

h. A time when you were very lucky.

These are usually short exchanges and a nice way of rounding off a lesson or part of a lesson. An anecdote activity, on the other hand, is an extended speaking activity which provides an opportunity for students to tackle a longer piece of discourse and to develop their speaking skills.

Also the teacher can participate telling an anecdote of her own:

A missionary came upon a hungry lion in the middle of an African plain. The missionary knelt and prayed: God, please give this lion a Christian soul! The lion stopped, knelt, and prayed also: Lord above, may this meal be blessed [24]

b. The next activity is closed to the first one. Telling an anecdote can be diversified. The teacher can give the following tasks: 1. The beginning of the anecdote for them to finish it

Strolling along the beach, a woman catches sight of a young man who appears to be dancing at the water's edge. The young man bends down, straightens to his full height and then casts his arm out in an arc. Drawing closer, she sees that

2. Funny pictures for them to make a funny story according to the events from the pictures.

The students can be divided into two or more groups in order to have more variants of the story.

c. Such a funny picture can be cut off into several pieces. Students join the pieces and tell their variant of such an end at the picture.

d. Also the students can work in pairs to find differences between 2 pictures, of course funny ones. Each of the partners receives one picture. Discussing the pictures and not looking at their partners' picture, they find out the differences.

e. Students can also guess the continuation of an anecdote. The teacher gives the beginning, and students ask questions in order to construct the plot.

f. This anecdote can be used for the theme My family. It encourages thinking and speaking about the relationships and the hierarchy of the members in the family.

A six-year-old boy walked up to his father one day and announced, 'Daddy, I'd like to get married.' His father replied hesitantly, 'Sure, son, do you have anyone special in mind?' 'Yes,' answered the boy. 'I want to marry Grandma.' 'Now, wait a minute,' said his father. 'You don't think I'd let you get married with my mother, do you?' 'Why not?' the boy asked. 'You married mine.'

2) For teaching writing the easier and faster organized activity is asking the students to write a funny story or an anecdote. Topics need to be meaningful to virtually all your students. They should be 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. This is achieved in the anecdote activity by careful preparation of a series of leading questions designed to trigger ideas. Teacher provides opportunities for the students to listen to native speakers doing the anecdote, it's better to repeat the task. At the end the teacher tells an anecdote of her own or an invented one, as:

A young man was walking through a supermarket to pick up a few things when he noticed an old lady following him around. Thinking nothing of it, he ignored her and continued on. Finally, he went to the checkout line, but she got in front of him. "Pardon me," she said, "I'm sorry if my staring at you has made you feel uncomfortable. It's just that you look just like my son who just died recently." "I'm very sorry," replied the young man, "Is there anything I can do for you?" "Yes," she said. "As I'm leaving, can you say 'Goodbye mother'? It would make me feel much better." "Sure," answered the young man. As the old woman was leaving, he called out, "Goodbye mother!" As he stepped up to the checkout counter, he saw that his total was $127.50. "How can that be?" he asked, "I only purchased a few things!" "Your mother said that you would pay for her," said the clerk. [26]

3) For teaching reading the students can be given cards with sentences written on, taken from an anecdote, which they have to put in order. The students can be divided into two groups, in order to stimulate the faster accomplishment of the activity. Of course, the anecdote should consist of events with chronological order so that the students would be able to catch the meaning. This activity enables students to read the sentences carefully to understand the meaning. There can be some new words related to the vocabulary studied or to the new topic.

The teacher can use an anecdote as a simple text for a particular theme. The exercises for the text can be as for the usual texts: answering the questions, opinion sharing, making another ending, etc.

