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There is a slick teaching tool which can be used as a filler, a full lesson or an introduction to a new topic.
I’m talking about funny stories.
The vast quantity of available stories covers a huge range of content, characters, plots and dialogue—containing anything and everything you could possibly need to teach in almost any language lesson.
Some of the best short stories are the ones that make you laugh. These are the stories your students will remember, and these are the stories your students will love to learn about.
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How to Incorporate Funny Short Stories into Your ESL Lesson Plans
There are many ways to use funny short stories in lesson plans.
The most simple method is to introduce a new topic by reading a short story. Let’s take “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the famous Aesop’s Fable, as an example. This story would be a great introduction for a lesson on animals, verbs/adjectives or comparisons.
Just reading through the story with the students and then eliciting some responses can help you determine how familiar your students are with the lesson subject, and introduces the themes in a way your students (especially younger students) will enjoy.
For example, if I were to teach comparative adjectives with “The Tortoise and the Hare,” a simple PPP lesson might look like this:
Introduction: Have students brainstorm as many animals as they can in three minutes. Choose two or three of these animals, and elicit adjectives describing them (i.e. a rabbit could be fast, small, cute, brown, etc.)
Presentation: Read “The Tortoise and the Hare” with students. Pause frequently to ask comprehension check questions. Focus on comparative adjectives (i.e. Is the hare bigger than the tortoise? Is he stronger? Is he faster? etc.)
Practice: Each pair of students receives pictures of five or six different animals. Then they are given an adjective, such as “fast,” and the students have one minute to arrange the animals in comparative order (from slowest to fastest in this case). Check the order as a class, and ask comparative questions throughout.
Production: Students write their own simple story about animals using comparatives. Give a structure for lower level students. This can be a cloze activity in which they fill in the gaps (animals and adjectives in this case). For higher level students, give them more scope for creativity. I like to let my students draw their stories as they write them.
Dealing with new vocabulary
When you are reading a new story it is very likely that your students will be coming up against new vocab. When I am teaching new words to my students using stories, I use one of two methods. Either I pre-teach the new vocab before reading the story, or we pause mid-text to address any words that the students don’t know or are struggling with.
In the first method, I will introduce the lesson and the themes, and then study the new vocabulary. This can be done in many ways. I like to give the students the meaning (written and spoken) and use several visual aids to get the meaning and context across.
The advantage of the second method—teaching vocab mid-text—is that context is already established, so your students can engage much more actively with new vocabulary and you can use their extensive reading skills to elicit the meanings of words. It is much easier to understand a word if you have a reason to. The disadvantage, of course, is that this method can disrupt the narrative flow and too many breaks can frustrate your students. This is why careful text selection is so important, which we will touch on a bit later.
In any story or lesson, make sure you are allotting enough time to actually read the story. These story lessons will not succeed half as well if they are rushed