Do you talk too much in ESL classrooms or entrepreneurial boardrooms? Four ways to improve participation in this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

April 2022 Vol 4 Issue 4

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling
Let me tell your story!

ARTICLE 1: Do you talk too much in ESL classrooms or entrepreneurial boardrooms? Four corrections to improve class and boardroom participation

STORYTELLER’S CORNER: On Canada’s version of “Wordle”–“Canuckle!”




Welcome Mid-April, 2022!
After experiencing a lovely 10-day stretch of warmth in March, we descended this month into more wintry—and very windy—weather. The wind has affected Wi-Fi, causing disruptions to Zoom calls, and has also curtailed the number of daily walks that folk in my neighbourhood have been taking!

Along the South Saskatchewan River, however, athletes still determined to run out-of-doors have added gloves and ear-muffs to their workout gear. And local gardeners anxiously gaze at the calendar of our oh-so-short growing season, wondering what and when to plant, since last year brought frost
after Victoria Day.

Still, as I edit this newsletter, we are nearly through Easter weekend and, while we continue to be dogged by Covid, many of us anticipate a lovely  Saskatchewan summer, with outdoor festivals and gardens. And this weekend, at least some have enjoyed indoor Easter treats, such as hot-cross buns
and Easter egg hunts to buoy our spirits!

Since I now teach both English as a Second Language (ESL) and business communication, I discuss in this month’s “Article One,” four corrections that both ESL teachers and entrepreneurial leaders can make, to prevent ourselves from talking too much. What can we do to improve classroom learning
and the sharing of ideas in boardrooms or offices? Saying less can often accomplish more.

Then, in “Storyteller’s Corner,” I bring to you “Canuckle,” the Canadian version of the online word game, “Wordle” (discussed in last February’s issue of TYSN). Like the original game on whose coding it’s based, “Canuckle” has captured a bevy of followers.

And in “Shop News,” I update you on recent developments at “Storytelling Communications,” as I prepare to teach ESL to local new immigrants. I also promote the remarkable new program “digiSMART,” from Saskatoon’s own Praxis School of Entrepreneurship. digiSMART features the
work of mentors, veteran facilitators and communication specialists (like me) who help participants to integrate digital technology into their businesses. Sound interesting? If you’re a business owner, register through the link, below!

May the lengthening of our spring days and our hopes for greater freedom from the pandemic and from winter bring you renewed health, personal growth and prosperity, valued readers.
Storytelling Communications

Article One: Do you talk too much in classrooms or boardrooms? Four corrections to improve participants’ contributions

During the first year of Covid and in response to it, I trained as an ESL/EFL (English-as-a- Second, or Foreign, Language) teacher. Since that time, I have taught adults online–first in an internship to students in Quebec and Ontario; then for a Chinese company, to students in Eastern Europe, Asia and
the United States.

Teaching is not new to me, since I was a Teaching Assistant (TA) in English literature for several years during my graduate studies in Southern Ontario.
But more recently and over three years, the amazing team at Saskatoon’s Praxis School of Entrepreneurship has invited me to teach business communication seminars—which will soon resume, since their exciting “digiSMART” program has recently launched!

Since teachers’ salaries are rarely large, some entrepreneurs might wonder why I’d pivot my business toward teaching. But the opportunity to share language skills and cultural experiences with new or prospective immigrants—and, most recently, asylum seekers fleeing Ukraine— is invaluable. I can’t
imagine feeling more useful or relevant!

And, as freelance life often shows, the connections and complementarities that develop between old and new services (i.e. copywriting, editing and teaching) can be revelatory and even joyful. This month’s article considers one such connection: how to teach ESL and lead entrepreneurial meetings without talking too much.

In a 2014 article from the British Council, author Declan Cooley recommends four ways to lead ESL classes that prevent the teacher from “talking too much.” I draw parallels to entrepreneurial settings with clients or customers or between leaders and a company’s delegates.

Most of us know that new and inexperienced teachers (“greenhorns”) tend to talk too much. The tendency to lecture often reflects their own experiences of learning, as youth. Teacher trainees have to “unlearn” the assumption that because they have authority, they should “instruct,” which means
“talking a lot.” STT (student talking time) always needs to be greater than TTT (teacher talking time) and the passage between the two can be direct and collaborative–not clumsy.

Similarly, in a company boardroom or a networking event, some entrepreneurs and business leaders tend to lead by talking too much, reducing prospects, clients, participants or delegates to a stupor, where joint or group exchange would be more enlightening and productive.