At the 1998 World Women's Conference, the first speaker from England stood up: "At last year's conference we spoke about being more assertive with our husbands. Well after the conference I went home and told my husband that I would no longer cook for him and that he would have to do it himself. After the first day I saw nothing. After the second day I saw nothing. But after the third day I saw that he had cooked a wonderful roast lamb." The crowd cheered. The second speaker from America stood up: "After last year's conference I went home and told my husband that I would no longer do his laundry and that he would have to do it himself. After the first day I saw nothing. After the second day I saw nothing. But after the third day I saw that he had done not only his own washing but my washing as well." The crowd cheered. The third speaker from Ireland stood up: "After last year's conference I went home and told my husband that I would no longer do his shopping and that he would have to do it himself. After the first day I saw nothing. After the second day I saw nothing. But after the third day I could see a little bit out of my left eye." [27]

Pieces of humorous discourse in the form of short narratives for reading are useful at this stage. Two examples are presented in (3) and (4):

(3) The notorious cheapskate finally decided to have a party. Explaining to a friend how to find his apartment, he said, Come up to 5M and ring the doorbell with your elbow. When the door opens, push with your foot.

Why use my elbow and foot?

Well, gosh, was the reply, you're not coming empty-handed, are you?

(4) A young playwright gave a special invitation to a highly regarded critic to watch his new play. The critic came to the play, but slept through the entire performance. The playwright was indignant and said:

How could you sleep when you know how much I wanted your opinion?

Young man, the critic said, sleep is an opinion. [28]

4) For teaching listening these anecdote are very good - in order to understand the point of the anecdote one should listen very carefully. It depends on the teacher who will read the samples. She can give one anecdote to several students and ask them to read them. It will be great if students will make some comments.

Why were the early days of history called the dark ages?

Because there were so many knights!

How do you spell Hard Water with 3 letters? ICE! [29]

On a hairdryer : Do not use while sleeping.

On some frozen dinners: Serving suggestion: Defrost.

On packaging for an iron: Do not iron clothes on body.

On a sleep medicine: Warning: may cause drowsiness. [30]

The teacher prepares an anecdote that can be told in few minutes, lists the main verbs on the board. After telling the anecdote, students retell the anecdote using the verbs from the board and the notes made.

A mother repeatedly called upstairs for her son to get up, get dressed and get ready for school. It was a familiar routine, especially at exam time.

I feel sick, said the voice from the bedroom.

You are not sick. Get up and get ready, called the mother, walking up the stairs and hovering outside the bedroom door.

I hate school and I'm not going, said the voice from the bedroom. I'm always getting things wrong, making mistakes and getting told off. Nobody likes me, and I've got no friends. And we have too many tests and they are too confusing. It's all just pointless, and I'm not going to school ever again.

I'm sorry, but you are going to school, said the mother through the door, continuing encouragingly, Really, mistakes are how we learn and develop. And please try not to take criticism so personally. And I can't believe that nobody likes you - you have lots of friends at school. And yes, all those tests can be confusing, but we are all are tested in many ways throughout our lives, so all of this experiences at school is useful for life in general. Besides, you have to go, you are the head teacher. [31]

Another usage of the anecdote is when the teacher is reading it and the students perform the actions from the anecdote.

Upon arriving home in eager anticipation of a leisurely evening, the husband was met at the door by his sobbing wife. Tearfully she explained, "It's the druggist - he insulted me terribly this morning on the phone." Immediately the husband drove downtown to accost the druggist and demand an apology. Before he could say more than a word or two, the druggist told him, "Now, just a minute - listen to my side of it. This morning the alarm failed to go off, so I was late getting up. I went without breakfast and hurried out to the car, but I'll be damned if I didn't lock the house with both house and car keys inside. I had to break a window to get my keys. Driving a little too fast, I got a speeding ticket. Then, about three blocks from the store I had a flat tire. When I finally got to the store there was a bunch of people waiting for me to open up. I got the store opened and started waiting on these people, and all the time the darn phone was ringing its head off. Then I had to break a roll of nickels against the cash register drawer to make change, and they spilled all over the floor. I got down on my hands and knees to pick up the nickels - the phone is still ringing - when I came up I cracked my head on the open cash drawer, which made me stagger back against a showcase with a bunch of perfume bottles on it, and half of them hit the floor and broke. The phone is still ringing with no let up, and I finally got back to answer it. It was your wife - she wanted to know how to use a rectal thermometer. Well, Mister, I TOLD HER!" [32]

Teaching pronunciation. There are a lot of mistakes in this anecdote, so the students need to find them and tell the correct variant.

