In A Faraway Land

In A Faraway Land

Collection of 57 traditional and contemporary tales to educate and entertain, graded Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate or Advanced.


The book consists of a collection of 56 traditional and contemporary tales, graded Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate or Advanced. These come with photocopiable worksheets, as well as an answer key that contains notes for teachers with pre-listening, while-listening, and post-listening tasks.

Stories not only entertain; they can also alter our experience so as to facilitate growth and change, and the tales included in this book have all been chosen with this aim in mind. Storytellers, unlike folklorists, who make statistical samplings of all the stories they have gathered, choose in the end those stories they believe in. However, at the same time, in selecting which tales to include, their length was a factor and also their subject matter. Stories have been chosen that deal with topics that tend to be featured in course books so they can be incorporated into an integrated programme.


Michael! Another beautiful book! ~ Andrew Wright, Storyteller and Author, Hungary

Teach English through global tales of lore Life lessons and course content: a winning formula In a Faraway Land By Michael Berman O-Books ISBN: 978 1 84694 302 7 Ireceive mountains of books. Some I keep but never use; others I merrily give away after reading and reviewing. Every now and then, though, a title drops through my letter box which I review, recommend to colleagues and then firmly promise myself never to lend (because teachers are dreadful at returning anything… but don’t tell anyone I said that). In a Faraway Land easily falls into the latter category: it’s one I know I’ll use and return to. Why? Unlike many ELT titles, which come in different sizes and colours but all say the same things, or teach grammar in an allegedly ‘revolutionary’ way, Michael Berman has put together a gem – one that provides lessons in life as well as teaching English. Who would deny that we all need a bit of that from time to time? In a Faraway Land is written for teachers who, like most of us, have better things to do with their lives than pore over resource books. Berman knows that teachers often find it difficult to justify using material he creates; to combat this he has packaged this book of folk tales and fables in an order that should match themes being covered in the classroom. It assists by giving a history of storytelling, along with reasons for its continued existence. As Berman explains, ‘Storytelling engages the imagination, promotes language development, encourages reading, teaches about other cultures and helps people understand themselves and others’ – words worth writing on the backs of the hands of all trainee teachers. And yet how often do trainers still see teachers battling away, trying to explain arcane grammar points related to the tense of the week? As you work through the sixty tales in this book, you’ll soon spot the difference between each genre; you might ask your learners to help you with that quest, too. Texts are often quite short. ‘Carrying and Leaving’, a Buddhist parable, for example, runs only to about 150 words. As is the case with all texts in this title, it is exposed to students as either a reading passage or as read by the teacher, and is preceded by activities or related background comments. To satisfy your curiosity, ‘Carrying and Leaving’ is about two monks, one of whom is able to get over an awkward episode in his life, while the other is left with restless nights. There’s certainly a lesson in that for us all, as well as various vocabulary and ordering tasks for eager learners. Stories have been collated by Berman from all over the world. To give you a flavour, there’s ‘The monkey who could not sleep’ from the Philippines; ‘Why kangaroos have pouches’, an Aboriginal Australian tale; ‘The enchanted water hole’, from India; and ‘The toad bridegroom’ from Korea. This is certainly a book you’ll wish to dip into, either to back up a theme, to support a skill-based course or just to provide your class with something interesting to start or end the day. See   for more on this book and others by Michael Berman. ~ Wayne Trotman, EL Gazette May 2010

