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:



How to Teach the Alphabet to ESL  by: Lily Mae
No matter if you are a native English speaker or you are learning English as a second language (ESL), learning the letters of the alphabet is the first phase of reading and writing instruction. Once..
Finding More English Pronunciation Tips on YouTube!  by: Eric Roth,
Finding More English Pronunciation Tips on YouTube! Student Name: Class: Teacher: Date: Find a quality YouTube videoclip that provides a tip on English pronunciation that you would like to share with..
Grammar Games - Short Lesson  by: jin
Play grammar games with ESL students to promote their own learning. Buck suggests playing whole group games, in which you take a ball and start with a verb in its full form, like To Be. Then, throw..
Simple Interactive ESL Games  by: Rebecca Bagwell
The best way to learn English is in natural everyday settings. However, many times the classroom setting can get in the way of that. Students put their "English cap" on when they enter the classroom,..
Improving Comprehension With Closure Activities  by: Adam Waxler
One of the most important parts of the any lesson is the how it ends. Teachers need to have some type of closure activity at the end of each lesson if they are truly interested in improving..
ESL GAME: Birthday game  by: Sabia
Make a birthday wheel. Ask students to check whose birthdays take place each month. Practice qestions: “When is your birthday” and answers: “My birthday is in………. So you can: - practice..
Classroom Games - Math Relay and Super Word  by: Lucas Kent
Here are a couple of great games for your daily lessons! Math Hurdles This is a great game to review number facts and to get some exercise. 1) Tell students to find a partner that is about the same..
5 Classroom Management Tips For Dealing With A Noisy Class  by: Rob Johnson
1. The first thing to remember is that you are the boss. Self belief is incredibly important in this job. You can’t expect pupils to respond positively to you unless you believe, really believe,..
How to Teach English in Middle & Secondary Schools  by: Susan Deschel
Teaching English to middle- and high-school students invokes a curriculum rich with reading, writing, listening and speaking--although not necessarily in that order. English and language arts..
Ten Ways to Make Nightly Reading Assignments Enjoyable  by: Julie Rebboah
It's hard to fit reading into a busy family schedule. With the tips listed below, it can become a treasured time in your daily routine. Incorporate these ideas into your child's reading assignments..
The Eight Great Spelling Rules  by: Mark Pennington
Although the American-English spelling system has evolved from many sources, there are specific patterns that are well-worth learning. These spelling patterns, or spelling rules, all have exceptions;..
Cooperative Learning Activities - 3 Things to Remember When Using Cooperative Group Learning  by: Adam Waxler
Most students learn better with one-to-one interactions or in small groups where they can follow the conversation better and indicate when they don't understand. This is one of the big advantages of..
Making a Hypothesis - quiz  by: jt
1. I wish I ___ younger. Life does not seem so attractive at the age of 45. a. am b. were c. had been Answerb Supposing you ___ $3 million in your bank account. Would you give any to charity? a. have..
Effective Lesson Plan Making Strategies  by: Sweety Kaur
Planning is an integral part of any activity that you do as it is the only thing that can ensure the smooth completion of your activity. An effective plan can let you work in a proper way and also..
Game: Chaos and Confusion - Short Lesson  by: sam
What happens is this. •Arthur approaches Belinda, and they introduce themselves and shake hands. They then swap names. •Arthur (now Belinda) shakes hands with Colin. Now Colin is to call himself..
FIND YOUR PARTNER - Short Lesson  by: re
Prepare a set of cards with different names, occupations, friends names, and likes and dislikes. For example, one card might say My name is Yumi. My friend is Chikako. I work at a university. I like..
Upper Primary School Games  by: Bridget Galbreath
Difficulty: Easy Games are an effective way to teach, not just younger elementary students, but older elementarystudents as well. Games can help foster greater comprehension of subject matter..
ERASE A DIALOGUE - Short Lesson  by: re
Model the dialogue or key sentence. Write it on the board. Read it line-by-line and have the students repeat it. Practise then erase a part of it. Have the students repeat replacing the erased bit...
How to Teach ESL Lesson Plans  by: Robin McDaniel
English as a Second Language (ESL) students are becoming more prevalent in our schools as the educational system is becoming more multiculturally oriented. Teaching ESL students requires some..