A young man comes before a customs agent.

A: "State your citizenship."

B:"American" (pronounced with a Spanish accent).

A: "Hold on there, buddy. Say that again."

B: "I sed American."

A: "I'm going to give you a test."

B: "No, no senor, no need for test, I tell you I"m American."

A: "Yeah, sure buddy. OK, let's see, ... I've got it. Make a sentence with the following colors: green, pink and yellow."

B: "Oh senor, I tell you I'm American. But OK, let's see... I was at my bruder-in-laws house and the phone went 'green, green, I pinked it up and sed yellow!" [33]

Teaching grammar. There can be expressed different subjects in the content of the anecdotes. That's why the teacher can use the anecdote for the explanation of some grammatical rules. The teacher should not think of introducing the anecdote, because the point of it will explain everything. In the second example we see a pure explanation of forming negative form, so using of this anecdote can be an interactive method for grammar.

If horrific means to make horrible, does terrific mean to make terrible?

On hearing one of his students use the expression I don't know nothing about it a teacher took the opportunity to explain about double negatives and correct grammar to the class. The teacher explained: In the English language a double negative makes the statement positive, so your assertion that you don't know nothing about it, is actually an admission that you do know something about it. Encouraged by the interest in this revelation among certain class members, the teacher went on to demonstrate more of his knowledge of world languages. Of course not all languages operate according to the same grammatical rules, for example, in Russian, a double negative remains negative, although perhaps surprisingly, there is no a single language anywhere in the world in which a double positive makes a negative At which a voice from the back of the classroom called out ironically: Yeah, right [35]

c. Filling in all the gaps, putting the verbs in the correct form. The activity becomes more interesting because in the process of making the exercise the students find out that the story is funny.

This (happen) about ten years ago. I (ride) my bike in England in the countryside. It was a beautiful morning, the sun (shine) and the birds (sing). I rode through a pretty little village and I (daydream) happily when I (hear) a noise behind me. It was a click - click - click noise and at first I (think) something was caught in the wheel of my bike. So I (look) down but the wheel was fine. The noise started to get louder and I looked behind me. To my alarm, I saw that an (adjective: very big) dog (chase) me. It was the (adjective: superlative) dog I had ever seen. It looked more like a donkey than a dog!

Dogs usually bark when they (chase) bikes. But this one (not / bark) and this (worry) me even more. I pedalled as hard as I could and the bike began to go faster but still the dog was chasing me. I looked round again. I (can / see) him clearly. He had a big red tongue which (hang) out of one side of his mouth and a row of gleaming white teeth! Then there (be) a loud bang, the bike jumped up and down and I nearly (fall) off as I went over a cattle-grid* at high speed. But fortunately, the grid seemed to stop the dog because the next time I looked round he was gone. A little further up the road I stopped my bike and had a drink of water. My heart (still / beat) like a steam engine. [36]

Teaching vocabulary.

Why is it that when you transport something by car, it's called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship, it's called cargo? [37]

b. This story is mnemonic (meaning `memory aid') for remembering the twelve Signs of the Zodiac, in order, staring in January. This is the method of creating a story mnemonic, which can be used to retain all sorts of difficult-to-remember pieces of information.

In January, a goat (Capricorn), drinking from a stream (Aquarius) said: Look, a fish (Pisces). A ram (Aries), and a bull (Taurus), carrying the twins (Gemini) said: There's also a crab (Cancer). A lion (Leo) roared in agreement, which startled the young maiden (Virgo) so that she dropped and smashed her scales (Libra). That's no crab - it's a scorpion (Scorpio), said the archer (Sagittarius). [38]

A businessman walked into a bank in San Francisco and asked for the loan officer. He told the officer that he is going to Europe on business for two weeks and needed to borrow $5,000. The bank officer explained that the bank needed some kind of security for such a loan. So the businessman handed over the keys to a Rolls Royce parked on the street in front of the bank. Everything checked out, and the bank agreed to accept the car as collateral for the loan. A bank employee drove the Rolls into the bank's underground garage and parked it there. Two weeks later, the businessman returned, repaid the $5,000 with interest, which came to $15.41. The loan officer said, "We are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is why would you bother to borrow $5,000?" The businessman replied, "Where else in San Francisco can I park my car for two weeks for only 15 bucks?" [39]

The new words are colored with red color, which simplifies the task of remembering the new words. The meaning of the words is found from the context. Later, the teacher gives more detailed information about the new vocabulary (transcription, pronunciation, translation). In this case this anecdote can be used for presenting the business vocabulary.