In a Faraway Land M. Berman Orca Books 250pp £14.99 ISBN 978 1 84694 302 7 Michael Berman Review by Andrew Wright August 2010 ‘CNN tells the stories which shape the world in which you live.’ Noone can doubt that storymaking and telling are the main way in which we try to make a sense out of the infinite onslaught of information assailing our poor senses every moment. And this applies to adults just as much as to children. CNN and BBC refer to ‘stories’ just as much as they refer to ‘news’. CNN even go further in telling the truth about their role when they say that the stories they tell shape the world in which we live. We all need stories, stories can be made of pictures only but normally stories are told through words: motivating texts! What more does a language teacher want? Stories have been used in language teaching from the year dot and are still used in many texts books. So that is not new. On the other hand, the teacher who recognises the power of stories to engage the interest of his or her students and to give them an experience of language in context is always on the look out for new stories either to provide the main road of the language class or rich supplementary diversions. As Michael Berman says in his introduction to, ‘In a Faraway Land’, ‘When someone asks you how your day went, that is an invitation for a story.’ (page 2) Stories include, daily anecdotes, international news, fiction and, of course, traditional stories. Anybody can spend time collecting stories and these days it is easy to collect them from the internet. But it takes time, time to find them, time to select ‘good’ ones and time to work out how to fit them into your lesson. If one hour of your time as a freelance teacher is about £14.99 then for one hour of your time you can have ‘a collection of 60 traditional and contemporary tales graded Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate or Advanced, with accompanying worksheets. The notes for teachers that go with each tale include pre-listening, while listening and post-listening tasks.’ (page 4) put together by Michael Berman, under the title, ‘In a Faraway Land’ and published by O books. Most of the stories have a moral which invites discussion. This is excellent for language teaching purposes because the moral might not be perceived as desirable by some members of the class and immediately there is an, ‘opinion gap’ and a very good reason for using language! On the other hand, the moral carried in the example of the story might stimulate the students to share examples of their own experiences in life which contain a similar concept. The pre, while and post-listening tasks contain many different suggestions for activities which range from discussion to role-play. I like the openness to the students as individuals. For the story, ‘I know but...’ seven possible morals are given for the students to choose from but the teacher is urged to ask the students to find a moral of their own if the seven listed don’t seem right to them (page 23). The tasks also include traditional language teaching devices like, ‘Place the nine parts of the story in the correct order.’ (page 11) Such tasks are practical in making the students think about the gist of meaning in each part and in providing the teacher with a very easy ten minutes. On the other hand, such tasks, unlike discussions, are only for the students as language students rather than giving them an opportunity to use the language in order to express their feelings as ‘whole’ people. Too many such language teaching devices can drag down the participation of the students to the level of mere language practice rather than genuine involvement which in turn drives a need to use the language. Michael, in his introduction, shows how aware he is of the importance of the story for ‘whole’ people and I am sure he achieves the necessary balance in his own teaching. In my own work with teachers on the use of stories I often refer to the story of the goose laying the golden eggs. The owner of the goose decided to kill it to find out its secret but finished up with a dead goose. Too many activities which do not involve the student in caring about the content of the story will kill off his or her involvement and the potential magic of using stories in language teaching will be lost. I would not expect to feel that all the stories are ‘my kind of stories’. But if we have a class of students then we cannot be sure who will like what. I think our bottom line has to be whether we have a respect for the story even if it is not our favourite. If we feel respect we can read it or tell it well: if we don’t, we can’t. For the purposes of this review I have not been able to read and reflect on all of the sixty stories. However, I do feel there is great richness in the variety of stories offered here and I am sure there will be stories for everyone amongst them. The language of the stories. One of the great advantages of working with students in the higher proficiency levels is that we do not need to be so concerned about ‘unusual’ language. Most of the traditional stories contain those turns of phrase which one associates with traditional stories, for example, the use of the word ‘for’ instead of ‘because’. ‘She asked her family to gather around her for she wished to see them one last time.’ (page 36) Some of the stories include a rather individual use of language, ‘...the young girl...hungered with them and, like them, ate, whatever the sea might yield.’ And here is another example, ‘The mother tried to cheer them up all the way, but there was a muddle and hunger and loss every minute by land and sea.’ (page 78) Such phrases offer a glimpse of the potential richness of English beyond the world of ‘examination’ English. On balance, I feel it is a positive feature of these stories that the language has not been ‘cleaned up’ but has been left in its original form. In any case, the great majority of the texts are within the more expected language range. To summarise: In a Faraway Land is a rich and helpful book with a great variety of stories and many related and practical activities. It is particularly welcome because all the stories are suitable for pre-intermediate level students and above. Suggestions for modification in the next edition? The introduction I think it is probably true to say that teachers rarely read introductions. Given this one is rather long, I would suggest including subheadings which express the point of view of the questioning teacher. For example, Why are stories important? How can I use stories in the classroom? Are stories useful to advanced students? Etc. I think it would also be helpful to have a summary of the role of activities at the three stages pre, while and post, in the Introduction, which can then act as a guide to the teacher who finds her or his own story and wants to know how to use it. Perhaps the most serious omission is that no suggestions are given to the teacher for how to tell the story. The success of a storytelling or reading depends so much on how to create ‘story readiness’ before telling the story. Suggestions are given in the individual pre-listening tasks but I think this key point should have been dealt with in the introduction, as well. Also there is no mention, unless I have missed it, on the pros and cons of the different ways of delivering the story: teacher reading the story; teacher telling the story; students reading the story. Simple tips can make all the difference to the quality of reading a story aloud to a class...the craft of reading or telling. A CD would have been a huge advantage, particularly for the non native speaker teacher concerned about his or her ability to offer a good model of English. The section in the introduction on how to help the students to create stories is useful in itself but is presented with no rationale for how it might relate to the body of the book. For example, trying to make stories helps us to be more aware of how other stories are made and in this way can be a good preparation for reading and responding to stories. The body of the book The book designer should perhaps have made the stories more clearly separated from the lesson notes. Sometimes, I had to look twice to find the story...perhaps it would have been clearer if the text of the story had been placed first, before the lesson notes and worksheets? I think there was a design error with the first two stories. Unlike all the other stories that are presented with their full title the first one is just referred to by the words, ‘The Story’, instead of, ‘Carrying and Leaving’, which is its true title. (page 10) Furthermore, I looked around for the story, ‘The Tail of the Dog’, and then realised that it has mistakenly been called a worksheet which was why I didn’t find it immediately. (page 48) My mother once said, ‘Only people who wash up can break plates.’ What are a few blemishes against sixty stories and many good ideas for activities? Andrew Wright Andrew Wright is an author, teacher trainer and storyteller. He has published three books on the subject of stories in language teaching: Wright, A. 2008 Second Edition. ‘Storytelling with Children’. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wright, A. 1997. ‘Creating Stories with Children’. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wright, A. and Hill, D.A. 2008. ‘Writing Stories’. He has worked as a storyteller in over twenty countries but he is based in Hungary where he uses stories in his teaching of adults. ~ Andrew Wright, author, teacher trainer, and storyteller

