Using Stories in the Preschool ESL Classroom

Using Stories in the Preschool ESL Classroom
Do you want to start using stories in the preschool ESL classroom but don't know where to start?

There are many great pre-k activities for ESL classrooms, including games, but it’s also very important to not discount the power of stories. Whether you’re reading a classic book, making up a story as you go along or designing a story specifically for a particular lesson, you’ll want to be sure to include stories in the preschool ESL class every day.

One of the reasons why stories work so well in the ESL preschool classroom has to do with intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the theory that people are motivated by internal factors. Children of preschool age do not understand the external factors that might motivate an adult to decide to learn a second language, so as a teacher it’s up to you to create a classroom that internally motivates them to participate in the activities and, ultimately, learn the language you are teaching.

Stories are perfect for teaching young ESL students because children already love stories and are already motivated at the thought of listening to one. In addition to that, when children listen to the stories, they are able to internalise the language structure and will eventually begin to recognize words and phrases they hear in the stories. Besides, there are so many ways to use them in the classroom that the possibilities with stories are practically endless. Here are some possibilities on how you can use stories in your classroom:

Teach Vocabulary

Before you use a story in the ESL preschool classroom, you’ll need to teach the students the key vocabulary words so they are able to follow the story. Thus the story can serve as a basis for drawing vocabulary words. It goes deeper than that, however. The students will not just “learn” the words, they will immediately see how the words are used and hear them in context of the language. This is so much more beneficial to the students than simply memorizing a list of words.

Varying Classroom Activities

Telling a story adds variety to your lessons in terms of content and pace. Preschoolers don’t have a terribly long attention span, so you’ll want to vary your activities throughout the class period. Changing your activities every five to ten minutes is appropriate for this age group – and that’s a great length of time to spend telling a story. Furthermore, preschool students have a ton of energy, so you’ll want to have some activities that allow them to burn this energy. To keep the class from getting out of control, use a story after a boisterous activity to allow everyone enough time to settle down before moving onto something else. Remember also that you can tell the same stories over and over again.

Be Creative

Whenever you tell a story allow your creativity to show through. Have fun with it and go with the flow. Make animal sounds, change your voice, sing little songs and, most of all, use gestures. You might even be able to get some of your students to go along with you when it comes to animal sounds, songs and gestures.

Introduce Other Activities

Stories are a great jumping board for other activities. Here is just a sampling of activities you could do following a story:

* Give each student a picture that depicts the events of the story and have them line up in order of the events.
* Have the students come up with a title for the story. Allow as many titles as students who’d like to share one.
* Repeat quotes from the story and ask the students “Who said it?”
* Leave off the ending of the story and have the students predict what they think will happen. Then, read the ending of the story.
* Encourage the children to look for patterns in the story. Have them guess, for example, what the character will say if there is a pattern in what the character says.
* Teach them a song that goes along with the theme of the story.
* Teach them actions to go along with the songs.
* Let them act out parts of the story.
* Set up stations that allow them to dress up like characters in the story and do things the characters in the story did. So, if the characters in the story decorated cookies, give them some time to decorate cookies.
* Tell a story to introduce a new unit.
* Give the students three events in the story and ask them what came first.
* Have the students draw a picture about their favorite part of the story and then explain it to the class.
* Let the students tell about a similar experience they might have had.

There are so many things you can do with stories in the ESL classroom. Just let your imagination go and soon so will the imaginations of your students! If you want some ideas to help you get started, just visit the link in the box below the article for some free materials on using games in the preschool classroom.

Shelley Vernon
Shelley Vernon, conscious of the vital role teachers can play in the lives of their pupils, promotes learning through encouragement and games. Sign up for free games and ideas on Make your job easy and fun teaching English to children through games.

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  1. This is wonderful stuff. I’m constantly trying to find new ways to entertain my little ones here in Taiwan. We’ve also done our part by building a huge free ESL classroom games database. It might be worth checking out: – Thanks!

  2. The suggestions are brilliant!

  3. The article is very informative and educational. Thank you.

  4. Superb… it’s beneficial to all English language teachers… thank you

  5. This article is useful for teachers to make teaching more interesting… brilliant suggestions! Thanks.


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