Using Stories in the ESL Classroom

Stories are a wonderful way for our students to practice the four skills. There are so many ways to use them in a class. They’re not just about reading.  Today’s post offers places to find stories, and then, how to use them in your classroom. What resources for stories do you use?

For all levels.  Each of these sites has readings of various levels. You can select the appropriate level for your class and go from there.

For lower level learners, complete with phonics instructions:

Stories for listening practice, complete with audio files:

How can you use stories in the classroom?

Besides reading and comprehension practice, what else can you do with a story? What are some other ways to use a story in the classroom? LEA, the Language Experience Approach, is a great way to incorporate story into the class. But, I am going to cover that in a separate post. Today is about both fiction and non-fiction stories.

Sequence the story. Depending on the length of the story, cut each sentence into strips. Give one set to each student/pair. Have them put them in correct story sequence.

Identify grammar structures.  For example, for the lower level students, have them find all the verbs. Or, identify the past tense verbs in the story.

Summarize the story. Have students retell the story to a partner.

Identify certain letter sounds. For beginner students, identify phonics you are working on, and have them identify them in the story. (A story can be a few simple sentences!)

Sequence sentences in the story.  Use some of the sentence strips from the “sequence the story” activity, and cut the words into individual words. Students sequence each individual sentence.

Rewrite the story. Rather than retelling the story to a partner, have the students rewrite the story in their own words.

Discussion. Use the story as a prompt for discussion about the issue.

Debate. If a story has two sides to it, have the students debate the issue. One group can be “for” the issue, and the other “against” the issue.

Identify sight words.

Illustrate the story. Students can draw a picture of the key parts of the story. Then, use the picture to tell the story to a partner.

Dramatize the story. Students in small groups can put on a skit to dramatize the story. Great speaking practice!

Practice asking/answering information questions.

Jigsaw. A jigsaw is when a group of students each gets a different part of the story to read and understand. Then, they are regrouped, to retell the story. Here is a link for how to use a jigsaw in the class.   Jigsaws are a little more challenging to do for the lower levels, but CAN be done. Just keep the story very simple.

Read aloud with a partner.

Audio recording. Students can record themselves if they have a smart phone. Students can use this for self-assessment, pronunciation practice, or even comprehension.

Story circle (more sequencing). Students rewrite the story one sentence at a time. Put students in a group. The first studens writes the first sentence. Then, the student passes the paper to the next student, who writes the next sentence, and so on, until the story is rewritten.


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