Storytelling response tasks

Response tasks are designed to give students the chance to express themselves creatively and openly, not for comprehension checking.

David Heathfield

There are no right or wrong answers so there should be no pressure on students. Students can respond as they wish, whether in English or in their mother tongue.


Get ready to tell your students a short and suitable folk tale which you know well (alternatively learn a simple story – see resources below). Prepare the classroom by making an informal receptive storytelling environment. Consider informal seating, gentle lighting and ensure there are no distracting background noises. Ask students to put away pens and paper and just enjoy listening to a story.


Tell the story.

A moment after telling the story, say:

I'm going to ask you three questions about what you imagined when you were listening to the story. Choose just one of the questions and tell your answer to your partner. Relax your eyes, you can close them if you want to.

  • Question 1: Choose a moment in the story which you can imagine clearly. What shapes, colours and movements do you see in your imagination? What sounds do you hear? What textures, sensations and emotions do you feel?
  • Question 2: Describe one character in the story. What do they look like and what do they wear? Who do they remind you of? How do you feel about them? What present would you like to give this character?
  • Question 3: What does this story make you think about? What does it mean to you personally?

After students have had enough time to listen to each other in pairs, invite students to talk about their answers as a whole class. The teacher's role can be to draw attention to and celebrate differences in the ways people imagine and interpret stories.


Students prepare to tell short folk tales in groups and set similar personal response tasks. It is motivating for students to find out the impact their storytelling has on other students' imaginations.

Further reading

See article Storytelling to celebrate cultural diversity.

There are huge resources of folk and fairy tales from all over the world published in English on the internet – here are just a few of the ones that I recommend:

For everyone:

Especially for children:

David Heathfield is a storyteller and English teacher. Find more ideas in his teacher resource book Spontaneous Speaking: Drama Activities for Confidence and Fluency (DELTA Publishing).

Language Level


Submitted by mustapha boughoulid on Mon, 08/15/2011 - 01:00


Actually, I used storytelling with my student by asking them to tell the same story as if its characters are living with us. I was really surprised. In a project with The University of Oregon, in a group of four different nationalities (Morocco, Romania, Haiti & Russia), we tried to ask our students to talk about 'Cinderella' but in a modern way. Although the students live far away from each other, they almost think in the same way.

In fact, I really appreciate the use of storytelling in the classroom because it enhances my students' learning of the English language


Mustapha  Boughoulif from Morocco

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