Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

A Good & Simple Collaborative Storytelling Lesson


As regular readers know, I’ve been thinking more about collaborative storytelling and how to use it more effectively in my Intermediate English class. Last week, in fact, I published The Best Sites For Collaborative Storytelling. I also recently ordered a game I read about called Story Cubes that I thought might be useful, but once I received it concluded it wasn’t very helpful in a class with English Language Learners.

However, all those ideas got my brain going, and I came up with what turned-out to be an excellent lesson in my Intermediate English class yesterday.

First, I had the class divide into groups of three. Within the small groups, each person was numbered either one, two, or three. Each group was given one sheet of paper, and on the top of each paper the group had to write “Once Upon A Time…”

Next, I put a piece of paper under the document camera and projected it on the screen. I then wrote:

“1) Who?”

That meant that the number ones in each group had to write one sentence describing who was going to be in the story. I told people just to have fun with it, and pushed them to write adjectives. I explained that they would have no more than two minutes to write it.

Then, I wrote:

“2) Where?”

All the number twos had to take the paper and write where the story was taking place. Students began to get engaged with it at this point.

We continued this process until the paper on the overhead looked like this:

3) When?
4) What is the problem?
5) Who said What? (indicating that someone in the story had to say something, which was a great time to reinforce quotation marks).
6) Who said What back to that person?
7) Something bad happens
8)Something good happens
9) Something funny happens
10) It ends

Students then got a big piece of easel paper and converted their sentences into a story with illustrations. Next, in a round-robin routine, each group told and showed their story to one of the other groups.

It was all done well within two class periods, required next to no teacher preparation, and provided superior opportunities for reading, writing, speaking and listening. One can’t ask a lot more than that…

I do, however, have lots of other ideas about how to maximize it even further.

I’ll be adding a link to this post in “The Best…” list on storytelling I referenced in the first paragraph.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. This is a very nice approach. I’ll try this for my EFL classes. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… - A Good & Simple Collaborative Storytelling Lesson | #AsiaELT |

  3. Hi Larry,
    I am a teacher in Sacramento too. I am currently in a Master’s program working on collaborative activities for my classroom of second grade students. I work at Greer Elementary School. I really like your idea. I have done a little of this whole class orally where student hold a sign that says Who, What, Where, and they tell a story. But I need a collaborative lesson for my assignment this week and I might try using this and see how it works. Thanks for the idea. I just Googled collaborative lesson ideas and got this cite.
    Becky Matt

  4. Nice idea! I’ll give it a go. I just wanted to add that I use the ‘Story Cubes’ to great effect in adult conversation groups of about 10-12 people. I have the three sets (9 die in each) and I give each student 3 different die. I then begin by rolling my die and start telling a story using the pictures that come up, I then leave my story hanging and the next person rolls their die and continues my story using his pictures and so on… continues around the group and is a great way to teach both new vocabulary and to get students talking. It’s great fun and usually cause for great hilarity!

  5. Thanks so much for putting this up! I am a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Ecuador, and I have to give a presentation to over 50 teachers this weekend about how to employ speaking practice in the classroom. Part of my presentation needs to be about collaborative learning, but I had no idea what could be simple enough for the typical kids we have in high schools here. I think this could actually work!!! Thank you, thank you.

  6. Thanks so much for this, Larry. Really appreciate it. I am teaching ESL here in England although I’m American, but it’s always nice to get tips from my fellow countrymen back home. I will be trying this lesson plan.

  7. Thank you! These ideas and links were really helpful!!!
    I am a teacher in Palos Verdes, CA

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