The following jokes use a "play on words" or a pun - one word has two meanings. Puns provide linguistic and cultural information about the source language. Another type of pun, the conundrum, is more difficult for foreign language learners for they involve reference to two different meanings of a word or a play on two different word meanings.

A new customer called Tech Support to ask about instructions from his computer's user's manual. "It says, hit any key and when I do that nothing happens'.

The Tech Support staff member replied, "Can you try again and tell me what happens?"

The customer explained, "I tried but nothing happened".

The Tech Support worker then asked, "What key did you hit?"

After a moment and some clinking sound the customer replied, "Well, first I tried my car key and just now my office key." [40]

What is more amazing than a talking dog?

A spelling bee.

How does a dog stop a VCR?

He presses the paws button.

When is a boat like a heap of snow?

When it's adrift.

When does a cabbage beat a beet in growing?

When it gets ahead.

Why is the attorney like a minister?

Because he studies the law and the profits.

If there are two flies in the kitchen, which one is the cowboy?

The one on the range.

What part of the fish weighs the most?

The scales.

Students need massive amounts of vocabulary in order to feel confident that they can understand some or all of the exchanges that they hear and also have the opportunity to employ their vocabulary in real situations. The first example of a linguistic-based joke, which takes advantage of the polysemy of word still would be appropriate at this level of proficiency. It enriches students' vocabulary, develops language awareness or "word sensitivity", which protects from failing to understand the humor in such situations. The second joke demands a great deal of lexical competence on the part of learners for they have to cope with the play on the word salt and the contrast "killing with intent to salt" and "assaulting with intent to kill."

Wife: Do you love me still?

Husband: I might if you'd stay still long enough."

What is the difference between stabbing a man and killing a hog? One is assaulting with intent to kill and the other is killing with intent to salt

Teaching cultural awareness. In the intermediate stage, most language students are ready to appreciate cultural jokes. These anecdotes can give ground to the introduction to some cultural features (holidays, sightseeings, customs) of the countries where the English language is spoken or in general about the cultural treasures of the entire world. Some examples are shown here:

The stockbroker's secretary answered his phone one morning: "I'm sorry", she said, " Mr. Bradford's on another line."

"This is Mr. Ingram's office", the caller said. "We'd like to know if he's bullish or bearish right now".

"He's talking to his wife," the secretary replied." Right now I'd say he's sheepish".

The tailor had just measured the man's waistline. Harold, dear, the customer's wife said thoughtfully, It's amazing when you think about it. A Douglas fir with the same circumference would be seventy-five feet tall.

- Do you know what I got for Father's Day?

- No, what?

- The bill for Mother's Day.

Father's day always worries me. I'm afraid I?ll get something I can't afford. [41]

A Sikh, a Muslim, an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman, a Jew, a Buddish and a Hindu go into a pub. The barman looks up and says: Is this some kind of a joke?

A thief was caught after stealing some paintings from Louvre in Paris, when his getaway van ran out of fuel. Given bail at his first hearing, a reporter asked him on the steps of the courthouse how he forgot such a vital part of his plan. Simple, said the thief, I had no Monet for Degas to make the Van Gogh.

