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:



Who Or Whom? One Tip to Help Your Students Use Proper Grammar  by: Elizabeth O'brien
Using proper grammar when it comes to choosing who or whom can be tricky. Or, it seems tricky. That's probably because you were never taught how to tell when to use each of these. There is a clear..
Classroom Games for Kids  by: Alicia Bodine
There will be times when your class finishes up a subject a little early or has some free time in the school day when you can organize some games to play. These do not require you to leave the..
Spot the difference game #2  by: yu
Spot the difference is a name given to a puzzle where two versions of an image are shown side by side, and the player has to find differences between them. Usually, the image on the left is the..
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 Culture in ESL Classes  by: Laura Dixon
English as a second language (ESL) classes generally emphasize English grammar and vocabulary to lay the foundation for speaking, reading and writing correctly in English. Yet these classes are also..
Some Good ESL classroom Games - Running Dictation  by: AU
Running Dictation (Suitable for active students up to about 15 years old.) 1.) Take your students to an open area or school hall. Place a paragraph of suitable English on the wall at one end. Sit the..
9th grade English class read longer selections, such as The Most Dangerous Game  by:
Do you have them read in groups? Or in pairs? Or individually? I am limited because we only have a classroom set of books, so the students may not take them home. Thanks for any suggestions!
How to Teach English Food Cooking Vocabulary  by: Michael J
Teaching English cooking and food vocabulary can be very exciting and rewarding. Teaching and also learning about cooking and food in a foreign language are difficult at first glance; however,..
How Can Dance Be Brought Into an ESL Classroom?  by: Ashley Brown
Teaching would be a cookie-cutter profession if all students learned the same. Teach the same lesson plan to several different classes, and you will soon find this to be a fact. Teachers of English..
What are some fun activities for an english lesson?  by:
i have a foreign student that needs to learn english. he knows the basic part of speech but can't seem to construct a sentence, he's at a university level.
Topics for First Conditional Speaking Activities  by: David Coodin
The first conditional is a grammatical structure for talking about what is possible in the present or future. The structure typically contains a phrase beginning with "if" that conditions the..
Fun ESL Grammar Lessons  by: Joel Barnard
Incorporating grammar games and activities into your English class is essential when teaching students of English as a second language. Moreover, making these activities or games fun and exciting..
Sentence Combining - quiz  by: jt
Match to have a meaningful sentence. 1. The rain started 2. Bob's car is old 3. He was a famous hockey player 4. I wrote many books 5. They had to cancel the meeting 6. No one knows for sure 7. You..
Lyrics and Music For ESL Teachers  by: Bobby Stark / LYRICSnMUSIC
Song lyrics can be a great way to teach students a new language. It's fun and a natural. With over 2.7 million song lyrics LYRICSnMUSIC is the most comprehensive lyric sites on the internet. Not only..
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..
Preschool Science Themes - Water, Ice, Air  by: Mary Robinson
Teaching science to preschoolers requires hands-on play based learning activities. Water is an ideal medium to use for a variety of preschool science themes. The concepts of how water changes form,..
How to Download Hanukkah Lesson Plans  by: Collaborator
Hanukkah is a holiday full of learning opportunities and activities for kids. The Festival of Lights and its traditional objects easily lend itself to craft projects, including making a milk carton..
Kids Educational Games - Learning Through Play  by: Yogi Shinde
Some fun kids educational games are all you will ever need to teach your little preschooler their basics. Weather we are talking about learning to tell time, recognise the coins, know their letters..
Chocolate-making Lessons  by: Jen Marx
Chocolate is popular for snacks, dessert and many evening meals for some individuals. Grocery stores, restaurants and the like are abundant in their supply of chocolate bars and other treats...
Pilgrim Trivia Teaching Tips - ESL Teacher Freda Glatt Lesson  by: Freda J. Glatt, MS
How much do you know about the Mayflower, Pilgrims, and Wampanoag Indians? Here are some interesting facts about them. Before the Pilgrims hired her, the Mayflower was in the wine trade with France;..
COLOURS AND ALPHABET - Short Lesson  by: re
Draw up an alphabet chart. Each letter is a different colour, but stick with about 5 colours. Review these colours, then say the alphabet. Then, tell them from now on, they must clap on the colour..
