Storytelling: Narrative Tenses (B1+/B2)

I’m an avid reader of books but above all fantasy books. One of my favourite books is ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss. It tells a tale of a boy name Kvothe – from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as an orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. If you haven’t already read it, please do so.

Anyway, this is a little frame story from the book that I’ve adapted for the purpose of presenting and practising narrative tenses with my students.

Firstly, I like to discuss books/reading with my students – Do you like to read? What kind of books do you read? Do you have a favourite book? Could you recommend a book to read? Has your taste in books changed over the years?

Then go through the vocabulary with students, elicit and board some examples and then have them practice with the gap-fill.

Next students to read the story and answer the following questions;

  1. How did Taborlin escape from the tower?
  2. Was he scared when he escaped from the tower?
  3. Who did he meet on the road?
  4. How did he get the amulet?
  5. How much did he pay for it?
  6. Why was it important to the story?
  7. What did he do when he heard a noise?
  8. What do you think will happen next?

Board the following examples and elicit form, meaning, and example from the students.

Past Simple

Form: regular verb(+ed) / irregular verb in past simple
Why: To tell the main events of a story, a series of events

‘He stepped to the edge, looked down, and without a second thought he stepped out into the open air.’

Past Continuous

Form: was/were + verb(+ing) 
Why? to describe a situation that continued for some time (1)
to give background information (2)
a continuous action that was interrupted by another action (3)
(past continuous with past simple)

‘But that wasn’t even the worst of it you see, because the lamps on the wall were burning blue. ‘

‘As Taborlin was preparing to fight, he recognised the figure, it was the Tinker he had met a few days earlier’

Past Perfect

Form: had + past participle
Why? to describe an action that happened before another past action

‘When he got to the ground and felt his side where they had stabbed him’

Now students have a better understanding of the grammar, get them to do some practice by completing the story. If they really liked the story of Taborlin they could produce the grammar by continuing the story or choose a prompt after the mystery story to write their own story in class or as homework.

Lesson Plan: Lexicography (B2+)

Hmmmmm, what is lexicography, you ask?

‘the activity or occupation of compiling dictionaries.’ – Sounds like fun, right?!

This is a nice little Ted Talk lesson focused on vocabulary and how words are selected in our dictionaries, also focusing on a discussion on what words should/shouldn’t be put into the dictionary.

Here are some new words added to the Oxford English dictionary in 2018 you can share with your students. Why do you think they were selected? What do you think is the criteria for adding a word to the dictionary? Are these words useful?

slimeball (n) – A repulsive or despicable person.

‘My boss is a complete slimeball – he always hits on me and he’s married!’

sausage party (n) -An event or group in which the majority of participants are male.

‘this is a total sausage party, let’s leave’

munted (adj) -In a state of disastrous disintegration; broken or ruined.

‘with government departments buying overpriced rubbish, no wonder the budget is all munted’

chemsex, n. -Sexual activity engaged in while under the influence of stimulant drugs

‘the majority of interviewees had a history of recreational drug use prior to becoming involved in chemsex’

facepalm, v. – A gesture in which the palm of one’s hand is brought to one’s face as an expression of dismay, exasperation, embarrassment.

‘did anyone else facepalm during this scene?’

crowd-surfer, n. – A person who engages in crowd-surfing at a concert.

‘I was recording a video of my favorite band when a crowd-surfer kicked my phone out of my hand’

Get students to check the questions before watching the video. Watch the video and then go through the answers. Put students into groups to discuss the questions and then get some feedback. If you have any time left, use the extension task below (it’s hilariously fun).


Game: Balderdash

Play in groups. One student will be the leader of the group. The teacher will give the leader of each group and set of words and definitions. The leader will give the word to the group (but not the definition!). Everyone must invent a definition for the word. The leader should write correct definition and then mix with the other definitions. The group must then decide the correct definition. Whoever chooses the correct definition gets a point. The student with the most points wins.

Lesson Plan: Present Perfect/Past Simple for Travel

Start the lesson by asking your students to discuss the following questions in pairs for a few minutes and then get some feedback.

  • Do you like to travel?
  • When did you last travel somewhere?
  • What is your most memorable travel experience?

Step 1 – Presentation

Now, ask students to brainstorm some countries and put them on one side of the board.

Ask a few sudents ‘Have you (ever) been to…?‘ If they say yes, ask some questions in the past simple to get more information.

  • Where did you visit?/Which city did you visit?
  • How long did you stay?
  • Who did you go with?
  • Why did you go there?
  • What did you do there?
  • Did you like it?

Step 2 – Practice with a dash of production


Elicit the the first question you asked from your students (present perfect) – board on left. Elicit the other questions (past simple) – board on right. Elicit name, form and why we use present perfect/past simple. Board grammar – including positive and negative examples for your students.

Present Perfect = experiences (finished action – action important, not time)

Past Simple = finished action (time/specific information important)

Instruct your students to do some practice in pairs. Student A ask a question in present perfect to Student B (using countries on the board if needed). If Student B says yes, ask more questions in past simple. If Student B says no, student B to now ask a question in present perfect and so on.

Give them 5-10 minutes depening on the level of the class.

*Note down any mistakes for delayed error correction (step 5)


Before we focused on experiences travelling to countries now I like to go through some examples of activities we experience while travelling. Brainstorm some activites including the verb (to ride an elephant, to go scuba diving,etc.) and put them on the other side of the board. Get the students to now practice the grammar again but with activities.

*Note down any mistakes for delayed error correction

Step 3 – More practice

Ok, so we’ve presented the grammar, practiced and had some nice production going on – but where’s the worksheet?

Give your students the worksheet. For the first and third activity they should do individually and then compare in pairs. If you are teaching a lower level class or they are struggling a little I would get them to do the second activity in pairs, otherwise follow the steps above.

Step 4 – Production,
production and more

There are several ways that we can get the students to produce the target language but that’s going to depend on the level, the students’ abilities and the time frame – you will have to adapt this lesson to suite your needs.


  • You could get the students to write questions for pair/group discussion
  • Write about their travel experiences


  • Hand out a Find Someone Who
  • Create a Find Someone Who with the class
  • Board Game

Step 5 – Error Correction

During this lesson you should have been noting down any mistakes the students made with the grammar. Number and put them on board. Tell students every sentence has a mistake and it’s their job to find the mistake and correct it.

If you want to jazz it up a little you could put them in pairs or smalls groups and award points for corrections.