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NPR "This I Believe": A Valuable Lesson Listening, Writing, Speaking

Example Web Site and/or Technical Equipment Required


Website Example:

More Ways

Computer(s), Internet access, projector (optional), speakers or headphones, word processing software

Activity Description

Students listen to an NPR's "This I Believe" essay, "Do Talk to Strangers," answer questions about the essay/recording, and write their own personal narratives about a valuable life lesson. Here's a description of the NPR essay: "As a child, Sabrina Dubik learned not to talk to strangers. But in college, she decided to befriend an elderly customer at the restaurant where she worked. The experience taught Dubik the benefits of engaging with random people she encounters in life."


  1. Make sure that the Web site is not blocked at your school.
  2. Download, view, modify (as desired), print, and make photocopies of the Example Document (above) Valuable Lesson Listening and Writing Prompt. It is helpful for students to view model paragraphs, so you may decide to print the essay from NPR (copied and pasted into a word-processing program, printed, and photocopied) or to project it after students have completed the listening activity.
  3. Alternatively, you may choose to write your own model paragraph about a life lesson.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the Web site and play the audio to check speaker volume.


  1. Distribute the Valuable Listening, Writing, Speaking Prompt. Ask students questions about sayings their parents said to them when they were young or sayings they tell their children to teach them life lessons. Ask students if they have ever used or heard the lesson "Don't talk to strangers." Ask them if they do or do not talk to strangers and why or why not. If they do talk to strangers, what are the topics?
  2. Tell students that they are going to listen to a woman tell a story about a valuable life lesson she learned. Preview the listening questions from the writing prompt.
  3. Visit the Example Web Site (above). Do not display the text unless you want students to read along as they listen. Press the play button on the audio player. Pause and repeat the audio, as needed.
  4. Have students compare answers in pairs and listen one last time, as needed.
  5. Check the answers to the listening questions as a whole class.
  6. Tell students that they are going to write about their own valuable life lessons. If they cannot think of one, they may write about a friend or family member. Use the handout to guide students in identifying effective topic sentences for their paragraphs. Use the handout for student brainstorming and pre-writing. Students can write answers to the questions and then re-write the sentences in paragraph format after you have provided feedback on content, organization, grammar, spelling, punctuation.
  7. Students can type their paragraphs in a word-processing program and optionally record themselves reading their paragraphs using an audio recording program, such as Microsoft Sound Recorder (see Windows 7 sound recorder , Wikihow - How To Record Your Voice on a Windows Computer , Windows 8 Sound Recorder App , or with a program such as Audacity  (free download) and see Example Document (above) - Simple Instructions for Recording with Audacity for how to record).

More Ways

  • NPR's "This I Believe" has numerous essays on a great number of topics. The essays can be used for reading and vocabulary exercises, cloze listening, and listening for main ideas and details, conversation, discussion, and as models for students' own writing and speaking assignments. Select from the menu which drops below the Explore tab to search for essays that may be appropriate for use in class. Select the Educators tab for resources.



  • Intermediate High
  • Advanced


Basic Communication

  • (2.7) Understand aspects of society and culture

Basic Communication

  • (7.2) Demonstrate ability to use critical thinking skills
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN200091-A2 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.