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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 4; Issue 5; September 02

An Old Exercise

Challenge to Think

This issue offers you two old exercises from Challenge to Think, Berer et al., OUP 1982. The book disappeared from the market place about five years ago.

The two exercises are: Two-in-one Stories and Contradictions


Intensive reading. Sort out the two stories as quickly as you can. Then re-tell them.

The stork
The company chairman

  1. The cook stole a leg from a beautiful roast stork just before it was served to the king.

  2. 'But, your Majesty, you didn't clap last night.'

  3. He glowered at them, 'Gentlemen, I have something I must say: half of you are idiots.'

  4. The king asked him angrily why the bird had only one leg.

  5. One day a company chairman got very angry with his board of directors.

  6. The king clapped his hands and the birds flew off. 'There,' he said, 'You see, they all have two legs the moment I clap.'

  7. 'Very well,' the chairman said, 'I withdraw it -half of you are not idiots.'

  8. Next morning the cook and the king went down to the river and saw the storks all standing on one leg.

  9. One of the directors stood up and banged on the table. 'I demand that you withdraw that last observa- tion, Mr Chairman.'

  10. The cook replied, 'Storks only ever have one leg - come to the river with me tomorrow and I will show you, Your Majesty.'

The farmer
The invitation

  1. 'Well, 'said the farmer, scratching his chin, 'I'll tell you what we do.'

  2. 'Why do I have to use my elbow and my foot?' asked his friend.

  3. A man inviting his friend to his home explained to him where he lived.

  4. The man went back to his car with a puzzled look on his face and said to his wife, 'I think he must be crazy.'

  5. 'Come to the third floor,' he said, 'and where you see the letter E on the door, push the button with your elbow and when the door opens put your foot against it.'

  6. 'We eat what we can and what we can't eat we can.'

  7. A curious tourist, after passing a huge field of carrots alongside the road, stopped and asked the farmer what he did with his large crop.

  8. 'He said they ate what they could and what they couldn't they could.'

  9. 'Well,' exclaimed the man, 'You're not going to come empty-handed, are you?'

A stranger in London
The new hedge clipper

  1. The stranger got out and ran up to a policeman.

  2. He was about half way round his garden when his neighbour arrived.

  3. Then he disappeared into Waterloo station.

  4. 'Thanks very much,' was the grateful reply.

  5. 'Would you mind paying my fare, officer?' he said. 'I've a train to catch.'

  6. He called a taxi and asked the driver to take him to Waterloo, mentioning that he had a train to catch at three o'clock.

  7. 'That's all right, at least I can now go back to bed and sleep in peace,' he said, walking back to his own house.

  8. One Saturday morning a friend of mine decided to use his new hedge clipper.

  9. The policeman told him and the stranger handed him the money.

  10. The job was quickly finished and my friend thanked his neighbour for his help.

  11. 'Can I give you a hand?' the neighbour asked my friend.

  12. At half past two the taxi drew up at Waterloo, the driver smiling broadly.

  13. 'What is the fare from Euston to Waterloo?' he asked the policeman.

  14. A stranger arrived at Euston just before midday.

  15. For two hours he sat back enjoying the sights of London

The railway ticket
Aesop's fable

  1. There were eight of us in the carriage, and seven tickets were soon found and punched.

  2. A few hours later a mean-looking travell- er came down the road, and he too stopped and asked Aesop, 'Tell me, my friend, what are the people of Athens like?'

  3. Aesop, the Greek writer of fables, was sitting by the road one day when a friend- ly traveller asked him, 'What sort of people live in Athens?'

  4. 'All tickets, please!' said the railway inspector, appearing at the door of the carriage.

  5. Frowning, the man replied, 'I'm from Argos and there the people are unfriend- ly, mean, deceitful and vicious. They're thieves and murderers, all of them.'

  6. 'Funny thing, absence of mind,' said the helpful traveller when the inspector had gone. 'Absence of mind?' said the old man.

