Michael Newby Michael Newby

Telling Stories
Upper-Intermediate level


In this lesson, students learn about the use of 'narrative tenses' in written stories. First, students read a fictional story about a crime in order to get exposed to the target language. The three forms - past simple, past continuous, and past perfect - are highlighted through some guided questioning and elicitation, along with the meaning of each one and their relationship to one another. Finally, students get the chance to write their own story in small groups.


No materials added to this plan yet.

Main Aims

  • To provide clarification of 'narrative' tenses in the context of telling stories

Subsidiary Aims

  • To provide written practice of the target language in creating a story


Warmer/Lead-in (3-5 minutes) • To set lesson context and engage students

Remind Sts of the theme of the previous lesson. (stories) In pairs, Sts tell each other any funny/interesting stories about things that happened to them. [Provide an example, if Sts appear to be less than talkative] Elicit one or two contributions from the group.

Exposure (6-8 minutes) • To provide context for the target language through a story

Tell Sts that they are going to read another story; not a fable but a 'crime' story. Elicit from Sts what information they might want to know about the story (i.e. who is it about? what did they do? where they caught? etc.) and write up their contributions on the board. Tell Sts that they will need to read the text in order to answer those questions. Use ICQs to clarify that they need to read quickly and they don't need to understand every word or phrase in the text. Set Sts one minute to complete the task. Once the time is up, instruct them to turn over their papers and share their answers with a partner. Give Sts another minute to re-read the text to see if there is anything else they might have missed. Ask CCQs about the story in WC feedback in order to check that the group have comprehended it.

Highlighting/Clarification (12-16 minutes) • To draw students' attention to the target language and clarify the meaning and form

Elicit from Sts that the story was set in the past and that the language used in the text was also in the past tense. Explain to Sts that when they read novels or newspapers, the stories are often written in the past, too. Set out the aims of the lesson. In pairs, Sts analyse the text and pick out the key plot points of the story and underline them. Project the answers on the board. Ask: can you understand the story using only this information? (yes) Which verb form is the same in every sentence? (2nd verb form - past simple) Is the story in the correct order? (yes) Sts repeat the previous step, but this time looking for information that took place at the same time as the main points of the story. Sts draw a wiggly line underneath these examples. Project the answers on the board. Ask: can you understand the story without this information? (yes) Which verb form is the same in every sentence? (was/were + verb-ing - past continuous) Does this information make the story more interesting? (yes, hopefully!) Sts repeat the previous steps, but this time looking for information that took place before the main events highlighted in the first step. Sts put this information in a box. Project the answers on the board. Ask: can you understand the story without this information? (yes) does it give extra information? (yes) Which verb form is the same in every sentence? (had + 3rd verb form - past perfect)

Consolidation (3-5 minutes) • To further clarify the meaning and form of the target language

Project the slides containing an overview of the TL on to the board. Ask CCQs for each one, making sure all Sts are on the same page. Use further examples from the text or make them up, if Sts seem hesitant.

Controlled Practice (4-8 minutes) • To concept check and prepare students for more meaningful practice

Write a sentence containing past simple and past perfect on the board. Elicit from students which action was first and which was second. Draw a timeline underneath and label it appropriately. Part 1: Instruct Sts that they will read some sentences and they need to draw the appropriate timeline that reflects it. In pairs, they check their answers. Part 2: Sts look at some timelines and write appropriate sentences using the target language. Check answers in pairs. [Note: T monitors and checks that all Sts are on the right track. If there are common errors, conduct WC feedback. If everyone appears to be correct, praise Sts and move on]

Less-Controlled Practice (15-18 minutes) • To provide students with less-controlled practice of the target language

Project a photo up on the board. In pairs/small groups, Sts brainstorm ideas of what they think the story the photo represents might be. Step 1. They make a list of key plot points and put them in order. Step 2. They make a list of any additional information that might be going on at the same time. Step 3. They make a list of any information that might have come before the main events of the story. Hand out one A4 sheet of paper to each group. Instruct each group to work together in order to create their own story using the TL and the ideas they had just brainstormed. Monitor closely and offer support and clarification when needed. Put stories up on the wall and get each group to read the other groups' contributions. Sts discuss which story they liked the most.

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