Benjamin Zephaniah, outspoken word artist

Be nice to your turkey this Christmas Benjamin Zepahaniah (1958-2023), British Carribean dub poet, actor, recipient of no fewer than 16 honorary doctorates, professor of poetry and creative writing, left us yesterday. Already gone. But his work lives on. He encouraged people to read and he made people listen. He has always provoked surprise and […]

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A voice to be reckoned with

John Trudell John Trudell was an early member of and spokesman for the Native American rights movement and helped to promote a spoken word style that honors Native American oral traditions. POETRY FOUNDATION In a previous post, I mentioned Rébecca Kleinberger‘s work on the different voices we all have. She says that the voice with which we […]

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Smoke Signals in the classroom

Learning how to begin a story When we start a story, we send out a signal to indicate our presence, get people’s attention, and invite them to connect to something different which is about to start. Once upon a time – or its equivalent – is a widely accepted signal for starting a story. But a […]

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Your voice – friend or foe?

Weaving, absorbing and telling a story This post continues the exploration of the theme of Orality and Storytelling. If you have a story to tell in class, you may think that the most important thing is to get the story straight. But in an oral tradition where you speak to a group of listeners this […]

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We all know stories

Close encounter with classroom storytelling We all know stories. But how can they come into classroom learning? When I first fell into teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in 1981, John Morgan and Mario Rinvolucri were already developing their ideas on the use of storytelling for the language classroom. A chance encounter with Mario […]

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Making people listen

Two tales of orality from Harlow market Markets are places of what Walter Ong called primary orality. Primary orality refers to thought and expression untouched by the culture of writing of print Walter Ong They are places where language takes root, grows and generally has a field-day because the situations in which we meet language […]

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Look and say

Is reading a public or a private experience? My parents had a very personal definition of story which covered things that had happened to them or people they knew. These were generally exchanged orally at mealtimes. However, they didn’t read stories to us or tell us stories for children.  I suspect that maybe this was […]

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The Card Sharp

A street level encounter with primary orality All sound is inherently powerful. If a hunter kills a lion he can see it, touch it, feel it and smell it. But if he hears a lion, he must act fast, because the sound of the lion signals its presence and its power. Speech is a form […]

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