ESL Teachers Board: ESL jobs, ESL resumes and free ESL resources


Return to home page



Back to Lessons & games for ESL teachers



Courtesy of



A Literature-Based Lesson

Khalid Al Seghayer holds the PhD in Foreign Language Education/Applied Linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests include computer-assisted language learning and second language reading. He has published in TESOL Quarterly, Language Learning and Technology, CALL Journal, Internet TESL Journal, CALICO Journal, CALL-EJ Online, and the APA News. He chaired the EFL Interest Section in TESOL from 2002 to 2003, and is currently the editor of TESOL’s NNEST Newsletter and CALL Media Software editor of the Reading Matrix Journal.


TopicYour Dad was just like you (a story by Dolores Johnson, 1993)

Target language: English as a Second/Foreign Language

Target Students Level:  Young Intermediate High ESL/EFL learners

Time: 150 minutes. (50 for each class)



A literature-based approach in the second language (L2) classroom offers a variety of benefits. It encourages sense-making or meaning-making of a whole text (story, poem, etc). Fountas and Hannigan (1989) contend that once students understand the general meaning of the whole text, they are better prepared to deal with the analysis of the parts. A literature-based approach also promotes active engagement and collaborative work so that learners contribute to class activities through direct interaction with either the instructor or with peers. They also participate through sharing information, asking questions, and reflecting on their understanding, as well as working together to make sense of the text under study. Another advantage of this instructional approach is its incorporation of a human component so that learners can identify with characters who face common human conflicts and problems, such as fear, hate, love, etc. Learners have the opportunity to reflect on the characters’ actions and choices and then discuss whether they agree or disagree with the characters’ decisions (Adair-Hauck, 1996). Furthermore, a literature-based approach supports integrated as opposed to segregated skills and, as a result, its associated activities usually target in one lesson all the skills involved in reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

The purpose of this lesson is to put into practice some of these benefits. To carry out this intention, a short story entitled Your dad was just like you by Dolores Johnson (1993) was chosen. This story tells about a boy named Peter who has been battling with his father over school work and various aspects of his life. One day while Peter was playing, he broke a trophy showcase belonging to his father which had been given to him by his own father when he was a little boy. Peter, out of fear of his father’s anger, went to his grandfather seeking protection from his dad.

This story was selected based on five components suggested by McWiliams (1993):

1. Time and setting

2. Characters with personality

3. A major problem

4. Includes a problem and attempts to solve it

5. Has a quick resolution and ending.

The lesson will be organized around three phases: pre-storytelling, storytelling, and post-storytelling


A- Objectives


Students will be able to predict what might happen in the story, identify vocabulary related to some social practice in American culture, and compare and contrast similarities and differences between American social relationships among family members and their own. They will also demonstrate comprehension by describing characters and events, recounting part of the story, and discussing Peter’s behavior.


Students will practice top-down strategies: listening for global understanding and guessing meaning from context. They will listen to and comprehend a short story in English, entitled Your dad was just like you, and demonstrate understanding through signals and actions. They will describe orally the main events and characters of the story. Finally, each student will assume the role of one of the main characters and write what he would do if put in that character’s situation.


The grammatical feature suggested by the story is the past tense, especially simple past and past progressive. Instead of initially teaching these grammatical features, the emphasis will be placed on practicing and reinforcing their use. This will be done indirectly within the comprehension phase. Students will be directed to apply these skills when making oral presentations and when writing their compositions to discuss the characters and events in the story.


After listening to the story, students will compare and contrast the similarities and differences between American social relationships among family members and their own.

Some social practices in American culture will be highlighted, such as giving the child the chance to express his or her feelings, the importance of communication as the best means to solve family crises, child abuse, the phenomenon of running away from home, etc. This will enable students to engage in cross-cultural exchanges.


B- Equipment and Materials

- Over-sized depictions/drawings of important vocabulary

- Picture of the story episodes

- Transparencies

- Story map

- Discussion web

- Character chart


C- Procedures

Day One (Pre-Storytelling)

Anticipatory Set (5 Min.)

The teacher will start the class by talking briefly about the concept or the genera of the story, more precisely, its presentation of aspects of human life. Students will be asked to discuss the cultural values that can be derived from reading a story, as well as how, if at all, a story helps in improving one’s language learning skills.

Warm-Up activity (10 Min.)

The class will proceed with an activity that will lead students to relate a story they know from their own experience; therefore, two warm-up activities will be employed. In order to generate a general discussion and engage students’ anticipation about the content of the story, they will be shown the title and the main picture of the story (See Appendix A). Then students will be asked to recall a story they have read or known regarding relationships among family members.

Presentation (35 Min.)

