Aesop's Fables in Easy English  - Thor May



1. Trouble Tests Your Friends

2. One Good Turn Deserves Another

3. The Dog In The Manger

4. Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention

5. True Nature Can't Be Hidden

6. You Can't Please Everyone

7. Be Content With Your Natural Abilities

8. No Excuse Will Satisfy A Tyrant

9. You Never Know Who Might Help You In The Future

10. Unity Is Strength

11. Don't Make An Enemy Carelessly

12. Where There Is No Need, There Is No Value

13. Fine Words Are Not Equal To Fine Deeds

14. Slow But Steady Wins The Race

15. Don't Lose What You Have For Imaginary Gains

16. Never Expect Payment From The Wicked

17. Don't Overlook What You Have, Hoping For What You Want

18. The Gods Help Those Who Help Themselves


Large collections of Aesop's Fables are now on the Internet, and also in many published books. Therefore, the small group of stories here is only a sample. There is a reason they are here. Although the traditional Aesop fables are short, memorable, simple and wise (therefore good for language learning), many contain grammar or unusual words which are difficult for second language learning. The slightly quaint language in many fables adds to their charm and style for native speakers. For others it is a barrier.

I have therefore modified a handful of fables for teaching to fairly elementary students. The very simple language I have used sometimes comes at a price in style. Note also that I have committed a travesty for all true lovers of fables by embedding the moral of each tale in its title. Teachers may well want to re-conceal this. The particular students I am teaching at the moment are neither gifted nor conditioned to leaps of inference, even in fables, so I have made things very direct.

The fables chosen here have been rewritten from a number of sources, sometimes with fairly minor changes, but in other cases they are a complete retelling. The stories are really for my own teaching convenience ! However there is no reason that every teacher cannot rewrite any number of fables for the language level of her particular class. Also listed below are some classroom activities which I have found to be useful. Other suggestions are welcome.

Have fun.

Thor May
Busan, South Korea



a) Elementary & Intermediate Students

- use a story for intonation practise : first follow the teacher, then alone, or in pairs.

- scramble the order of whole sentences : students to reorder in proper sequence.

- scramble the internal order of sentences: students to reorder into the correct sentences.

Note: mere grammaticality may not be enough. The actors in the story must be  ordered in their proper roles.

- remove all the verbs (or prepositions etc) : students to select from a list, or invent

- remove every second sentence : students to select from a list, recall, or invent.

- give only the first letter of each word (g-o-t-f-l-o-e-w): students to recall the story.

- students make as many questions as they can about events and players in the story.

This can be a game. For example, the teacher can speak a line of the story, and  two teams of students can compete to ask a question about it.

- use all of the above as aids to memorizing the story.

- do a "dictagloss" of the story. That is, the teacher dictates at slow/normal speed, but too fast for students to write everything down. They must use the words they  are able to scrawl down as a skeleton to write a complete story. It doesn't have to be identical to the original. The composition often works better if students are able to consult with each other. This helps the slower learners to preserve some self-respect.


b) Advanced

- students tell a similar story in English, translated from the local culture

- students invent a second story, illustrating the same moral

- students invent a conversation, illustrating the same moral

- students prepare and act out a skit illustrating the moral of the story

- very clever students may be able to give a story CONTRADICTING the Aesop moral;(for example, look up Somerset Maugham's inversion of "The Ant and The Grasshopper").


"Aesop's Fables in Easy English  " copyrighted to Thor May; all rights reserved 2009

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