  7. But the old man in the corner went on searching through his pockets, looking very unhappy.

  8. Aesop replied, 'Tell me where you come from and what sort of people live there, and I'll tell you what sort of people you'll find in Athens.'

  9. So he was, and the inspector looked anything but pleased as he hastily punched the mangled ticket.

  10. Smiling, the man answered, 'I come from Argos, and the people there are all friendly, generous and warm- hearted. I love them all.'

  11. Again Aesop replied, 'Tell me where you come from and what people are like there and I will tell you what the people are like in Athens.'

  12. 'I was chewing off last week's date!'

  13. 'You haven't lost your ticket,' said the man next to him, helpfully. You're holding it in your teeth!'

  14. At this Aesop answered, 'I'm happy to tell you, my dear friend, that you'll find the people of Athens much the same.'

  15. 'I'm afraid you'll find the people of Athens much the same,' was Aesop's reply.

The loan
The burglar

  1. 'That's not so hard, George,' said his father. 'Write to him and say you need the 1000 at once.

  2. Among my best friends are Joe and his wife Alice, who live in a nice little house near Manchester.

  3. 'You mean the 500,' George interrupted.

  4. The friend proved to be untrustworthy, and as George thought he would lose the 500, he asked his father for advice.

  5. The donor neglected to send his name, and all day the couple's question was, 'Wonder who it is?'

  6. 'No, I don't!' Say a thousand pounds and he will write back he only owes you 500.'

  7. There was a note from the burglar propped up on the pillow in the bedroom saying, 'Now you know.'

  8. When, as a newly married couple, they had just returned from their honeymoon, they got a plea- sant surprise in the post one morning - two tickets to the best show in town.

  9. George Smith had lent a friend 500 but he had nothing in writing confirming the loan.

  10. They enjoyed the show; when they reached home they found that their house had been broken into and that all their wedding presents had been taken.

  11. 'Then you'll have it in writing.'

The general's visit
No teeth

  1. He immediately ordered a pool and courts to be built.

  2. Some weeks later Peter met his friend in the street, and the friend asked him what had happened.

  3. Peter had been called up, but he didn't want to join the army, so he asked his friend what he should do.

  4. When he was asked why he would not give benches to primary children but wanted pri- soners to have a swimming pool, he replied, 'Do you think I will ever go back to primary school?'

  5. His friend said, 'Well, why don't you have all your teeth pulled out? You won't get past the medical then.'

  6. A general visited a primary school where the children said they had no benches to sit on.

  7. Some time later he visited a prison. The men there complained they had no swim- ming pool and no tennis courts.

  8. Peter, who had no teeth left, mumbled, 'The officer said I was no good to the army - I've got flat feet!'

  9. He told the kids there were no benches - they must make sacrifices for their country.

( The "general " story originates in the long, dark Kissinger-Pinochet years in Chile )


Intensive reading. Read one sentence of the stories at a time, and then comment on what you have read.

  1. John Brown is a butcher who always sell good stale bread. One morning last week as he was busy working in his office a lady came in and ordered six loaves and four apples. John had never had such a large order before and he suggested bringing the cakes and sandwiches to her house in his van. So at 10 a.m. after a hard day's work John put on his overcoat and scarf and stepped out into the sunny June evening. As he approached his customer's tent John took the goods from the basket of his bicycle and walked up to the front path to hand over the vegetables to the lady waiting in the reception hall.

  2. My neighbour John has just called in to say that he and his wife can come to my party next Wednesday. So we've arranged to meet outside the cinema at about six o'clock. The main film showing is the latest James Bond film, starring Sophia Loren, Henry Kissinger and Clark Gable. After the service the two of us will pro- bably go for a drink. It's a long time since I saw John and his wife, so I'm looking forward to an enjoyable Saturday evening with them.