At this stage, two activities will be undertaken. First, students will be told the name of the story and its setting. They also will be shown an illustration of the main picture. Students will then exercise “think bank” where they are asked to brainstorm about vocabulary or ideas which might be used to tell the story. After that, students will be encouraged to see if the vocabulary predicted does appear in the story. This brings us to the second activity. Students will examine their prediction by means of Total Physical Response[s] (TPR) activities. They will be engaged in signaling activities such as pointing, touching, drawing, acting, etc. The aim of so doing is to introduce key vocabulary words, namely grandfather, father, dresser, jump, break, smiles, yell, run, walk, park, race, wind, rain, and trophy (See Appendix B).


Day Two (Story telling)

Anticipatory Set (5 Min.)

The first five minutes of the class will be spent on:

- Asking  students to recall the title of the story;

- Telling the students that the story, Your dad was jus like you, will be told.  


Warm-Up activity (10 Min.)

After showing the students some pictures of the story that were used in the previous class, they will be asked to name the vocabulary associated with each of the displayed pictures. Whoever mentions the correct word will be asked to write it next to the displayed picture.  

Presentation (35 Min.)

Time to tell the story. To best convey the meaning of the story during the sense-making phase, the teacher will tell the story using large illustrations, voices for different characters, and facial expressions to convey meaning. To ensure that the students are following the story and to hold their attention while it is being told, the following activities will be undertaken.

- First, to engage the students in the storytelling process, they will be asked to raise their objects (which have been distributed in advance) whenever they are mentioned in the story, as well as say the word belonging to the picture or naming the character.


- Second, to help the students focus on its critical components and to reflect on the story they have just been introduced to, a cubing activity will be used. Students will be put into groups of two or three and asked to fill in who, where, when and what happens in each box. They will be given transparencies to fill out for the cubing activity (See Appendix C).


Day Three (Post-Story telling)

Anticipatory Set (2 Min.)

The instructor will start by announcing the agenda for the day’s class and sharing with the students the rationale for utilizing these activities.

Warm-Up activity (5 Min.)

Students will be asked to relate what they remember from the first telling of the story. The visual illustrations used in the previous classes to recall names or events will be available to the students if they wish to use them. In pairs, students will reconstruct the meaning of the story on a story map.

Presentation (43 Min.)

In this final phase, in order to encourage collaboration in a meaningful context, to help students organize their thoughts or ideas, and to move from comprehension activities to those that stimulate their critical thinking skills, several activities will be used, including Story Mapping and Discussion Webbing. In pairs, students will reconstruct the meaning of the story on a story map and the whole class will engage in a story mapping discussion where groups of students agree or disagree with each other (See Appendix D). Then the class will move to another activity, Discussion Webbing, in which they analyze the events of the story to reach a conclusion about why they took place. The web discussion will revolve around the question of whether or not Peter should run away from home. After having the chance to express their positive or negative answers, students will reach a consensual agreement on whether or not Peter should stay home and fix what he broke (See Appendix E).


During these activities, the instructor will circulate throughout the classroom and use a checklist to assess whether students are on task and actively participating.


This activity can be extended further by providing an opportunity for independent practice. Students may choose to take the role of one of the main characters and write what they would do if they were put in their situations; or they may write a reflective essay presenting what they have learned about American family relationships. Other possible activities would be asking students to individually create a different ending for the story or create their own stories.


The activities described can be used with any age group and proficiency level. They are, however, highly recommended for younger intermediate ESL learners who are assumed to enjoy being active during the storytelling phases; that is, signaling, moving around, completing sentences, etc.

Cited Works

Adair-Hauck, B. (1996). Practical whole language strategies for secondary and university level students. Foreign Language Annuals, 9 (2), 253-270.

Fountas, I. and Hannigan, I. (1989).  Making sense of whole language: the pursuit of informed teaching. Childhood Education, 65(3) 133-137.

McWilliams, Betsy. (1993). Storytelling Techniques. Unpublished handout. World Language Conference,  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.   


Appendix A: The Title and Main Picture of the Story


Appendix B: Key Vocabulary

Grandfather Father Dresser


Jump Smile Yell


Run Walk Park


Race Wind Rain


Trophy Break  


Appendix C: Cubing Activity


Appendix D: Story Mapping Activity


Title:  Your Dad Was Just Like You


The setting:


This story took place in America and talks about the conflict between a father and his son.






Peter (the son)


The Problem:


While Peter was playing around, he broke a trophy showcase belonging to his father

and then went to his grandfather to seek his protection from his Dad.



Event # 1   Peter broke the trophy showcase belonging to his father.

Event # 2   Peter ran away from his father’s house to his grandfather's.

Event # 3   Peter explained how badly his father has been treating him lately.