Sunday School Christmas Games  by: Leslie Lane
Christmas is a time of celebration for many people, and for those of Christian faiths, the holiday's celebrations can extend into the Sunday school curriculum. In a Sunday school class, kids can have..
ESL GAME: Colors game  by: Sabia
You should have two small balls of each color you want to practice. Give out the balls. Throw the colored dice and then say the color. Two students which have the same balls stand up and toss it to..
Teaching Tips - How to Write a Memorable Lesson  by: Darrell Causey
If you are tired of the boring lessons that come with your curriculum then start writing your own lessons. It's not that difficult and your students will appreciate the change. The first thing you..
Preschool Crafts - The Mighty Letter "M"  by: Mary Robinson
While some preschool instructors prefer to stick to the calendar to structure their curriculums, others use the letters of the alphabet for their lesson plans. Here are some great preschool crafts..
Board Games for ESL  by: Melanie J. Martin
Board games are a great way to enliven an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Older students as well as younger ones can enjoy them and strengthen their English skills in the process. Games..
English Pronunciation For The ESL Learner - Tips  by: Lynn Bo
What is an accent? An accent is the carryover of sounds from the speaker’s original language to the second language. When we are infants we literally have the ability to speak any language in the..
ESL Activities and Games  by: Maggie McCormick
ESL activities and games help your students to get involved in the class and improve their English skills. You can use games to reinforce the lessons that you teach in an entertaining way. Some ESL..
Game: Four Square (2) - Short Lesson  by: sam
Much like hopscotch you can create your own four square arena by drawing one with chalk or using masking tape. You will also need a rubber ball, or any ball that is good for bouncing. Draw or lay out..
RELAY GAME - Short Lesson  by: re
Students are in six rows. Several reading cards are made up. Students have to read the card then pass it to the next person in the row. The person at the end of the row hands it across to the next..
Lesson plan: How to paraphrase in academic writing  by: Xuan Liu
Learning objectives: 1. The students will understand the importance of paraphrasing in academic setting. 2. The students will learn about the difference between paraphrasing and quoting. 3. The..
ESL GAME: Unusual Musical Chairs  by: Sabia
Fix the target vocabulary (i.e. jobs) on each chair. Play music and have the students dance or jump. When the music stops, the students all go for the chairs. There is a chair for each student except..
Where's the Water? Lesson  by: Trina Allen
Abstract: This fun science experience integrates writing, math, and science in a four-stage process. Students work in teams of two or three learners using peer interaction and writing to understand..
ROW TAG - Short Lesson  by: re
Two students form a row by holding hands. They run around a designated area where the student on one end of the row tries to tag another student. If tagged, that student joins onto the end of the row..
10 Lesson Ideas for Printable Alphabet Letters  by: Renee Goodrich
It is easy to find printable alphabet letters on the internet. You can use fun or fancy alphabet letter styles for a range of alphabet focused activities. Here are 10 classroom uses for printable..
Dictation - Short Lesson  by: js
Say a sentence at natural speed and ask learners to write down what you said. You'll probably need to repeat several times. Don't slow down your speed unless it's absolutely necessary. Then ask a..
Poem Analysis: Limerick Aphrodisiac - ESL Teacher Robin Day Lesson  by: Robin Day B.Sc., M.Sc., B.Ed.
This short poem can be examined in the same ways as others I have posted this month. It is a little difficult for ESL learners and deals with an adult subject. Young and older men are more..
VOTE - Short Lesson  by: re
Rows of students work as a team. Each row is given three number cards (1,2,3). The teacher asks a question with three answers. Students guess which one is right as a group and place their group vote...
Teaching Space and the Solar System  by: Robert McKenzie
Outer space and the solar system is one of the most interesting topics discussed in school because of the countless colorful heavenly bodies occupying the universe and the idea that there is actually..
Topics for ESL Speaking Class  by: Maggie McCormick
Speaking is often one of the most difficult aspects of learning English as a second language (ESL). For students of ESL, it is difficult to quickly explain thoughts and feelings in a new language. A..
ESL Game - Tug of War  by: kr
Title: Tug of War Type: Game Target: Any vocabulary, sentence forms, conversation, review Materials: Procedure: Divide students into 2 teams. Draw a rope on the board with a certain number of..
English comunication games??  by:
I'm an english teacher student from Sweden who's working in Spain for the summer. I do have lots of ideas for my classes, but can anyone please give me some suggestions of comunicationgames?? The..