One day many years ago at a school in South London a teacher said to the class of 5-year-olds, "I'll give $20 to the child who can tell me who was the most famous man who ever lived." An Irish boy put his hand up and said, "It was St. Patrick." The teacher said, "Sorry Alan, that's not correct." Then a Scottish boy put his hand up and said, "It was St. Andrew." The teacher replied, "I'm sorry, Hamish, that's not right either. Finally, a Gujarati boy raised his hand and said, "It was Jesus Christ." The teacher said, "That's absolutely right, Jayant, come up here and I'll give you the $20." As the teacher was giving Jayant his money, she said, "You know Jayant, since you are Gujarati, I was very surprised you said Jesus Christ." Jayant replied, "Yes, in my heart I knew it was Lord Krishna, but business is business!" [43]

As we work with people that are conscious of what they are doing, the topics and the difficulty of the anecdotes can be widened. Teaching different skills can be regarded is part of the stages of the lesson. The anecdotes are of great importance also for warming-up, checking homework, giving the feedback of the lesson. That's why anecdotes can be applied by the teacher at any time at the lesson. Teacher can prepare some anecdotes before the lesson, or use those which come to her mind during the lesson, that spread from different situations. Here are some anecdotes to be used.

On a Japanese food processor: Not to be used for the other use.
(Now I'm curious.)

On peanuts packet: Warning: contains nuts.
(Not to mention the nut who wrote the warning )

On an American Airlines packet of nuts: Instructions: open
packet, eat nuts. (This anecdote can serve as one to make a positive atmosphere before the test paper. The teacher can read it beforehand and in a humorous manner to compare with the rules for writing the test. For example: Instructions: open the test, answer the questions, no cheating!)

At an optometrist's office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."

At a bookstore: Rare, out-of-print, and nonexistent books.

My house was clean last week, too bad you missed it!

Help, keep the kitchen clean - eat out. [44]

Teacher: What's the longest word in the English language?

Pupil: Smiles - because there is a mile between the first and last letters! [45]

A very old lady looked in the mirror one morning. She had three remaining hairs on her head, and being a positive soul, she said: I think I'll braid my hair today. So she braided her three hairs, and she had a great day. Some days later, looking I the mirror one morning, preparing for her day, she saw that she had only two hairs remaining. Hmm, two hairs I fancy a centre parting today. She duly parted her two hairs, and as ever, she had a great day. A week or so later, she saw that she had just one hair left on her head. One hair huh she mused. I know, a pony tail will be perfect. And again she had a great day. The next morning she looked in the mirror. She was completely bald. Finally bald huh, she said to herself, How wonderful! I won't have to waste my hair any more

Mohandas Gandhi, the great Indian statesman and spiritual leader is noted for his unusual humanity and selflessness, which this story epitomizes. Gandhi was boarding a train one day with a number of companions and followers, when his shoe fell from his foot and disappeared in the gap between the train and platform. Unable to retrieve it, he took off his other shoe and threw it down by the first. Responding to the puzzlement of his fellow travelers, Gandhi explained that a poor person who finds a single shoe is no better off - what's really helpful is finding a pair. [46]

A duck walks into a feed store and asks, "Got any duck feed?"

The clerk tells him, "No, we don't have a market for it so we don't carry it."

The duck says, "Okay," and leaves.

The next day, the duck again walks in to the feed store and asks, "Got any duck feed?" Again the clerk says no and the duck leaves.

Next day, the duck once again walks in, and asks, "Got any duck feed?"

The clerk says, "I've told you twice, we don't have duck feed, we've never had duck feed and we never will have duck feed. If you ask me again, I'll nail your feet to the floor." The duck leaves.

The next day, the duck walks in and asks, "Got any nails?"

"No."
"Got any duck feed?"

Two elderly couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, "Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?" "Outstanding," Fred replied. "They taught us all the latest psychological techniques - visualization,association - it has made a big difference for me." "That's great! What was the name of that clinic?" Fred went blank. He thought and thought but couldn't remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, "What do you call that flower with the long stemand thorns?" "You mean a rose?" "Yes, that's it!" Then he turned to his wife and asked, "Rose, what was the name of that clinic?" [47]

The new employee stood before the paper shredder looking confused.

"Need some help?" a secretary asked.

"Yes," he replied. "How does this thing work?"

"Simple," she said, taking the fat report from his hand and feeding it into the shredder.


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