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.