4 Short Stories That Will Challenge Your ESL Students

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ESL short stories are a great way to consolidate all learning methods, such as listening, speaking, writing, and ESL reading practice.

Besides, ESL stories can spice up your lesson and keep your students constantly engaged. Finally, short stories for English learners are often multicultural, same as your ESL classroom, so it’s nice for all students to learn about each other’s culture.

In this article, we’re going to provide some examples of cool short stories for ESL students. We’ll also give examples of possible tasks and questions related to those ESOL stories.

These are the best short stories for ESL students

The Old Man and the Figs

esl stories

This ancient Jewish tale is still topical in our days. A good idea would be to incorporate it in a lesson that is dedicated to fruit or food. The plot of the ESL story is based around an old man who planted a fig tree. An emperor who was riding by was surprised that the old man is planting this tree, because it would take the man 10 years to enjoy the fruit. The emperor thought that the man would not live for such a long time. However, the man lived, and he brought a basket of figs to the emperor’s palace. The emperor took the fruit and filled the basket with gold coins instead.

After you finish reading this ESL story in the classroom, you can ask your students the following questions:

  • Why was the Emperor surprised when he saw the old man planting a fig tree?
  • Why did the old man still want to plant the tree?

Then you can turn the lesson over to a vocabulary game or an ESL grammar lesson, such as filling in the blanks or finding the synonyms to words from the tale. After that you can talk about various types of fruit as well as their size, shape, taste, and places where they grow. Finally, you can discuss if such ESL stories could happen in our days and encourage the students to present their arguments and counterarguments.

Check out these tips in teaching grammar to ESL and ELL students.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

This is one of Aesop’s tales that tells a story of a young boy whose father asked him to look after the sheep in order to spot the wolf. The boy, however, was bored, and he decided to fool the villagers by crying out that the wolf was there. But when the real wolf came, no one believed the boy.

You can incorporate this ESL story into a lesson that is dedicated to animals. First of all, ask the class the following questions:

  • Why did the villagers not believe the boy the third time he “cried wolf”?
  • What do you suppose the “cry wolf” phrase means in English?

Then you can give the students some vocabulary assignments, such as discussing the differences between a wolf and a sheep in terms of wild and domestic animals. You can then ask them to name some other species of wild and domestic animals. You can train your students in pronunciation with the help of minimal pairs such as “sheep” and “ship”. Finally, you can discuss why it is better to tell a truth than constantly lie. 

Katie’s Invisible Umbrella

This is quite a long story, but you can take an abstract from it or break it down into several short stories for an ESL lesson. The story is about a schoolgirl who lives with her grandmother, and both of them come from a family of witches who have magical powers. The questions afterwards depend on the abstract that you choose. Here are our examples:

  • Does Katie’s grandmother like to use modern things?
  • What was the weather like when Katie went to the pastry shop?
  • Why did people keep bumping into Katie when she was walking under the umbrella?

As for discussions, you can talk about the weather and weather conditions, such as sunny, rainy, windy, etc. Then you can discuss the conditions when you need an umbrella – for example, you may also need it when it is hot outside. Finally, ask your students if they would like to have an invisible umbrella and why. This is a great example of how ESL stories can turn into opportunities to teach English to kids

The Remarkable Rocket

This is a classical fairy tale by Oscar Wilde, which is packed with useful vocabulary and dialogues. Here are some story-related questions that you can ask:

  • What was the purpose of the fireworks?
  • What did the Roman Candle say about romance?
  • What does the Catherine Wheel think about romance?

In the end, you can discuss the types of fireworks and maybe even draw how they look like, as those concepts may be new for some of your students. You can also talk about state holidays that always involve fireworks, such as New Year’s Eve, and ask students from other cultures if they also use fireworks in their home countries

Now you have some exciting ESL short stories with questions that you can discuss with your students. We hope that your students will enjoy working with these ESL reading comprehension short stories and develop not only the reading, but also speaking, vocabulary, and grammar skills.

Whether you’re teaching English online, in the classroom, or you’re just interested in becoming a teacher, this makes a great resource for all student ages and abilities.


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