Storytelling activities are a great way to allow students to express themselves freely and creatively in an authentic and real way.

Fiona Lawtie

Stories can be a very versatile and powerful teaching tool

  • Stories are fun and motivational
  • Stories allow students to be creative and imaginative
  • Stories give students a sense of achievement
  • Storytelling gives students a chance to practise oral fluency and extended discourse
  • Stories introduce language in a comprehensible and meaningful way
  • Stories are authentic
  • Listening to stories can develop important skills such as prediction, guessing, hypothesising, and message decoding
  • Story telling can provide valuable cultural input
  • If the students know the story in their L1 they can use this knowledge to help them understand or tell the story in their L2
  • There are lots of different fun activities that spin off from stories

Possible sources of stories

  • You and your life
  • Students' lives
  • Books, magazines, comics, Readers Digest, newspapers,
  • Pictures
  • Internet
  • Folk stories, fairy stories, Disney etc.
  • Local stories and legends
  • Urban legends
  • Creating your own stories using words or pictures etc.

Choosing and preparing

  • You need to find stories that are interesting to you and your students
  • The stories should have values that are acceptable to you and your students
  • You will need to decide which key words may need to be pre-taught

Activities that you can do

  • Sharing personal life stories. Get students to divide a sheet of paper into four boxes and then get them to draw pictures about one of the following or similar topics:
    • My life story,
    • My family story,
    • What I did on my last holiday etc.
      The students then tell each other their story based on the pictures they have drawn. This works well if you model this on the board by drawing your pictures and telling your story first.
  • Tell a short funny story, joke or anecdote at the beginning of class as a warm up and ask the students if they have any funny stories or jokes that they would like to tell you.
  • Stories and pictures. Get students to bring in cut-out magazine pictures of their favourite stars. Then write different words on the board such as love, jealousy, fame, travel, murder, marriage, luxury hotel, boat, fast car, money, big dark house, family, friends, accident, disappearance, theft, adventure, suspicious, secretive, treasure, jewels, fortune, etc. Then tell the students they have 10-15 minutes to make up an interesting story about their favourite stars. Tell the students they can use any vocabulary or grammar that they want to but that they must use at least five words from the board. Students then make up their stories and tell the rest of the class or other groups their stories.
  • Tell the students a simple urban legend or a ghost story and then get them to tell you an urban legend or ghost story. Using pictures to help you tell a story is always a good idea even if it is just stick figures drawn on the board as you are telling the story.
  • Give students a picture of someone or a picture of a face from a magazine and write various questions on the board for students to discuss in pairs or groups. Afterwards students can introduce and present their character to another pair or group.
    • What does this person look like?
    • What do you think his/her name is?
    • Do you think he/she is happy? Sad? Why?
    • What do you think he/she is doing now? Why?
    • What kind of house do you think he/she lives in?
    • What kind of lifestyle do you think he/she leads?
    • What do you think his/her family is like?
    • What do you think his/her job is?
    • Do you think he/she likes their job?
    • What does he/she do in their free time?
    • Does he/she have any secrets?
    • Tell us about a typical day in your character's day
  • Story Dominoes. Students work in small groups. Write the words in the boxes below on to a set of cards, one word per card and give each group a set of cards and tell them to divide the cards evenly amongst the group. The aim of the activity is to tell a story in domino fashion.
    • Student A puts down a card and starts the story then student B puts down one of their cards and continues the story etc. until all the students have used all their cards and the story is complete.
    • Students then re-tell their story to another group and listen to other groups' stories. You can easily make up your own story dominoes on other topics such as Sci-Fi, Urban Life, Football, Harry Potter etc. or if you are artistic you can even draw pictures on your dominoes instead of words.
      One variation is to stick the words or pictures onto playing cards and the students play story cards instead of story dominoes.
      Words for Fantasy Story Dominoes
      White Horse
      Knight Wolf
      Dark Forest
      Magic Carpet
      Sea Boat
  • Modern Children's Tales. Write the names of popular children's stories on the board such as 'Goldilocks and the three bears', 'Peter Pan', 'Red Riding Hood', 'Jack and the Beanstalk' etc. and ask if the students know these stories and can tell them to you.
    • Once the students have told you the rough outline of the stories put them into pairs or small groups. Now tell the students that they have 10-15 minutes to recreate one of these stories in a different genre, for example as a horror story, a detective story, a love story, an adventure story etc.
    • Tell the students they are free to add in new characters or events if they want to and that at the end of the activity they will vote on the most original and creative story
Language level
Language Level: 
Pre-intermediate: A2

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