Teaching English with Stories
Preschool ESL Classroom
Do you want
to start using stories in the preschool ESL classroom but don't know
where to start? There are many super preschool activities for
ESL classrooms, including games and songs, but it is also very
important to not discount the power of stories.
captivated by stories and can internalise vocabulary and the structure
of language while listening to them. Whether you're reading a
classic book, making up a story as you go along or designing a story
specifically for a particular lesson, you'll want to be sure to include
stories in the preschool ESL class every day.
One of the reasons why stories work so well in the ESL preschool
classroom has to do with intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic
motivation is the theory that people are motivated by internal
Children of preschool age do not understand the
external factors that might motivate an adult to decide to learn a
second language, so as a teacher it's up to you to create a classroom
that internally motivates them to participate in the activities and,
ultimately, learn the language you are teaching.
Simply put this means that preschool children must enjoy your classes
or they will not be motivated to participate and learn.
As children already love stories listening to stories, you are half way
there to intrinsically motivating them. The rest depends on
how good the story is, how interesting and colourful the illustrations
are, and how you tell it.
There are so many ways to use
stories in the classroom that the possibilities are practically
endless. Here are some ideas and tips to help you effectively
use stories in your preschool ESL classroom:
use a story in the ESL preschool classroom, it is beneficial to teach
the students the key vocabulary words to help them follow the
story. The story can therefore serve as a basis for learning
vocabulary words. It goes deeper than that,
however. The students will not just "learn" the words, they
will immediately see how the words are used and hear them in context of
the language. This is so much more beneficial to the students
than simply memorizing a list of words.
Choose Suitable Stories
Whenever you tell a story allow your creativity to show
through. Have fun with it and go with the flow. Make animal
sounds, change your voice, sing little songs and, most of all, use
gestures. Have the children join in with you when it comes to
animal sounds, songs and gestures, or give them props to touch during
the story telling. This is known as total physical response
or TPR, which engages the children fully and allows them to feel or
relate more deeply to the words, so they are more likely to remember
create variety and can be the focal point of a lesson. As
preschoolers have short attention spans spending five minutes on a
story is a way to add variety. A story is also calming after
a more boisterous physical activity so you can use it to allow everyone
enough time to settle down before moving onto something
else. You can tailor your lesson using a story as
the theme. Pre-teach or revise vocabulary using games that
will be used in the story, read the story and then play games and
activities that relate to the story.
should be super simple with few words and repetitive language
patterns. The illustrations should depict the events in the
story clearly and colourfully to help the children understand and to
engage them visually. Please see
www.teachingenglishgames.com/3-5.htm for a free story ideal for
preschoolers learning English.
Stories are a
great jumping board for other activities. You can create
activities and games based on the theme and vocabulary in the story to
give the children more opportunity to practise the language.
Here is just a sampling of activities you could do following
What if you do not
speak the children's L?
- Give each
student a picture that depicts the events of the story and have them
line up in order of the events.
- Have the
students come up with a title for the story. Allow as many
titles as the students come up with.
- Repeat quotes
from the story and ask the students "Who said it?"
- Leave off the
ending of the story and have the students predict what they think will
happen. Then, read the ending of the story.
- Encourage the
children to look for patterns in the story. Have them guess,
for example, what the character will say if there is a pattern in what
the character says.
- Teach them a
song that goes along with the theme of the story, or make up a chant or
song yourself. Chant different sentences from the story using
rhythm and clapping. Keep the chants simple and repeat them
often in different voices, and encourage the children to join
in. If the children only join in with the clapping at first
that is a good start.
- Teach them
actions to go along with the songs.
- Let them act
out parts of the story.
- Set up
stations that allow them to dress up like characters in the story and
do things the characters in the story did. So, if the
characters in the story decorated cookies, give them some time to
decorate cookies provided you have plenty of time.
- Tell a story
to introduce a new unit.
- Give the
students three events in the story and ask them what came first.
- Have the
students draw a picture about their favourite part of the story and
then explain it to the class, simply in English or more fully in the
- Let the
students tell about a similar experience they might have had.
If you are
teaching in China and you do not speak Chinese for example, everything
in this article still applies to you. Remember to reassure
the children by smiling at them and look happy and confident.
If you look like you know what you are doing the children will believe
Use simple words and short sentences to explain basic
actions that you will need the children to understand such as "sit on
the floor" or "make a circle". Use chanting, singing,
clapping while you repeat the command over and over. Use
demonstration so the children know what you mean.
those words and phrases over time and build on them. Use
games with simple rules that you can demonstrate, pre-teach single
vocabulary words that occur in the story and make sure all children can
clearly see the illustrations when you tell the story to help them
There are so many things you can do with stories in the ESL
classroom. Just let your imagination go and soon so will the
imaginations of your students! If you would like ideal games
and ready made illustrated stories please visit the link in the about
the author box here below.
THE AUTHOR: Shelley
Vernon has inspired thousands of esl
teachers with her games. Try her free
games and receive a free story with activities written especially for
3-5 year old preschoolers learning English. Receive the free
materials here ! Preschool
and Stories for children aged 3-5