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:



KIMBERLY S GAME - Short Lesson  by: re
Spread out a number of flashcards or real objects. Have students repeat after you as you name each one. Then, cover all the cards or objects. The students must write down what they saw. Or, take one..
Team Building Activities for Kids in the Classroom - Games, Activities, and Ideas for Classroom  by: Takuya Hikichi
"Guide" (also known as Blind Obstacle Course) is played in small groups of 4 to 7 people. One child from each group is designated to be blindfolded and guided through an obstacle course by the rest..
ESL Games for Middle School  by: River Lin
ESL games for middle school students provide a break from hard work while at the same time, engage the students in active practice of previously learned skills and content knowledge. You can adapt..
Acting Out Verbs - Short Lesson  by: jin
Act out certain verbs every time you repeat them in class, or play "The Verb Game" by saying a list of verbs quickly while the students act out each one. How fast can everyone go?
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..
Teaching ESL with Playing Cards  by: Robin Tim Day, B.Sc. M.Sc. B.Ed.
The standard pack of 52 cards is thought to have been invented in Persia. The back design usually looks like a Persian carpet. Many English speakers do not realize that a club was a soldier's symbol..
When I Grow Up Preschool Activities  by: Mary Robinson
The best way to start a discussion with preschoolers on what they'd like to be when they grow up is to discuss a wide variety of professions. This way you are letting the children know all the..
Helping Your Child Learn to Read - 4 to 6 years old  by: Celia Webb
Children in the four- to six-year old age bracket are ready to engage with the language they have learned so far. They can learn words at an amazing rate. Providing them with a language-rich..
How to Teach Math to ESL Kids  by: Zachary Nguyen
Teachers are often required to teach an array of subjects to students in elementary, middle and high school. The process of teaching any subject to kids can be tough as it can be a difficult,..
ESL Game - Duck Duck  by: kr
Title: Duck Duck Type: Active Game Target: Any conversation Materials: None Procedure: Students sit in a circle and close their eyes. I pick 2 students by touching them on the back. When I say go..
Christmas Activity Ideas  by: Teresa Evans
As Christmas gets closer there are many different worthwhile Christmas Activity Ideas that you can use to get children in a festive mood and to keep them busy. Children can make decorations, make..
ESL Games for Past Tense  by: Victoria Weinblatt
Learning the past tense form of verbs in English is an important basic conversational skill. English as a second language (ESL) students need to learn two sets of verbs, regular and irregular. The..
Creativity Games to Teach English  by: Miranda Morley
If you've ever taught a grammar lesson and noticed that your students were about ready to fall asleep, you know that English, no matter how interesting it is to you, isn't always fun for your..
Ideas for an ESL Classroom  by: Jose Leiva
English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are full of students from different cultures, backgrounds and English learning levels. One student might have an extensive vocabulary, while another has a..
What's In My Food? A health lesson based on swan food  by: Regal Swan® Foundation, Inc. /
What’s In My Food? Expected Learning Outcomes It is critically important that students have an understanding of supplemental foods required by swans. Assuring that swans have an appropriate and..
Gold Mine Story - Lesson  by: Lisa J. Lehr
Very short stories for children are not that common. Here is one. Robin Day Great-Great-Grandmother Cora’s Great Gold Mine Adventure as told to Lisa J. Lehr © Lisa J. Lehr 1997, 2006 My..
ESL Business Vocabulary Games  by: Tasos Vossos
The "business language" is one of the most difficult topics when learning English. The idioms, slang and the wide variety of technical terms used in business are a nightmare even for native speakers...
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...
How to Teach ESL in PowerPoint  by: Renee Williams
PowerPoint presentations are an excellent tool for teaching ESL classes. They can be used to teach lessons, practice and review what students have learned. The presentations can be interactive, and..
How to Use Songs in the Classroom  by: Hannington Dia
Music has arguably impacted every person on the planet. Most people have their own favorite singers or composers who have profoundly influenced or touched them. According to a 2003 Gallup poll, 97..