Event # 4   Both Peter and his grandpa took a walk where his grandpa told him about his father’s childhood life.


The Solution:


After talking with his grandpa, Peter went back home,

gathered the broken trophy, fixed it, and then gave it to his Dad.



Appendix E: Discussion Webbing


Peter should stay home and fix what he broke







1. His father was right when he got angry at him

1. Peter was right when decided to move out to his grandfather’s house.


2. Peter might join unwanted group when he ran away from home


2.  If he stayed home, his father would abuse him


3. His grandpa gave him a wise advice.


3.   Peter should seek help from somebody else other than his grandpa





Best Reason Why:



ESL GAME: Blow that fish  by: Sabia
Make two teams. Tell each team to make a paper fish. Line the teams up at the starting line. Then you start asking questions; when a student answers the question correctly, he gets a chance to blow..
Developing Good Homework Habits  by: Celia Webb
Children will be more successful at school if they develop good homework habits at an early age. Parents play an important role in helping the child figure out how to do their homework well. Learning..
Playing and Watching Sports: A Conversation Lesson - ESL Teacher Eric Roth Lesson  by: Eric Roth
PLAYING AND WATCHING SPORTS “The game is my wife. It demands loyalty and responsibility.” Michael Jordan (1963- ) NBA superstar Chatting: Talking about sports can be a great ice-breaker. Just do..
TESOL Exercises  by: Danielle Hill
The teaching of English as a second language, or TESOL, requires that educators use a range of exercise formats and styles to engage students' interests and expand their abilities. For an effective..
Lesson: Teacher ask class  by: teach
Easy I wanna know what cool things you guys have managed to buy with twenty dollars. Maybe write it or draw it? Fun and great to know students better and their level of English. Sample: Student A:..
Kids Homemade Party Hat Ideas - Activities  by: Patricia Jensen
Try these one-of-a-kind kids party hat ideas for your next kids party. Create a colorful cast of characters with a few bits of paper, paint, glitter and glue. From fancy bonnets to sombreros, wizard..
Activities For ESL Students: Tips For Teaching Children ESL  by: Alber Roth
There is always a lot of preparation that goes into teaching anyone ESL. However, teaching children is entirely another ballgame. You need to remember that your are teaching a room full of children..
TEFL Techniques: International Words - Tips  by: Andrew Carter
When you sit down and think about it, or even stand around and think about it (!), English words have seeped into the vocabulary of millions of people, thanks, in the main part, to the genius of..
WHICH PICTURE? - Short Lesson  by: re
Give students a reading passage with 2 to 5 pictures on the bottom. Get them to read the passage then guess which picture goes with the passage.
ADJECTIVES 1 - Short Lesson  by: re
Write down three adjectives and ask pairs of students to write down as many things they can think of that all three adjectives apply to. For example, big, cold, beautiful might apply to snowman,..
ESL Class Exercises for Larger Class Sizes  by: Enzo Silvestri
ESL, or English as a Second Language, and is a growing field all over the world. There are many ways to teach ESL, ranging from individual to small groups to large classrooms. When teaching to..
Lesson 1 - A Soldier's Lie  by: jt
The Story Once a soldier asked his commanding officer for a day's leave to attend his sister's wedding. The officer asked him to wait outside the door for a few minutes while he considered the..
ESL GAMES: Alphabet Letter Puzzle & Alphabet Packets  by: Sabia
Alphabet Letter Puzzle: Give out different letters cut in two (in three or in four). It is a good idea to use different colours for each letter to help the children if the letters should become mixed..
Children are Taught Through Visual Basics  by: tchr
or-ange then show a pic of an orange etc and they slowly build up a vocabulary
ESL GAME: Orange, Orange, Orange Game  by: Sabia
The children sit in a circle. Each child is given the name of a fruit. One person is chosen to stand in the centre of the circle. He/she repeats the name of one of the fruits three times e.g. orange,..
For Halloween/The Monster Mash, A Graveyard SMASH (short story I wrote when I was 11)  by: Meggy Moo
Have you heard of the Monster Mash? I suppose you know the story of how it came to be, right? Well, I'm here to tell the TRUE story to you. It sarted out late one night, when all monsters where out..
Questions & Answers - quiz  by: jt
Match the questions with the answers. 1. Who are you waiting for? a. No, not yet. 2. What happened to Bob? b. Home. 3. How long does it take you to get there? c. He broke his leg. 4. Can you tell me..
Independence Fever (trivia questions - lesson)  by: Deanna Mascle
1. What event do Americans celebrate with a national holiday on July 4th? A. George Washington’s birthday B. King George III’s ascension to the throne of England C. Formal adoption of the..
Ten Ha-Ha-Hilarious Kids Party Games - Activities  by: Patricia Jensen
