Things You Can Do With an Interactive Story

  1. The simplest and most obvious way to use an interactive story is to put students in pairs and get them to read it to each other like this:

    Student A: There was a man.
    Student B: Uh-huh
    Student A: He went in to a café.
    Student B: Uh-huh.
    Student A: Was it crowded?
    Student B: Yes, it was.
    Student A: He ordered a drink.
    Student B: Uh-huh.
    Student A: Was it a latte?
    Student B: What does “latte” mean?
    Student A: I don't know. EXCUSE ME! What does “latte” mean?
    Teacher: It is a type of milky coffee.
    Student A: I see. Thanks. Was it a latte?
    Student B: Yes, it is.
    Student A: Uh-uh! That's wrong. You should say: “Yes it WAS.”
    Student B: I see. Yes, it was.

  2. The class can read it to each other in larger groups of three or more with all listeners saying 'uh-huh' and in the event of a question, the storyteller nominates one person to answer. Some classes like to work in larger groups.
  3. The class can read it as a group, one person at a time reading one sentence at a time and getting each other's attention by establishing eye contact. Many students do not realize the importance of eye contact as a linguistic signal and how to use it.
  4. The class can read the text silently to themselves, underlining the target patterns for that episode.
  5. The whole class can read the story to the teacher and the teacher acknowledges it and answers the questions, sometimes elaborating on aspects of the story and turning the questions back on the students and asking them to ask each other various things as topics come up in the course of the narrative.
  6. The students can copy the story out turning the questions into sentences and including them in the text and also expanding on the story at will.
  7. The students can role play various situations that come up in the story.
  8. The class can (in pairs or groups) try to re-tell the story to each other from memory.
  9. The class can re-write the story from memory perhaps modifying it and elaborating on it.
  10. The class can discuss aspects of the story and issues that come up; what they would do in that situation, whether they like a particular character and why, etc.
  11. The students can redo the story turning all the patterns into past forms. Be careful. This is complex. Make sure you have read through and understood how to do it yourself before getting the students to do it.
  12. Most importantly, encourage your students to relax and have fun!

27 Responses to “Things You Can Do With an Interactive Story”

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  1. K.Muthukumar says:

    Really this site is very useful for learning English and also if we speak in English often then only we can improve our English speaking skill if any one don’t mint am in Skype add me we will speak in English conversation my id is naughtykumar1988 and also my email id is

  2. salmo123 says:

    Hey everyone i am amazing at english.It is my first language. I am still a very young student but i am inlove with reading and i also write my own books ……… I would like someone to help my and verify my writing ………. to check it and try to improve it ………… if you are willing to help plz send an email to

  3. James Thrush says:

    Hi Mark,
    I want to thank you for the obviously long hours of selfless work you have dedicated to this site and the marvelous idea and materials for interactive stories.
    I applaud your beliefs that education should be cost free and is the primary ingredient for making this world of ours a better place to live! Cheers!!
    I became an ESL teacher in these my nearly golden years after becoming bored/disillusioned with several other careers. I now wish I had made this shift in endevours much earlier in life. What a rewarding job! It also can be extremely challenging, frustrating, and quite time consuming. Which is another reason to thank you for the resources (guess I should add the adjective ‘free’). I hope to implement them into my lessons (probably should say sneak them into my pre-ordained curriculum).
    I personally feel that structured grammar lessons just don’t work, at least not until the 2nd language learner becomes quite fluent with the language. I know this is not exactly main stream however recently many of the academic linguistic gurus are saying this very thing. I don’t know what better evidence can be offered than to look at my Chinese students who have been subjected to 1000’s of hours of grammar instruction – even more hours of grammar based homework exercises – truck loads of tests/quizzes and still have a problem understanding (not to mention effortlessly answering correctly) the difference in the question “how are you” vs “Who are you”. Try asking for directions to the nearest bathroom!! I believe the way to learning to speak and use English with decent grammar is through exposure of listening and speaking it. You know.. the way we learned as kids.. Don’t know about you but when I was 12 years old even though I could communicate extremely well, if asked to explain or even give an example of ‘predicate’– yu7o get the idea. I think the interactive stories are a superb way for students to learn not only new words through context but also a chance to practice the English they already know in a fun way.. let’s face it grammar is boring beyond measure. Thanks again. And to all of you folks here because you want to improve your English, I thank you as well. Only through communication and education can cultures be brought together in brotherhood. oh yeah lest I forget – this method will work for you, I’m sure of it. Not much of a testimonial but…… hehehe

    • James Thrush says:

      p.s. I forgot to add a request… do you have any stories for true beginner level. I have many very young students who I think can benefit from this creative use of story telling – but little time to create my own

      • Mark White says:

        Hi James

        Sorry I accidentally deleted your last message (from my email account), telling me about your work and life in China. If you send it again I will answer.

        I remember you mentioned teaching young learners and I have found interactive stories (as they are written on this site) do not work with students who are that young as they simply do not read even in their first language.

        The technique of having a story that contains questions still works but you have to do it orally. I do it often when I tell a story with my own children (3,5,8):

        Cindarella put her eye shadow on….What colour was it?

        She picked up her handbag. Did she have any lipstick in her bag? etc etc.

        I spent a couple of years teaching elementary school in Kyoto and developed a few techniques that worked with children aged ten to twelve. Here is what I did:

        I went through the alphabet on flash cards getting them to draw pictures of the objects and write the words till they were familiar with the all the letters (It took months).

