For the past three weeks I’ve been on the campus of Benenden School in Southeast England teaching English grammar to 14-year-old Austrian students. For a while, I thought I’d use this post to review my teaching experience thus far: the initial glance at tenses, the foray into conditional sentences and the passive voice, and the grind of working through present participles.

Teaching grammar is taxing, on me and the students. If asked to condense my three weeks to a fragment, I might say: Regularly reminding an unconvinced audience that grammar is a friend worth having. Hari, a trilingual Greek student, rightfully laughed in my face when I told him on the first day of class that, at the end of the three weeks, he would love grammar more than his mother.

But more often than not, I’m surprised at the curiosity and ability of my students. Yesterday marked one of those moments. After a test, I asked my students to write a short story, to craft something creative or retell a memorable experience they’ve already had. What I got was a collection of inquisitive, insightful, and lovely writing.

Rather than hold forth about the present perfect tense, I thought I’d share one particularly delightful story. This comes from Cornelia, who goes by Conny and hails from Salzburg. Enjoy.


The Little Elephant

One day in July the little elephant, his mother, his grandmother, his aunt, his two sisters and his friend walked to the river. They had to walk very long because the river is far away and the elephants needed to drink something. The little elephant walked under his aunt, who was the biggest elephant in the pack.

He liked his aunt very much because she understood him well and she listened to him when he had a problem. On this day he had an important question. He asked his aunt why his father is away. His aunt didn’t have an answer immediately. But a few minutes later she said: “That’s a good question, dear. I don’t wanna hurt you. But all male elephants are in another pack. And if you’re old enough you will go to the big elephants and be in their pack.”

The little elephant stopped and was scared. He looked at his aunt with big, round eyes. She said “Sorry, dear.” But the little elephant didn’t walk any further. But his aunt walked further and left him because she didn’t see that he stopped.

The little elephant ran away to the next bush and hid behind it. The other elephants went further to the river. He decided to search for his father and the pack. He ran through the jungle. Suddenly he heard noises. Big feet walking through the jungle came nearer. The little elephant jumped behind a tree quickly. But then a big elephant came behind the tree and took the little elephant with him. He said nothing and when he opened his eyes, he saw a pack of the biggest elephants he had ever seen. Even bigger than his aunt.

The first elephant took him with and told him the story of his family. After the walk the little elephant understood that he was the son of this elephant, who stood in front of him.

The big elephant took him back to his pack and gave the little elephant to his mother. The little elephant slept happily in the grass near his two sisters.


  1. Avatar

    I can see this story turning into a picture book.

  2. Avatar

    Thanks Andrew! A sweet glimpse of teaching. I’m starting on Monday with an 8th grade grammar launch. If i can get them to love grammar at all, that’ll be great.

    Take care.


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