Stranger in Town
One Teacher's Comments
As a teacher of ESL in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, I have found "Stranger"
to be very useful to my students, as well as very captivating. I have
broken the play up into 26 lessons. Each lesson consists of listening
to a portion of the play, at least three times but not more than five
times (depending on the level of the students). The first listening
is done with eyes closed and full concentration on the words. Then,
I give each student a copy of what was just heard with several words
missing. They listen again (2 or 3 times) and write in as many missing
words as they can. After that, we read it together and I put the correct
words on the board. We then listen one final time, now that they have
the correct words, so they can hear the sounds that they missed in the
Next, we discuss any words, phrases, or sentence structures which are
unfamiliar to the students. I point out any phrasal verbs, idioms, slang,
etc. that are used, and after a discussion of them, the students then
try to use them. That way I can check to see if they truly understand.
We also look closely at the natural English pronunciation. It is so
difficult for the students to recognize the blending, or running together
of sounds (reductions), as we so often do in naturally spoken English.
For example: Did you eat? = /jeat/. Also, we talk about how stress and
intonation are used to convey a meaning to the listener.
We then practice pronunciation and discuss the story content, piecing
it together with the previous lessons. By doing this each week (I teach
"Stranger" once a week), students can practice their speaking skills
by retelling the story. It also helps keep those students who were absent,
up to date with the happenings in the play.
Besides the obvious language kinds of things mentioned above, American
culture can be taught in a very interesting way. We talk about why things
were said as they were, or why someone did what they did, or how a situation
was handled. The students like to compare it with the way it would be
done in their country. Some very interesting discussions ensued.
Believe it or not, the students are very much interested in American
culture and customs. And, I believe that by teaching it through a play
or a story where it can be discussed and misunderstandings cleared up
is the way to go. If not, the students learn about American culture
through movies, and that is not always so good. In fact, there are many
things that they see in movies which they think is the norm for Americans.
By talking with an American about those things is very beneficial for
everyone involved. Also, by talking about the cultural issues, we make
sure the students understand that one culture is not right and another
wrong, but that they are only different. That is very important, especially
in a third world developing county such as Viet Nam.
I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching "Stranger" and the students equally
enjoyed learning it, as seen by their comments below.
My students range in age from 12 to 60+. I teach elementary students,
high schoolers, and university level students. I have professional people
(architects, engineers, Drs. teachers, etc.), laborers (construction
workers, street vendors, mechanics, etc.), housewives, unemployed, and
retirees. I teach speaking/listening for Level A, Level B, and Level
C. I also teach advanced speaking. I have used "Stranger" with Levels
A, B, and C. I developed the lessons to meet the needs of the particular
levels. Obviously, the Level A class needed more vocabulary work than
the other levels, and the discussions were not as in depth as other
levels. However, regardless of the level of the students, "Stranger"
can be adapted, and used very effectively.
Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is my opinion about "Stranger in Town" by Lou Spaventa. I easily
learn a lot about American English Idiomatic Expressions (the way an
American expresses something). Natural English. I think "Stranger in
Town" helped me a lot in understanding naturally spoken English. The
story is so good too, it's interesting. It helps me understand more
about American culture.
I am a Vietnamese student of Miss Gayle - an American teacher in Viet
Nam. Thank you for your story "Stranger in Town." Thanks to your lively
story and our teacher's practical explanations, not only our vocabulary,
but also our knowledge about English in communication is improved.
I like this lesson because I learn a lot of common conversation - idioms
which I didn't know how to use when I was in similar situations. I was
saddened to know that Bob used to use dope but I believe what he said:
"I'm clean now. No more dope". Gayle, thanks a lot for giving us the
'A1' lesson. If you have contact with the Writer, please send him my
I don't know what to write about "Stranger in Town" ...except...it excited
me. I used to hear about it before but I had no chance to read it until
my teacher, Gayle Confer, introduced it to me in class so that I could
improve my listening. It's very interesting when listening to American
English from many different voices with a good story, but I liked Bob's
voice best and ... I wished I would see him in person.
The title is Stranger In Town by Lou Spaventa. During the time we learned
this story, I truly was absorbed following the style and the dramatic
character of this story.
I really like "Stranger in Town" for many reasons. First, it's useful
to improve my listening. Then, they tell story in a lively way so that
I'm really attracted. In other way, it makes me feel relaxed when I'm
studying English. But the best thing is the American voice very natural,
One thing that really impresses me about "Stranger in Town" is the choice
of readers. Their voice, tone, and feelings are all fit to the content
of the story. It seems like they're real life, everything happens very
naturally. I always wait anxiously for the listening session of "Stranger
"Stranger in Town" is rather clear to listen to. The more I listened
to it, the more attracted I was.
I love "Stranger in Town" very much. In my opinion, "Stranger in Town"
not only helped me understand more about the various characteristics
of Americans, but also helped me know more spoken American English.
There were many new words which added to my vocabulary. In sum, "Stranger
in Town" is very interesting. I wish it would last longer.
"Stranger in Town" helps me learn a lot of interjections and idioms.
Studying "Stranger in Town" I now know how Americans show their feelings.
I've also learned a lot about America life in America. The content of
the story is attractive. I'm interested in Bob and Jean.
The content of "Stranger in Town" is attractive to listen to. It makes
us want to listen from beginning to end. We can learn what Americans
say: phrases, idioms, etc. without translating from our mother tongue
into English, as we often do.
"Stranger in Town" helps me understand naturally spoken English. The
content of the story is very interesting and it makes me curious and
want to know the ending quickly. It has helped me improve my listening
(Chau Thi Minh Thao)
When I first started to listen to "Stranger in Town", I couldn't make
head nor tail of it. But, thanks to my teacher leading class discussions
on what we listened to each evening, I soon learned many new words,
new idioms, and a lot of phrases. I also now understand what it means
to and how to 'read between the lines'. I appreciated "Stranger in Town".
It really helped me a lot in listening, reading, pronunciation, and
vocabulary. From the story I know a little bit about the American lifestyle
and I learned how to 'take the bitter with the sweet' in my life. Thank
you so much for everything I learned from "Stranger in Town".
(Truong Minh Thao)
I found "Stranger in Town" very useful. We learned about grammar, vocabulary,
phrasal verbs, and idioms, as well. In my opinion, you took much time
to write the good story. I hope you'll give us more stories in the future.
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