If you’re looking for a run storytelling activity for kids or adults then you’re in the right place. Keep on reading for this ESL story telling activity that adds a bit more to it than just telling the story and being done with it. Find out more here!
It seems like every ESL textbook has a unit where students have to tell a story. It’s usually in the unit on past tense. It’s often kind of a throwaway activity and I used to do it as kind of an afterthought. However, telling a story for ESL students can be a very useful activity if designed correctly.
Keep on reading for everything you need to know about making this storytelling ESL activity far more interesting (and useful) for your students. It turns up from purely a speaking activity to a listening and conversation one and will make ESOL stories far more memorable.
Storytelling Activities: What Doesn’t Work
In almost all general, 4-skills ESL textbooks such as Smart Choice, or World Link there are usually pages with discussion starters that require students to tell a story of some kind. You can most often find this activity in the unit related to the past verb tenses.
A big problem with telling stories in class is that most students will not do a very good job of it if they are given no time to prepare. It’s pretty boring to listen to quite often, especially with lower-level students. Their “story” of their best vacation, for example, will sound like this:
“I went Japan. We ate sushi. I saw temple. I swam ocean.”
But the grammar is usually worse! And many of the students will say the exact same thing.
You go around the class and everyone says a few sentences. Then, it’s done and you move on to the next thing.
This activity where you tell a story could be very useful for generating some interesting conversation and discussion. However, if you do it the way that I’ve just described, it can be over in only a couple of minutes.
ESL Story Telling Activity: The Better Way
A better way to get students to tell a story is to give them 2-5 minutes of preparation time before they have to tell their story. The amount of time depends on the level of students.
I emphasize to the students that it is a speaking activity and not a writing activity, so while they can jot down a few words, they cannot write full sentences. I give an example of this beforehand.
- best place-Banff
- tried poutine
- saw mountains
Once the thinking time is up, you have a few options. If you have a small class, you can listen to everyone’s stories together. This is usually not my favourite option because it becomes quite teacher-centred (as opposed to student-centred).
However, in a class of only 2-4 students, it’s often unavoidable. If you have a very small class like this, you can require that each person (including you) ask at least 1-2 follow-up questions. This gives the other students a reason to listen and helps everyone to participate equally in class.
Bigger Classes? Do This Variation for Telling a Story
Put the students in groups of 3 or 4 to tell their story. Each person goes in turn telling their story and every other person listening will have to ask them 1 question.
Emphasize that everyone is to listen carefully to the story and think of 1 interesting question to ask the student and not just to think about their own story.
You can review the “W” questions for lower-level students, if required (who, what, when, why, where and how) and also give some examples of good and bad questions.
Hint: The best questions are open-ended, and not yes/no ones.
At the end of the activity, I choose one person from each group and get them to tell me 1-2 interesting things that they learned about their classmates during the activity.
Do you need more ideas for teaching about the past? Check out: ESL Past Tense Games. They’ll help you get beyond the standard stuff in the textbook and make your English classes more fun and engaging. Which of course, equals more learning!
FAQs for Storytelling Activities
There are a number of common questions that people have about this topic. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
What are ESL storytelling activities?
ESL storytelling activities are interactive exercises that involve English as a Second Language learners in creating, sharing, or retelling stories in English.
Why are story telling activities important for ESL learners?
Storytelling activities help ESL learners improve their language skills by enhancing vocabulary, grammar, speaking, and listening abilities in a creative and engaging way.
What are some benefits of using stories in ESL classes?
Stories promote language retention, boost confidence in speaking, encourage critical thinking, and foster cultural understanding.
What types of story telling activities can be used in ESL classes?
There are various types, such as collaborative story writing, picture-based storytelling, role-playing stories, and adapting well-known tales to new contexts.
How can I implement picture-based story telling with ESL learners?
Provide a series of images and have students create a story connecting those images, helping them practice sequencing and descriptive language.
How do I assess ESL students’ progress in storytelling activities?
Evaluate their vocabulary usage, grammar accuracy, storytelling structure, creativity, and their ability to maintain listener engagement.
What’s the significance of personal stories in ESL classes?
Personal stories help students connect with the language emotionally and personally, making the learning experience more meaningful.
What’s the role of peer feedback in ESL storytelling activities?
Peer feedback encourages constructive criticism, helps learners identify areas for improvement, and fosters a collaborative learning environment
Can storytelling be adapted for different proficiency levels in ESL classes?
For beginners, focus on simple narratives with basic vocabulary, while advanced learners can tackle complex plots and linguistic structures.
ESL Storytelling Activity: Join the Conversation
What are your thoughts about this more interesting way to tell a story for ESL/EFL Students? Or, do you have a go-to activity for getting students to tell a story? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
Also, be sure to give this activity a share on social media. It’ll help other English teachers, like yourself find this useful teaching resource.