Robert Haines, ESL Teacher, Unites States
This series of activities enables students to practice what are traditionally called 'language skills' (reading, writing, etc.) in the context of their own lives and learn more about each other in the process.
Have a short childhood story of your own on hand to share with your students. You could also write the story for them to read, but the 'live listening' aspect of an oral version can be more effective because it allows you to use gestures and intonation, immediately clarify, and monitor students' reactions as you tell the story. Of course, a combination of the two (written and oral) is also possible.
- Share a story from your childhood.
- Students write a childhood story of their own for the next lesson.
- Copy the stories for students to read.
- Students ask questions and make comments about the stories in groups, rotating until they've spoken with all their classmates. The goal is to ensure that everyone understands each story.
- Together again as one group, ask questions you have about each story. You can also clarify anything you noticed students missing or misunderstanding as you monitored the group work.
Why it works
Most of us enjoy a good story. It's also fun to learn more about everyone in the classroom. Because the students can choose which experience to share, their motivation is relatively high and control over the story's content ensures that they don't feel too vulnerable.
Obviously, language related to telling stories (e.g., past tense, 'When I was…') tends to emerge out of this series of activities. A good sample of stories from any genre should demonstrate which language features usually realise that genre. Teachers can select story tasks accordingly, or even better, work with stories that come up as the result of classroom interaction.
Students can write questions about their stories for each other, which teachers could then compile as a quiz.