  3. John Adams is an amateur detective who spends all his time trying to solve crimes. Yesterday at about nine o'clock in the afternoon he saw his brother Joe walk up to a red car, get into it and ride off at a steady trot. Three days later at exactly the same time he thought he saw the same thing. He couldn't be absolutely sure as it was already getting dark and the woman was holding an umbrella over her face to protect her from the fog. Later that day when Adams had observed several other suspicious people he walked to the next village and handed his report to the head waiter at New Scotland Yard.

  4. Smith Billy is a teacher at a riding school. He always gets up at five to prepare his lessons in order to avoid waking his children by his singing. He takes his noiseless typewriter and writes four or five pages of notes so he will not hesitate when he lectures to his horses. For variety, when his lessons are in danger of becoming too interesting, he sometimes copies out a science fiction story from Grimm or Hans Anderson, which he can dictate to the horses. Occasionally there is an emotional reaction from his docile donkeys: when the story is sad they laugh. Billy prefers this job to the one he had in a language school because now his students never take him for a ride.


    How about a holiday in San Antonio, the newest resort on the Costa Brighton? The beaches with sand as soft as concrete, skating in the warm sea and running through the pine forests have been popular with our regular visitors for over 400 years. The cafes, hospitals and hoverports offer real Russian dancing, authentic flamenco and fandango accompanied by throbbing chess-playing and singing to fill your mind with memories to be treasured for minutes.

  6. If you want a new car for the family them come along to our surgery and look at our latest discoveries. We have imported cars as well as a wide range produced in British kitchens. There are no vehicles here on display so just come along any time to see them. Alternatively you could phone and we'd be delighted to give you our catalogues personally. We are open from 3 a.m. - 7 a.m., seven days a year and are looking forward to buying from you the car you've been dreaming of.

  7. My friend Peter, who is 23 years old and a bachelor, has just bought a 14th century bungalow on the estate behind our house. I have known Peter ever since we started school together 32 years ago, and was delighted to hear he would be living so near. Last Sunday we decided to visit him and his wife in their new home and we got the bus at the Town Hall. It took us about 35 minutes to get there, although I have to admit we didn't walk very fast. Peter and his eldest daughter, who had just retur- ned home from work, were looking out for us through the letterbox and waved as they saw us arrive. We parked the car at the bus stop, put 75p in the parking meter and ran up the path and in through the window. Peter's wife was upstairs making tea and she told us that her husband would be home in about half an hour.

  8. Joan lives alone in a large house near the city centre. Every evening she gets up, wakes her family and gets ready to go to work in the town twelve miles away. She takes her bike out of the stable and rides off into the warm December morning. As she passes the gardens in front of the rows of shops she notices the roses that are just coming into bloom. When she stops at the traffic lights she takes out her thermometer. She sees it's three o'clock and thinks of her mother who will be waiting at home for her to return from school. As last the traffic lights turn blue and she drives off along the footpath to her two-room flat.

  9. Three years ago I retired from work and have since spent the whole time travelling. As I didn't get very much pension my parents gave me 100 for my 21st birthday. I took the cross-channel ferry from Birmingham to Moscow and made my way through Spain to Copenhagen. The gift from my parents together with the 560 a week pension made it possible for me to stay in cheap guest houses all the time. In Denmark I met my grandson and we spent two days together travelling by boat to Rome. After two nights at the Hilton Hotel we returned home by taxi. It was a wonderful journey and a year that I'll never forget.

  10. 14 Eaton Terrace
    An inferior house with full gas-fired central freezing. It is situated in one of the worst residential areas of the city close to the local rickshaw service and within flying distance of the airport. The property, which is poorly built of cardboard under a glass roof, was completed by a local baker about eight years ago and is in immaculate order throughout. It is regarded as a historical monument although in need of repair.

  11. I have lived in the centre of London for the last ten years and will be moving to a cottage in a small village next month. When I moved in I was only two years old so I enjoyed the large garden and fields that surrounded our farm. When I went to school it became more difficult, as I had to take the underground to the nearest airport and from there went by tractor. Anyway all that is over now and I am looking forward to the nice little penthouse flat that will soon be my home.

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