The Internet TESL Journal

Reading and Writing through Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Tom Maguire
motme [at]

A three minute introduction to "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" would go like this:

Ladies and Gentlemen, to be successful in life you only need to remember three things:

  1. Firstly, know what you want; have a clear idea of your goal in each situation.
  2. Secondly, be alert and keep your senses open so as to know what you are getting.
  3. Thirdly, be flexible enough to change your behaviour until you get what you want.
Goal, Sensitivity, Flexibility

Neuro-Linguistic Programming in Education

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) begins with an interest in people; it's about how we do things. NLP in Education tells us about how we, ourselves and our students,think and learn. It does this by enabling us to explore the structure of our own subjective experience: how we construct our view of the world. Used in Education NLP empowers us to submerge into the inner, virtual-world image each of us creates as a way of understanding the outside world.

An analogy of NLP is the example of a history teacher I know. He is currently spending a lot of his free time learning to program a Roman house in virtual reality. His aim is to be able to take his students for a virtual walk round the house so that they can explore it in 3D. In a similar way NLP techniques enable us to demonstrate to students their own inner learning processes. This brings them much closer to learning to manage their own rich internal software: their images, sounds and feelings. Bit-by-bit they will come to understand and even learn how to control the way they think. In short they will learn how to learn. This is surely our goal as educators.

Class Activities

I Reading

You can introduce your students to their own creativity through this activity: You might like to inform students that research like that of Brian Tomlinson in Japan has found that those people who created pictures in their head while they were reading recalled the story better. He also found that it was easy to boost recall in others simply by reminding them to visualise while reading. Point out that visualisation is important because visualisation = comprehension.

II Writing

One fun way of stimulating students' imagination prior to written work is called guided imagery. This is the procedure:

Announce to students that you are going to help them to describe their Halloween celebrations in writing. Explain unusual vocabulary in the story below. Then say, "Everyone get into a comfortable position for listening to a story. You can close your eyes while listening if you like."

You are at home ... tomorrow is Halloween ... everyone goes to school dressed up ... you must look for something to put on ... you remember other times when you dressed up ... you think about the clothes you put on ... you talk to your friends ... do they have any ideas? ... you remember an unusual character that you saw and liked ... you have decided to dress up ... describe your character's clothes ... is there a hat? ... do you need something for your hands? ... will you wear a mask? ... do you need to paint your face? ... which colours? ... you are with your friends now ... how do you feel? ... What do you talk about? ... Now the carnival has ended and you have had a good time ... you feel relaxed and ready to write about your experience ... you return to class here and now."

Here is an authentic example of one 15-year-old's daydream, written during a class :


I am dressed up as a christmas tree. I made the dress with green cardboard that I cut it in the shape of a tree. Then I fixed on the cardboard some christmas balls made of cardboard too. I fixed the two cardboards with a rubber band. Then I put it on. Under the tree dress I wore a green jersey, brown trousers and brown shoes. I painted my nails in green, and with a green lip-stick I made up my lips. I painted my eyes with green colours too. I put stardust in my face too. When I went to the high school I felt a little ridiculous, but then I felt very proud of my dress because everybody said that it was very original and I was the only christmas tree in all the high school. But I saw other dresses that were fantastic, like a crisp bag. When I arrived home I had a shower and I spent a lot of time because I had to take off all the make-up. But the effort was worthwhile.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. II, No. 6, June 1996