PARROT GAME Divide guests into two equal groups, one is the Pirates, the other the Parrots. The parrots are very very grouchy and are not permitted to smile. The pirates can do anything they like to..
Halloween Howler (Questions)  by: Deanna Mascle
1. What rock star worked as a gravedigger before starting his musical career? A. Roy Orbison B. Billy Joel C. Mick Jaggar D. Rod Stewart 1. What famous rock star worked as a gravedigger before..
What should I teach in my first English as a foreign language lesson for beginners  by:
I will be teaching 2 adults who I believe and a very basic grasp of English.
Language Arts Lesson Plan for Second Grade  by: Randi McCreary
The second grade language arts curriculum often revolves around developing reading and writing skills. Students are ready to incorporate a higher level of comprehension in their reading, and place..
How to Practice Parts of the Body in ESL  by: Lane Cummings
When it comes to learning English as a Second Language (ESL), having your students build a strong and consistent vocabulary is essential. Students can easily become overwhelmed by all the vocabulary..
TYKES Halloween Games  by: kevntosh
oday at the TYKES Halloween Party, one of the games was to see who could make a Mummy out of their partner the fastest.
How to Write Effective Lesson Plans for ELLs  by: Glenda Race
English language learners (ELLs) of all levels need to develop reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in English. These abilities are best addressed through lesson plans that integrate such..
Classroom Game - Silent Ball  by: teacher
students stand on chairs. They are absolutely silent. They throw the ball to each other. If someone drops it, they are out and sit down. If it is a bad throw, the thrower is out, not the catcher. If..
Teacher I'm Done! Tips  by: Kelly Mikesell
Every teacher has had this happen about 1,000 times. You send the children to complete a task and 10 seconds later someone is "done". I have a few ideas on curbing the "I'm done" that I'd like to..
Teachers Learn About Basic Tips on Getting Ready For Art Lessons  by: Clara M. Berta
Are you a new instructor responsible for teaching art lessons? Do you want to be prepared when teaching your kindergarten students art lessons? Are you nervous? In case this is you, then stop feeling..
some classroom games appropriate and fun for college students  by:
I have to lead a discussion among college students. After I present all the information I would like to play a game with them to review the info and to encourage interaction. Any ideas? If it's any..
Outdoor ESL Games  by: Michelle Brunet
Playing games with your English as a Second Language (ESL) students is a fun way for them to review concepts taught in class. Outdoor activities add another dimension of adventure. When you explain..
Idea for demonstration lesson for English class?  by:
I just started to teach English for kindergarten kids. I have to give a demonstration lesson to get new students. I'm suppose to prepare 20 min. lesson and 30 kids are coming. They are all 4 years..
Tips for Successful Listening Activities in the English Language Classroom  by: Sarah Handsworth
Listening is an essential activity for any language learner. In listening we come up against a series of obstacles that prevent progression. It can be a depressing experience for a student to study..
Lesson for Telling Time for ESL Students  by: Kate Coen
If you can remember how you learned to tell the time, you may recall the teacher holding up some sort of cardboard or plastic clock with hands that she moved around to indicate different times. She..
ESL GAME: Shirt Game  by: Sabia
Divide the children into two teams. Give a man's shirt to each team. Be sure each shirt has the same amount of buttons down the front. At the signal, the first person on each team puts on the shirt..
Five Strategies for Vocabulary Building  by: Ho-Diep Dinh
Teaching vocabulary has come a long way from the traditional looking up lists of vocabulary words in the dictionary, copying the definitions and using the words in sentences. Building an extensive..
ESL Games for Children  by: Amber D. Walker
Teaching English to children can be very rewarding, but teachers must face many challenges. Children may learn languages quickly, but they also get frustrated and bored easily and need to be..
ESL Game: Airplane competition:  by: Sabia
First, have your Students make some paper airplanes. Stand the Students in a line and let them test fly their planes. For the competition, assign different classroom objects points (e.g. table 5..
Standardized Testing Teaching Tips - ESL Teacher Freda Glatt Lesson  by: Freda J. Glatt, MS
Standardized tests can be very stressful for children. Here, therefore, are some tips for parents and children that may help. Before the Test...for Parents and Children 1. Have children study every..
How to Find English Lessons  by: Collaborator
While many people have excellent English writing and speaking abilities, others either need to improve their English skills or are just starting to learn the language. Finding English lessons can be..
Group Activities: Agree or Disagree?  by: Hyun
Group Activity: Agree or Disagree? after defining “strongly agree,” “agree,” “disagree” and “strongly disagree,” the leader reads out different statements of opinion and the students..