ESL GAME 5 Change Seats If  by: Joe Tosczak
This ESL Game is called, "Change Seat if..." And instead of always saying, "Change Seats if..." you could also say, "Switch Seats if," or "Trade seats if..." This ESL Game can be used as a warm up..
Learning the Basics Like the Alphabet and Numbers  by: Theresea Hughes
We all want our children to succeed in learning and the first mini hurdle that they have to overcome is learning the basics like the alphabet and numbers. Yet trying to get a toddler to memorize..
Teaching Tips for Teachers Who Work With the Mentally Challenged  by: Luke Boston
Teaching mentally challenged children is a fulfilling and rewarding career choice. In order to help special needs children get the best out of their education, you will need to engage and inspire..
Possessive Pronouns II - quiz  by: jt
John Anderson forgot ___ book. Answer-his Mary and Susan talk like ____ mother. Answer-their Alex and I were late for ___ class . Answer-our Princess Caroline is wearing ___ new Gucci gown...
Teaching English as a Second Language Games  by: Eric Benac
Teaching English as a second language can be a difficult job. People's minds wrap around their native language and it can be difficult to break their paradigm. It can also be difficult to keep..
BACK WRITING 1 - Short Lesson  by: re
After reading a text, each student selects about 5 new, difficult or unusual words. In pairs, they write the words one at a time (with their fingers) on their partners backs. The partner guesses the..
Teaching English As A Foreign Language - 7 Tips For Using Popular Movies  by: Larry M. Lynch
Movies and Videos in the EFL Classroom If you're looking to expand the role of movies and videos in your EFL classroom, what better way to expand the learners' communicative skills, grammar and..
INTERVIEW 3 - Short Lesson  by: re
Write the names of famous people or the names of countries on the backs of a set of cards. Shuffle these interview cards and place them on a pile face down on the table or floor. Each child takes..
Teaching Latitude and Longitude to Elementary Students Using Technology  by: Kathy Cothran
Teaching children about latitude and longitude is challenging at best. Asking children to visualize imaginary and invisible lines that only seem to exist on a map is beyond many young minds. When I..
How to Teach Grammar Prepositions With Total Physical Response (TPR)  by: Kristie Sweet
Total Physical Response is a teaching technique that uses physical action to assist in language learning. Dr. James J. Asher, the original developer of TPR, based the technique on the premise that..
KENDO - Short Lesson  by: re
Review the names of the parts of the body. Get a student to draw pictures of people with all of the parts studied. Using wrapping paper rolls, students must hit the drawing on the spot that you call..
PICTIONARY - Short Lesson  by: re
To introduce this game, pick out a picture card that the students are familiar with. Don t show it to the students, but draw the object on the board and get the students to try to guess what it is...
Using Art in the ESL Classroom  by: Dr. Robert W. F. Taylor
Does Art have a place in language learning? I believe it does. Children are naturally creative. They respond to visual images and have most active imaginations. Isn't creating images what art I all..
The where and why of apostrophes - Lesson  by: J. McCorquodale
Can we handle the apostrophes? For sure we can... But quite a number of english speaking individuals do not seem to know how, as can be seen by the number of errors in shop signs and advertisements...
ESL Game - Balloon Game  by: kr
Title: Balloon Game Type: Active game Target: Any vocabulary Materials: Balloon Procedure: Practice vocabulary words. The students then stand in a circle and a balloon is hit into the air. The object..
Methods for Teaching TESOL  by: Sam Grover
The key to TESOL teaching is engaging your students. In contrast to other subjects like math, history or science, learning a language requires a great deal of memorization and habit development. This..
Six Dynamic English As A Foreign Language Activities That Always Motivate Learners  by: Larry M. Lynch
Are You Still Struggling to Teach English? Are you still struggling to teach English to unmotivated, reluctant LEP learners? Well don't blame them entirely just yet. Try making your EFL classes more..
Game: Getting the Last Word - Short Lesson  by: sam
This game requires patience and subtlety. The first player makes a statement, the second player must disagree by saying 'No it isn't' or words to that affect. The first player says 'Yes it is' and..
Interactive Reading Activity for ESL Classroom - ESL Teacher Andrew Lawton Lesson  by: Andrew Lawton
In your ESL class you will most likely have students reading out loud when you are covering a reading passage. One way to do this is to have students take turns reading one sentence or paragraph at a..