The truly international collection of stories it contains will transform the learning environment of your classroom. ~ Wayne Rimmer, Director of Studies, International House, Moscow

For me your gift is in the telling, in the reading, in the being with a group in a very special way that I cannot properly define. If you were to do a storytelling session like you did at Cesky Tesin [in the Czech Republic] I could see people flocking to your session ~ Mario Rinvolucri, Author and Senior Teacher, Pilgrims

Michael Berman, alias the Storyteller, is back with a new collection of stories from all over the world. The carefully selected thought-provoking tales contain a rich vocabulary and provide language learners of all age groups with hours of inspiring and motivating listening experiences. For the language teacher, there is an excellent introductory section on how to use stories in the classroom and, as a welcome time-saving bonus, the tales come with photocopiable worksheets that contain various kinds of exercises and discussion points designed to practise and develop learners' listening and speaking skills. As an alternative worthy of consideration, non-native teachers who feel uneasy about reading out stories aloud in class can of course use the material for reading comprehension purposes. A very recommendable book! ~ Rolf Palmberg, teacher and teacher trainer, Finland

Michael Berman's book makes good use of traditional tales and stories which students of different nationalities and of all ages can relate to.The concepts lend themselves to conversation and successfully engage students in numerous activities. It's an easy book to use with some very practical, hands-on ideas to assist teachers, and there are useful comments as insights into the stories. The book also incorporates a variety of activities including guided visualisations, lettergrams and questionnaires and in so doing caters for different learner styles. A book which teachers will no doubt find an indispensable part of their teaching, and which students will find both entertaining and rewarding. This is yet another one of Michael Berman's masterpieces and its originality is a breath of fresh air in the classroom. ~ Makkie Malyari, BA, RSA Dip TEFLA , teacher and teacher trainer, Greece

I remember your gentle presence in Cesky Tesin as you gave your bring me a kind of light trance, which I enjoyed. It is rare for this aspect of a person's work to come across on the written page. ~ Mario Rinvolucri, teacher trainer and writer

Michael Berman
Michael Berman Michael Berman BA, MPhil, PhD (Alternative Medicines) has been involved in teaching and teacher training for over thirty five years, and has...
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