Learn English Writing: Tell a Story

Need a creative writing lesson that is fun and educational? This 1 to 2-hour writing lesson asks students to solve a problem, think creatively, write imaginatively and learn a bit of grammar.

ESL Writing Lesson

The lessons is divided into six parts.

Part A The Puzzle (10 minutes)

The assignment begins with a pretty simple critical thinking puzzle. It is based on an old puzzle about a man with a boat, goat, wolf and head of cabbage.

Ask students to look at the pictures and put them in the correct order.

Part B Directions (5 minutes)

Tell students they are going to use the puzzle as the basis of a story. They are going to write a story about the actions in the pictures. But it must be a narrative. A narrative is a story told by one person or character. So, the story should be told in the first person.

There are four “characters” in the story: a man, a goat, a wolf, a head of cabbage.

Each student chooses a character. Tell the story from that character’s perspective. Students need to include information that answers questions like:

  • How does that character see the world?
  • What does he/she think or feel?
  • What does that character want?

Part C Show Me (3 minutes)

The story also needs to be descriptive. It should have elements that follow the principle show me, don’t tell me.

Students should include lots of details to describe the actions and places: sights, sounds, smells.

Part D Articles (10-30 minutes)

This assignment is a great chance to learn and practice an important rule about articles.

Articles are the words a, an and the.

As you probably already know, it is hard to learn all or many of the rules for articles. Instead of teaching all of them, let’s practice one rule in this assignment. 

  • definite article: the
  • indefinite article: a and an

Article Rule

  • When talking about a general thing for the first time, use A/AN. 
  • Every other time you talk about the same thing, use THE.

Here is an example

  •  Jack went to the restaurant in a taxi.
  •  The taxi was silver and green.

If the class needs some extra practice, here is a worksheet that can be used to check their understanding of articles.

Part E Optional Complex Sentences (20-40 minutes)

If you have a class with strong writers, you might want to add this extra component to the lesson: complex sentences.

The picture prompt in this lesson is ideal for generating complex sentences (i.e. describing two actions that happen at the same time).

Part F Writing (20-30 minutes)

Students produce a 1-3 page narrative.

Read first draft, hand back with feedback and ask students to rewrite.


Enjoy the lesson.

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1 thought on “Learn English Writing: Tell a Story”

  1. I discovered this website yesterday and I found it really useful. I looked for this kind of lesson plans to improve writing. Lesson strategies are creative and explained in detail – really awesome. One of my favourite websites.

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