        I also got them to ask each other questions like:
        Do you like (the object eg apple)?

        and answer

        Yes, I do
        No, I don’t.

        In their notebook they had a “Do you” page and a “Have you ever ” page and a “fruit” page, a “people(boy, girl etc)” page.

        The interactive story came in when I started to tell a story that I made up as I went along but I told the story in Japanese. You would have to do it in Chinese.

        I told the story in their language then asked questions in English using language they had learned in earlier lessons so I was consolidating that language as I worked through the story.

        Here is an example:

        A man walked up to a castle. It had a door. It was a big door.

        Ask the person next to you:

        Was it a big door or a small door?

        Was it a wooden door or a metal door?

        What colour was it?

        Now draw a picture of a door.

        The kids end up with a notebook full of phrases and pictures from the story:

        a castle
        a big door
        a giant
        a long beard
        a white beard
        an axe
        a big room
        three doors
        a yellow door
        a long table
        some apples
        three wishes
        a bag of money
        some cakes

        etc etc.

        I have always tried to learn a word or phrase as I teach it so work out what you are teaching for today and learn how to say it in Chinese then go!

        I am not sure how long you have been in China. Your Chinese has to be of a minimum standard to use this method.

        I know people say you should not use L1 (Chinese, Japanese etc) in the classroom but I had forty screaming kids. What was I supposed to do? How can you get their interest by making noises in a language that they do not know?

        You have to have a crossover or interlanguage period where you ease them in to L2 (English) I think and you need to speak Chinese to develop the relationship of trust and friendship that you need to be an effective teacher.

        I use the oral interactive story technique still with my kids now and they take over the story. I am not sure if that is good or bad. They sure talk a lot.

        Aaron and I have both spent time in China and Taiwan and speak some Chinese. He speaks it much better than me.

        cheers Mark

  4. hi please tell me how can i do to buy
    lessons i don’t have cards

  5. azer says:

    hello every one i’ll be very happy if you send me stories that i can download to improve my english thank you very much

  6. sarwat shamoon says:

    Hi i really enjoy with interactive stoies.So just i want to say plz contineue ur efforts for us.

  7. nov says:

    uh huh i just opened this subject how can i apply it.

  8. sasan says:

    Hi,How are you?
    Could you please help me how can l download the story??????

  9. mariwan says:

    Hi dear staff:
    my name is mariwan , Iam a kurdish iraqi i wanted to improve my English language ,It is a great idea about this style of learning,

    Good luck

  10. Mark White says:

    Hey Ashley

    Great stuff. I am very interested in Indian culture and also the plight of adivasis. Please do let me know how the stories work. Maybe I could write a story for their situations.

    A lot of the stories on the site were written with Japanese students in mind but now I am thinking of the needs of others; Buddhist monks in Thailand, Muslims, Aboriginals in Australia, people in rural and traditional societies, etc etc.

    keep in touch


  11. Ashley Paul says:

    Dear Mark,
    I am attached to an institute In Calicut, S. India, that works for the social transformation of the marginalised communities. We address students who have completed their professional course in Engineering. One of the modules we teach is English communication.
    My colleague Mr. Nirmal Joy and I were searching the net for Ideas! And there you are with the wonderful idea of interactive stories. Thank you Mark! We would like to try this out in our classes. I shall keep in touch with you with the feed back.

    Ashley Paul

  12. vara says:

    it is very useful website for english learners

  13. R.seenivasan says:

    i am seenivasan i want good story and dicionary, plese arrange………


  14. Mark White says:

    That is a great idea.

    Another thing you can do it talk to yourself.

    Well, here I am alone in my room. I am sitting in my chair and I am talking to myself. I am sitting in front of the computer.

    Last night I was on a bus and i was teaching myself japanese by thinking in japanese and talking to myself (quietly in Japanese).

    When I become aware of something (a word) that I do not know, I look it up in the dictionary.

    Try it!

  15. Taher Galaleddine says:

    hi my teacher, how are you. it’s me again. in fact i got advice before to study listen and answer mini stories not listen and repeat. so do you think that if downloaded an interactive story and repeated it alone will do the job? please advice. my problem that i find difficulty to speak English automatically i mean that i have to translate the sentences before i say it.
    please advice.

  16. Mark White says:

    Hey thanks for the feedback Ravi.

    Treza, Get a partner and download an interactive story and work through it with your friend.

  17. Ravi says:

    Jersy is saying correct, exectly.

    This is very helpful site for them who want to learn english

    with lots of materails.

    I dont hide my mail id.
    If anyone want to share anything related english, just write down to me at

  18. Irine says:

    Today I have worked with my private pupil with text Nurse.
    He enjoyed it very much. THANKS A LOT FOR THIS ORIGINAL IDEA. It’s cool……

  19. Treza says:

    how can I join these classes

  20. haluk says:

    I have been learning and studying english for 9 year’s.
    I found this programme more efficiently.according to my thing english conversation best way of learning english and most effective.

  21. Le Thuy says:

    It’s a useful and interesting way of learning English. I think pairwork is the most effective

  22. jersy says:

    it is an interesting method of learning

  23. jersy says:

    It is an interesting way of learning english

  24. op says:

    All about it’s excellent

  25. chandrappa says:

    Its realy worthfull web site. everyone can learn the english in short span of time