In the Story Circle ESL activity, students take turns adding new elements to a spoken story.
Divide the class into groups of four to six students. The students in each group arrange themselves in a circle.
- One student in each group starts the story by saying “Once upon a time…“.
- They then add one, two, or three words, or complete the sentence.
- Specify beforehand the amount to be added each time. This depends on your target language; for example to practise narrative tenses, students should each add a full sentence in the past tense.
- The student to the left then continues the story, adding words in the same way.
- Subsequent students do the same, and the pattern is repeated as many times as desired.
If only one word is added by each student, you could also require students to repeat the story each time before they add their word. This is fun for a warmer, and a good way to get students to think about syntax.
As noted above, the Story Circle ESL activity can either be used as a warmer/time-filler, or to practise narrative tenses. If practising narrative tenses, you could limit the grammar to the past simple, or include the past continuous, past perfect simple and/or past perfect continuous as well.
The students themselves will drive the complexity of the story. As such the activity is suitable for any level, beginner, intermediate or advanced.
You can also practise specific types of vocabulary if you instruct students in the right way. For example, you could specify that students have to use a new adjective in each new part. Or for travel vocabulary, ask students to base the story on a trip/journey.
For a similar activity to practise reading and writing (instead of speaking and listening), see Story Chain.
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