As a book lover and an ESL teacher, I’m always interested in finding ways to share my favorite stories with my students, while still helping them grow in their language learning journey. Stories and books offer so many different ways to prompt your students to think and write creatively, which makes them a great resource for language learning in a classroom.
Depending on whether you have the time available and whether your students’ reading level is high enough, you may choose to tell a story verbally, show a video, read a book out loud, or share a story using a different method. Whatever method of storytelling you choose, the activities below can help you to use those stories as prompts to incorporate a wide variety of learning tasks and create a diverse learning environment.
Help Your Students Enjoy Reading!
Use the following activities after discussing a story, reading a book, or talking about the different elements of storytelling. These tasks can be used with short stories, novels, video-based stories, oral stories, or any other method of storytelling. Below you’ll find three different ways to use a story as a prompt, followed by 5 different activities that you can use in your classroom, depending on what your language learning focus is.
Only tell your students half or ¾ of the story, and ask them to finish it using the methods below.
Writing Focus: Have your students guess how the story will end and write out their ending. Afterwards, finish the story and talk about how their ending differed and/or was similar to the actual ending.
Grammar Focus: Teach your students the proper grammar for making guesses and theorizing, then have them practice by making guesses about the ending of the story.
Discussion Focus: Simply have your students discuss with a small group the different possible ways that the story might end. Ask each small group to present their conclusion to their peers.
Speaking Focus: Have your students stand in a circle and, starting at the beginning, have them work together to tell the story that you’ve just introduced them to. However, they must take turns speaking and, when it is their turn, they may only say 2 sentences. After they’ve told all of the story that they know, have them continue and create an ending for the story together.
After reading the story, talk to your students about the problems the characters faced and how they could have been overcome, using one of the methods below.
Writing Focus: Introduce your students to the idea of an advice column (such as in the newspaper or found online). Then, ask each student to write a question that the main character of the story may have written to an advice column. Collect the questions. Mix them up and redistribute them to students. Have each student write an advice column in response to the question they’ve received.
Grammar Focus: Teach your learners about “if…then” statements, and practice making a few in reference to the possible solutions to the problems explored in the story you’re working with.
Discussion Focus: Have your students share with one another about a problem they’ve faced in their life, how they confronted the problem, and how it compares and contrasts to the problems in the story.
Speaking Focus: Talk to your students about (and watch a few clips from) talk shows. Then, have your students role play a talk show. One student will share about a (real or fictional) problem in their life and the other student will propose a solution as the talk show host might.
Most stories focus on one perspective from the main character; however, secondary characters are likely to have different thoughts and experiences within the story. Use the methods below to explore the different ways that a secondary character may speak, think, and experience the story you’ve just read.
Writing Focus: Give your students some time to compose a journal entry from a secondary character of their choosing. Make sure they mention and/or address other characters and situations from the story.
Grammar Focus: Talk to your learners about the punctuation and phrases required for writing dialogue. Then, have your students practice what they’ve learned, by writing dialogue between characters in the story.
Discussion Focus: Different perspectives can either be a positive thing that we can learn more information from or a negative thing that causes confusion and confrontation. Discuss different scenarios where they can be positive (learning more about life in a specific country, for instance) and negative (when there are two conflicting perspectives in reference to a crime).
Speaking Focus: Have your students role play a phone conversation between two secondary characters who are gossiping about the main character.
Stories are found all throughout the globe and can be enjoyed by people from all backgrounds, which makes them perfect for the ESL classroom. Whether you’re looking to improve your students speaking skills or understanding of grammar or anything in between, stories are a great jump-start to your classroom experience! I’d love to hear more about your experience with stories in your personal life and in the classroom, so be sure to check out the questions below and leave a comment. Let’s start a conversation!
I Want to Hear From You!
What is your favorite story?
How do you use stories in the language classroom?