Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer, manager and consultant

In April 2010 I attended a talk by Laura Patsko at the IH Prague Conference about storytelling in an adult classroom. This week I finally got round to adapting it to make use of some #eltpics (pictures for teachers by teachers which can be used under a Creative Commons licence) and thought I would share the presentation and the lesson plan with you. Feel free to use it however you like. (My context was an Advanced group, but it could be used with other levels)

I showed them the first slide of the presentation and told them we were going to look at six pictures and talk about the ideas in the word cloud. I copied the cloud onto each picture so that they would have some ideas.

Once they had talked about each picture and I had given them any extra vocabulary they needed, they voted on the most interesting picture. I copied and pasted it onto the final slide, right-clicked on it and chose ‘send to back’. We were revising narrative tenses, used to and would, hence the orange box, but you could change it or delete it entirely.

I told the class to imagine that this picture was an image taken from the midpoint of a film. They were going to create the story of the film. Half of the class worked on the story leading up to the picture, the rest worked on the story after the picture. They were allowed to take a few notes, but could not write out the whole story.

After about fifteen minutes I then reorganised the groups. Each new group had one ‘beginning’ student and one ‘ending’ student. They then had to put their halves together to create one logical complete story.

The final step in the process was for each pair to tell their story to the group. I recorded it using Audacity and emailed it to the students after class. Next week we will focus on their use of narrative tenses, used to and would based on the recordings.

One-to-one variation

I also (unintentionally) taught the same lesson 1-2-1 when only one student turned up from a class of five! We followed the same process, but got through it much faster, finishing all of these steps in about 30 minutes. Once we’d recorded the story, the student then typed out what she had said. We then went through a series of drafts, each time focussing on one or two changes, for example tenses, punctuation and choice of vocabulary. This is the document we produced based on the picture of the two girls at the castle door:

What worked

  • The students found the pictures interesting and were motivated to discuss them.

  • They enjoyed being able to create their own stories.
  • They used their English in a natural way, so it recording their stories really showed the areas which they need to focus on.
  • In the 1-2-1 lesson, the student was given an intensive personalised focus on her errors. She also learned about punctuation in a relevant way, particularly the punctuation of speech (which I personally find can be difficult to teach/learn)
What I should change
  • At the beginning of the lesson I should have introduced the idea of storytelling in more detail. We could have talked about why we like stories and what a good story requires.
  • With more time we could have created more detailed stories, adding in information about the characters, using more adverbs etc.

If you choose to use this lesson (and even if you don’t!) please let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions to improve it.

Comments on: "Story Prompts with #eltpics" (7)

  1. It’s so clever the way you combined specific goals you had for the lesson with lots of choice for the students. Great selection of pics – it never ceases to amaze me how suitable photos can “ignite” so many positive thinking processes!
    Thanks for letting us peek into your classroom!


    • Think the thanks should go to all of the great people who contribute to eltpics, yourself included, since they provide so much inspiration!
      Glad you like the lesson 🙂


  2. […] for providing me with an interesting story for my students to listen to (following on from ‘Story Prompts with #eltpics‘ last week) and a way to revise linking words when speaking […]


  3. […] my own blog: Story prompts with #eltpics and Emotions wordclouds (including an #eltpics […]


  4. Sandy,

    Don’t know how I missed this but I’ve only just stumbled across the article – thanks very much for the mention! I’m glad you enjoyed the conference. It was my first time presenting at one, and I was very nervous!

    I really liked the variations you mention on the basic ‘before/after’ story skeleton that was the basis for that conference session. In particular, the idea of recording it on Audacity then working with that. I might give that a go next time I do a similar lesson.

    I also agree that setting it up is important, particularly with groups who might be a bit more hesitant with this sort of thing, or if you’ve never done stories with them before – starting off developing their interest in stories, reminding them how often they tell/hear them, sharing favourites, etc., can be a great springboard for the rest of the lesson.

    Thanks again for the mention – I look forward to hearing more stories of your in-class stories in future! 🙂



    • Hi Laura,
      Glad you managed to find it. Writing it was when I first realised you were on Twitter 🙂 I really enjoyed that seminar. It was one of the first conferences I ever went to, and it’s still one of the most dynamic sessions I’ve ever seen 🙂 Looking forward to reading/tweeting you more!


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