This lesson idea looks at how to allow some variation in your digital class through introducing storytelling.


Tools needed for this class:

Device: None needed, although students may type story up on a laptop or other device if they would like to.

Other materials: Laptop with beamer and sound (+ internet) in order to show the commercial; extra grammar explanations and exercises about the past tenses.

Useful links:

Main activity: Write a story (maximum 500 words) using the past tenses. (Depending on the level of your students, you may just want to concentrate on one of the past tenses.)

Time needed: one hour

Preparation: Choose a short commercial with a strong visual story from YouTube that will engage your students. I have included three suggestions which are suitable for most classes.

Step-by-step guide

Step One (510 mins)
Explanation and task introduction: This activity can be done individually or in small groups of two or three students. It depends on the needs of your students or what you would like achieve in your group. I sometimes use this activity to test my students’ writing ability, so in this case I have the students do it individually and then I miss out step three and get the students to sumbit it to me. So, before you begin, decide whether you would like them to work individually or in small groups.

Students are going to watch a short commercial and then retell the story they’ve seen using the past tenses. They may watch the commercial twice. Tell them that whilst watching it they may take notes. Ask them to focus on the actions: e.g., in the Google Glass commercial, what does the man do, where is he going, how does he get there, why is he going there, etc. Once students have watched the video twice, it may also be useful to check that the students fully understand the story and know, or are able to look up for themselves, the relevant vocabulary. When I did the activity with this particular video, the students often found it difficult to translate the word for the ultrasound photo.

Step Two (3040 mins)
Writing task: 
Ask students to write a short story of approximately 500 words. They should retell the story they have seen using the notes they have taken whilst watching the commercial. The story should be written in the past tense.

Step Three (15–20 mins)
When everyone has finished, ask students to give their stories to another student or group. The students should read the story and point out the differences and similarities between their stories. They must underline or highlight the past tenses and check whether they have been correctly used. Also, they should try to give at least one compliment about the story. This step could be done for homework.