Even small “asides,” murmurs and anecdotes from teachers and leaders may “leak out in many small, often unnoticed, ways,” Cooley writes. “When added up, these leaks can diminish the quality of the learning [or decision making] experience,” giving students and participants “less . . . space to
practice,” discuss skills or issues, in the classroom or the boardroom.
Cooley adds that even seasoned teachers sometimes fall into the habit of talking too much; ditto for accomplished entrepreneurial and business leaders.

(1) One way that teachers and leaders talk too much is by repeating instructions unnecessarily. causing students to “switch off” under the burden of so many words! The more words involved, the less impact each has.

Cooley cites an almost laughable example of one ESL teacher to his students:
“‘Read out the cards; don’t show each other and then, if they go together, sit down. So these cards belong together, so this person needs to find this person and they need to sit down together . . . I’d like you to read it to other people in the class. Remember: no showing and . . .’”

After giving a simpler, one-time statement of the rules, teachers can avoid repetition by following up with instruction-checking  (concept checking) questions: “‘Do you show your partner your card?’” (Wait for students to
reply, ‘No.’)

“‘What happens when you find your partner?’” (Wait for students to reply, ‘Sit own together.’)

In a boardroom or business setting, immediate instruction giving and receiving may occur less often. But here, too, leaders can confirm instructions pithily: “Does everyone follow this idea? Do you have any questions?” Good leaders and entrepreneurs speak professionally with as few words as possible,
repeating only if asked for clarification.

ESL teachers can emphasize their instructions by simultaneously using gestures to reinforce: for instance, they can move their hands to “stand up,” to “sit down,” and to “form pairs” for assignments, and so on.

(2) A second way teachers and leaders talk too much, Cooley says, is by saying more than students or participants do, to respond to a student response or question. If a student says (quietly), “That happened 10 years ago,” the teacher can inadvertently drown them out (e.g. “ ’Would you like to tell everyone the answer you were thinking of again, because I don’t think they heard it when you spoke so quietly and I’m sure we’d all like to hear it, if you could please?’ ”)
Business leaders outspeaking team members (i.e. participants) is similarly a problem: If Jones says, quietly, “With that model, the evidence runs counter to the theory,” the CEO should not respond, ad nauseum: (“Jones, would you please repeat that comment, because I suspect not everyone in the
room heard it and you were too quiet and we don’t want to miss out on the criticism, so one more time, OK?”)

Instead, cupping one’s hand to one’s ear and politely beckoning, “Louder, please!” works better.

(3) A third way teachers and leaders talk too much is by asking lengthy questions. Cooley provides this example, from a teacher: “‘ If I were to ask you for your opinion on the topic of genetically modified food, what do you think you might say to me in reply to that?’”

Such tentativeness and wordiness may reflect the teacher’s effort to be polite, but such an effort doesn’t work in the classroom or the boardroom. Students don’t process long questions.

Leaders and entrepreneurs can make similar mistakes (e.g. “Barker, does that slide indicate the ratio of gross quarterly profit per marketing output that you introduced three slides ago, but with reservations about the integrity of gross data values when net numbers were unavailable or may, perhaps, undermine your overall valuation of the systemic processes—could you just clarify that for
us, please?”).

(4) And a fourth and final way that teachers and leaders talk too much is by unnecessarily echoing too closely what students or participants have said, in answer to a question. Cooley writes this example:

(Student giving opinion): “I like going to the beach, because it is fun.”

(Teacher): “OK, so you like going to the beach, because it’s fun. Right, good.”

Cooley observes that there is no reason to echo the student’s/participant’s answer, if everyone in the class or boardroom has clearly heard it. If you think other participants did not hear it, then simply say, “please try louder.” Repetition can also unintentionally sound sarcastic, which would further
undermine the communication process.

By contrast, one time when repetition can be useful, is when a teacher or leader repeats a student or participant’s answer, in order to correct it: the teacher/leader can emphasize certain words or syllables, raising their tone to make it a question. (“Phillips, ‘yesterday I go out to buy a pizza,’
or ‘yesterday I __ ?'”) Also, teachers and leaders can use meaningful (never mocking) facial expressions and gestures to reflect that correction is needed.

While it can be laughable to read the over-talking of (usually inexperienced) teachers or leaders, sometimes even good lessons or meetings involve too much TTT. Cooley says that sometimes teachers–and leaders, I would add–unconsciously and wrongly feel “the [one] who talks a lot is
teaching a lot.”

But in reality, most often when teachers or leaders talk too much, it’s because they are falsely reassured by the sound of their own voices or because they are clinging to the spotlight to bolster their egos. And neither helps students or participants to learn or work better. While all teachers and leaders can start reducing their TTT by simply being aware of it, Cooley warns us not to be “too self-critical. Simply noticing the tendency and stopping it in its tracks earlier
and without self-reproach is a sensible path to follow.”

