Ice-breaker: Tell me a story…..

Dear Teachers,

So I decided to start writing a short blog post each day outlining a micro lesson plan as it is the start of the new academic year and all that. I put a shout out to members of {Seahorse English} Barcelona, my facebook development group for ELT teachers and people seemed to like the idea, so here goes! More blogs on other ELT-related topics to follow can be found on the blog. As many of you already know I am a keen storyteller, in and out of the classroom, so it makes sense to start with a lesson plan based on stories. Students, understandably, love talking about their lives, their loves and their own histories so what better place to start the year than with the linguistic and social focus on them. 

I am quite nervous about this new foray into the wilds of publishing lesson plans so please be patient and gentle with me! If you don´t like them, feel free to give (constructive!) feedback and if you do, then great!

And why not follow this blog on WordPress to get more stories, blogs, serious articles and lesson plans connected to the murky world that is ELT and teacher training in ELT.

Thanks and have a great year! 🙂



Lesson Plan / activity Plan

Tell me a story, tell me your story. 

1. Group / Class – This can work with a new group or even an established group.

2. Levels- suitable for any level which has already studied past tenses and questions using past tenses. (more or less B1+)

3. Materials- Cut up small (quarter of an A4-size piece of paper, more or less) squares of paper – x2 per student- one has TRUE written on and one has FALSE. Can be fancy and laminated etc or done just before the class, it´s up to you.

4. Language/ functional language/ grammar/ lexical/ pronunciation aims

Practise past tenses, practising questions about the past, see what past tenses students know, allow emergent language of past tenses to be “uncovered” (Thornbury)

5. Type of activity –

Stories, target obligatory language, conversation, practising questions about the past, auxiliary /non-auxiliary verb use, emergent language.

6. Skills areas:- Speaking. listening, writing (planning notes) and reading (any notes and the TRUE/ FALSE paper sign)

7. Any other information needed


Rules – the story should be in the past and it should be no more than 3-5 minutes long, depending on the class, the group dynamic, size etc etc. 

Firstly, the teacher tells the students that they are going to hear a story told by them and that they will be invited to ask the teacher questions at the end in order to work out if the story is TRUE or FALSE The teacher then models the activity by telling their own story. The teacher tells a story from their past in 3-5 minutes. Students then ask questions  individually to see if they can guess if the story is TRUE or FALSE. They can do this in pairs if the teacher feels this would be better for their group. The student then holds up the FALSE sheet of paper or the TRUE one. The teacher then says whether it is TRUE or FALSE etc after all students have guessed.

Students (individually or in pairs) then plan and write notes (if wanted) on what story they will share etc. They then share their story / stories with the group and the other students ask questions to work out if TRUE/FALSE etc using target language of questions in the past etc.

Advantages of this Lesson plan/ activity 

Language: Gets students to practise the all-too-difficult questions using past tenses. Allows the teacher to assess knowledge of past tenses use and questions in the past. Target obligatory language activity. Can be used with a wide variety of levels. Critical thinking engaged due to the guessing component. It is a great intro into the next part of the lesson which can be on teaching/ revisiting the past tenses and question forms.

Group dynamic: Great for getting students talking about their stories and lives and getting to know each other. Humour. Relaxed lesson in which teacher can help students less or more depending on level. engagement etc. “Fun”.

Disadvantages of this Lesson plan/ activity 

Very very rarely this lesson plan does not work as well as it could because:-

The students don´t want to tell stories, their stories, feel shy, feel under pressure etc. The students don´t feel they have any imagination etc.

Possible solution: Change up the lesson. Just tell a story yourself, as a teacher and get  them to guess yours only – they are still practising questions in the past etc. Then move on to do grammar on this area or another activity etc. Help students to develop their imagination /Story-telling skills by offering them assistance with the activity. Not every single  student has to share their story if they really don´t want to- use your discretion.

The teacher needs to be upbeat and “into” telling the story so get ready for your audience!

It´s a great lesson and students often enjoy the mystery element and the planning part. And it´s a great way to work together as a group and get a group dynamic going. Can be adapted to other target language as stories are open to all types of language learning.  Above all, enjoy!



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