ESL GAMES: Socks on Hands & Spin the Bottle  by: Sabia
Socks on Hands: Students need to put socks on their hands and try to pick up a flashcard they named! It is hard because socks make the card slippery. More cards = more points. Spin the Bottle: ..
Classroom Activities and Games  by: tim
The real me Young children will really enjoy this art project that reviews the structure I like... and food words. Have the students draw a picture of themselves showing the foods they like, e.g...
How to Create a Grammar Lesson Plan for a Beginner ESL Class  by: contributor
Teaching beginning English as a Second Language or ESL is very satisfying. Along with speaking and listening skills you will need to plan grammar lessons for your class. Creating grammar lesson plans..
Kindergarten Activities - 30 Minutes Craft Activities (Art)  by: Maegan Wong
Creative expression begins early in life. Babies are top-notch explorers who will experiment with toys, touch and taste everything within reach, discover their body parts and mastering their body..
ESL Game - SLAM game  by: kr
Title: SLAM game Type: Active Game Target: Any Vocabulary Materials: Flashcards Procedure: Let’s review the words. What room is this? (show the room picture cards) Okay now we are going to play a..
Class Activities in Teaching ESL Literary Terms  by: Victoria Thompson
The English as a Second Language student may need the teacher to adapt lessons so that he can fully understand literary terms, which lead to better text comprehension. The lessons should be taught on..
Sixth Grade English Grammar Study Tips  by: Miranda Morley
From peer pressure to puberty and athletics to academics, sixth grade can be one of the most frustrating times in a student's life. To make matters worse, sixth grade grammar students go from writing..
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..
ESL Interactive Games  by: Kara Page
English as a Second Language (ESL) classes often include repetitive drills and exercises. In order to get students more engaged in your ESL lessons, try introducing a few interactive games with..
My Game Plan  by: Hedda Tan
I have been teaching teenagers for almost 5 years now, and I find this group of students both challenging and rewarding to work with. The kids are challenging because they are at the beginning of..
Preschool Games - Babies, Balloons and Cookie Games to Teach the Letters "B" and "C"  by: Mary Robinson
Fun and Games Since preschoolers learn best by doing, try incorporating some of these preschool games and activities when teaching children about the alphabet. The first series of preschool games..
How to Use Songs For Teaching English  by: Shelley Vernon
ESL teachers can use songs for teaching English to their students with great success. ESL songs can bring energy to the classroom, boost students' confidence, and provide a much needed active..
5 Useful English Expressions  by: Linguarama
Idioms refer to phrases where their common meaning cannot be understood simply from the meanings of the individual words. They are cultural elements of speech and can prove a barrier to those who are..
English Words Used in the Korean Language - ESL Teacher Robin Day Lesson  by: Robin Tim Day, B.Sc. M.Sc. B.Ed.
An ESL lesson (8+ years but can adjust to all ages). I have been collecting words (see list below) that Koreans have adopted from other languages. It is sort of a mini-vocabulary within their own..
Confidence Activities for School  by: Ann Olson
Teachers can show children how to do math problems, use proper English or exercise correctly, but they can also teach them something just as important--how to be emotionally confident. According to..
Party Snack Ideas for Christmas in Kindergarten  by: Becky Swain
For kindergartners, the Christmas season is all about singing, writing, coloring and learning about the holiday. The classroom Christmas party represents a joyful culmination of these activities. Let..
17 Activities That Teach Writing Without Worksheets!  by: Julie Rebboah
The recent push for early academic achievement has left many preschoolers and kindergartners dealing with an excessive amounts of worksheets. Children learn best through hands-on experiences...
Teach English With Songs Even If You're Not Musically Inclined  by: Richard J Graham
Although we hear a lot about how songs can help the English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom, if you're not musically inclined it can be tough to make it..
Sequencing - Short Lesson  by: js
In sequencing activities, students must put jumbled pieces of information into a logical order. Unlike jigsaw activities, all students in the group are allowed to see all the pieces of information...
How to Teach a Child English  by: Sandra Choukroun
Fortunately, children's brains are hard-wired to learn languages, especially before the age of 6. But children can acquire language skills at any age with encouragement and support. English has..