With this awareness, we can direct a classroom and boardroom with more of the needed silence in which students’ and participants’ thinking and voices can thrive.

And now it’s your turn: Do you (or others near you) outspeak students or colleagues in ESL or entrepreneurial settings? Will these four strategies help to resolve that? I look forward to hearing from  you at   .



This month: On Canada’s word game, “Canuckle!”

In last February’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” I discussed the history of “Wordle,” a free, online word guessing game that appeared on Twitter in late December (2021) and went viral.

Developed by the code of a Welsh software engineer, Josh Wardle, for his partner, a lover of word games, Wordle consists of yellow, green and grey squares (in a five by six square grid). The reader must guess the letters and so discover the word, in no more than six tries per day.

Starting with fewer than 100 followers when first published, Wordle garnered 300K players between October (2021) and early January (2022). By the end of that month, the game had reached millions and was subsequently sold to The New York Times (TNYT) for a fortune.

Since then, it seems as though everyone is copying the code that Wardle developed to create word games of their own.
And Canadian game enthusiasts were no different, as Ottawa resident Mark Rogers released a Canadian version of Wordle on February 10th. He calls it “Canuckle.”

Canuckle looks very similar to Wordle, featuring five-letter words based on words related to Canada, and using red, yellow and grey squares.
But Rogers says that in Canuckle, “every word . . . is going to be related to Canada in some way and it’s got some sort of theme that can be tied back to Canada.”

He also developed his version of the game to feature more common words than Wordle does (e.g. words such as Canadian Bob and Doug
MacKenzie’s “hoser”; and terms like “igloo,” “canoe,” “maple,” “donut” and so on).
Rogers says the game will have a relatively short life, with a planned ending on Canada Day (July 1st), this year. After you fill in your answer (within six tries), a “fun fact” about Canada appears over Twitter. While highbrow entertainment this is not, youth, newcomers to Canada, and non-native speakers of English
are among some of the devotees to the game.

Want to give Canuckle a try? Here’s its official page,

And now it’s your turn: Have you enjoyed Wordle? What about Canuckle? How important are online word games to distract us from late pandemic days and a slow start to spring?

Please weigh in to the “contact” page of my website (
I’d be delighted to hear from you.


SHOP NEWS:Starting shortly, I’ve invited to assist/co-lead a “conversation circle” at Saskatoon’s Open Door Society, likely online (given fluctuating Covid patterns), and where new immigrants flock to improve their English language skills in order to secure better jobs. I look forward to assisting newcomers with integrating into our community. Saskatoon Open Door Society is a remarkable
not-for-profit organization that meets the needs of newcomers to our city, often in very challenging circumstances.

Some news that’s hot-off-the-press: Have you heard about the latest program offering from Saskatoon’s own Praxis School of Entrepreneurship? It’s called “digiSMART”, and it provides FREE classes on various aspects of digital technology, facilitated by team members Monica and Brent
Kreuger, Deanna Litz, and selected alumni of the school’s startSMART program (me included).

I’ve attended some of digiSMART’s modules and they’ve been amazing –first rate learning and networking opportunities!
Later this spring, my valued colleagues and I will present on communication formats: Christina Cherneskey (who has been working on the marketing of digiSMART) will teach a powerful podcasting method. Read more about her work at and find her on Twitter and
TikTok @ccherneskey.

Megan Kent’s videography-partnership firm, “Little Ox Film Company,” will facilitate classes on video production, which has become the bread and butter of almost all marketing, these days.

And I will soon teach an updated seminar on blogging, which continues to be a mainstay of my business, “Storytelling Communications.”
“digiSMART” presents an opportunity not to be missed and even includes customized coaching that will assist entrepreneurs with integrating technology into their pre-existing businesses.

An intake is already underway, currently without cost! So call or email program administrator, Elaine Mantyka, immediately, for more information: (306) 664-0500 and
In other news, “Get well” wishes go out this month to my (nearly lifelong) journeyperson stylist, Holly Dishko, tamer of curls and coiffures at local business, Blush Salon and Studio, in Saskatoon’s Riversdale neighbourhood.

After being injured in an otherwise carefully planned family holiday in Mexico, Holly is recovering at home and assisting her colleagues with client hair care instructions, so they can temporarily fill her shoes.
Thanks for your dedication, Holly, and to the lovely women of local business, Blush Salon and Studio, for taking great care of their clients.
There are always more local entrepreneurs and small businesses to promote (and I receive no affiliate fees for doing so).

But this is a wrap for mid-April!



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now teach new and prospective immigrants to secure better jobs by improving their English language skills; I continue to write communications documents that help small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I research and write chapbooks that
promote the legacies of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
Please visit my website for more information (