Follow Along: 6 Engaging ESL Audio Stories with Worksheet Ideas
Ready, set, listen and lift off!
Are you using audio stories in your ESL classroom?
You should be, because they are a great way to get those English minds firing on all cylinders.
Developing an audio story for your ESL students is a perfect way to get their ears open for some excellent listening comprehension.
Audio stories are also a wonderful way to develop other ESL skills as well. Reading, writing, discussion, summarizing and much more can be implemented into any great ESL lesson plan while using audio stories as your main material.
What Do Audio Stories Bring to the ESL Classroom?
Finding good audio stories can be challenging at times, however, there are loads of audio stories designed for ESL students and teachers scattered across the web that are free to use. Some audio stories are even paired with text for your students to read along with.
The trick is finding the really good ones.
Finding the right audio story is important, and there are a few key aspects to be on the look out for when choosing the perfect audio story for your class.
- Skill level. Make sure the audio story is suitable for your students’ English level. As with every material you bring to class, you do not want to shatter confidence in the first few minutes of listening. You want your students to be engaged from the get go.
- Student interest. Keeping your material engaging is essential, and you want to be sure your audio story will pique your students’ interests. A businessman will most likely not be too excited about an audio story about fairy tales geared for children—he will likely want something more directly applicable to his career and interests in some way.
- Audio length. The length of the story plays a key factor in whether or not your students stay engaged in the material. If they listen for too long, minds will begin to wander and they may start thinking about what they will do after their ESL class instead of paying close attention to the material. You can use long ESL audio stories, but keep in mind when to break it up and have a bit of engaging discussion.
With the above in mind, crating an amazing, engaging and informative audio-based lesson can be much easier for you.
Yes, the main ESL skill developed in your lesson plan will be listening comprehension, however, you can build other skills along the way. Developing a fun and interactive worksheet which complements your chosen audio story is the best way to get those students feeling more attentive.
That is exactly why we have tracked down great audio stories with accompanying worksheet ideas you can slap together.
If you love using authentic English materials in the classroom, then be sure to check out FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
6 Enchanting ESL Audio Stories with Clever Worksheet Ideas
1. “The Golden Goose”
The “The Golden Goose” is a fun story perfect for learners in the beginner to pre-intermediate English level.
The “The Golden Goose” is one of the famed Brothers Grimm tales, and it is about a boy who finds a goose made of gold. Given the premise of the tale, you will want to use this one with younger students (through university level) and your more whimsical adult students.
This story runs 14 minutes long and can easily be broken down into two or three different sections to keep your students listening more carefully.
There’s also a text your students can follow along with as they listen and you can use this text for further work.
Developing your audio story worksheets does not need to be a difficult process. The main activity for your students is listening and processing the story. You want to make your worksheet light and easy to follow. Engage your students with a few aimed comprehension questions first and then ask one main question after.
Worksheet Ideas for “The Golden Goose”:
- Basic comprehension questions. Keep your students’ level in mind and develop your comprehension questions accordingly. “The Golden Goose” is a beginner level story and so should be the comprehension questions. For example, “What is the boy’s name?” and “Where did he find the golden goose?” For any higher skill levels, you can ask questions about feelings, motivations and causation. These comprehension questions should take up the full first page of the worksheet, and lead students through the whole story.
- Main question. On the back of the worksheet you will pose the next main question, “What would you do if you had a golden goose?” Here your students will partner up as the worksheet instructs and they will tell their partner what they would do with their golden gooses. This is a great worksheet idea for communication and you could even incorporate follow up questions. You could also have student use this worksheet to write down their own personal version of the story.
2. “Lazy Jack”
The audio story of “Lazy Jack” is another exceptional story for beginner level ESL students. This story is very similar to the “The Golden Goose” and is also about a boy thought to be lazy. Your students may agree about this assessment of the boy after listening to the story.
“Lazy Jack” is approximately six minutes long and your students can easily follow along with the text to add a more concrete comprehension base.
Worksheet Ideas for “Lazy Jack”:
- Classroom discussion and transcription. Developing a few open-ended questions about the story is a perfect way to get your whole classroom involved. Offer a few open-ended questions in the first section of your worksheet that will evoke creative thought in your students. For example, “Who does Jack live with? Can you describe a ‘dreary’ cottage?” You and your students will discuss these questions together, and they will write their thoughts and answers on the worksheet.
- Crafting dialogue. This second section of your worksheet is perfect for creating a team dialogue based on a specific part of “Lazy Jack.” You will have a scene from the story on the worksheet and your students should remember it from listening. For example, in the beginning of the story, Jack was too lazy to do anything, despite his mother’s wishes. Here you can have one student play the role of Jack and the other student play the role of Jack’s mother. Your students will create fun dialogue based on the scene and act it out after they have written their script.
3. “The Labors of Heracles”
“The Labors of Heracles” is an excellent audio story for pre-intermediate to advanced English levels.
Your students will need to settle in for a longer story since “The Labors of Heracles” is approximately 40 minutes long. You may even want to break this audio story into two lessons due to the length, using part one and part two on separate days.
This story is a Greek mythology classic following the Greek hero Heracles on his adventures. This wonderful story will keep your students engaged in a period so delicately described and widely taught. Some of your students may even know the story already, reading it in their native tongue.
Worksheet Ideas for “The Labors of Heracles”:
- Multiple choice questions. This tale in Greek mythology may already be a bit perplexing, so it would benefit your students if you opened your worksheet with a number of simple multiple choice questions. They can follow along and answer while the audio plays, giving them a way to look back later and see some key points of the story. So, focus on the main areas of the story and develop your questions from there. For example, “What was the first test Heracles faced?”
- Partner up. The next section of your worksheet will instruct your students to partner up and this will be a free discussion of sorts. Provide two drawn boxes that are labeled “like” and “dislike” that they can fill in on their own. Then have them discuss with their partner what they liked and disliked about the story of Heracles. Let the conversation flow!
- Presentations. After your students have answered all the multiple choice questions and had a chance to discuss the audio story with their partners, go over the answers and have them present what they learned to the rest of the class. Here they will explain what their partner liked and disliked about the story. This is a fun and encouraging exercise.
4. “A Christmas Carol”
Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” is a great audio story for ESL students at the pre-intermediate to advanced level. This story is a wonderful holiday classic that many of your students may already know and love.
You can use this story for all ages and interest levels due to its grounded principles on life and the holiday nature it represents.
“A Christmas Carol” is broken into three parts and runs approximately 40 minutes long. You will have to decide how many lessons it may take to cover all the material depending on class size and time. It may take weeks or months to get fully through it!
While you can use it any time, the best time is to start using it in the fall semester, or do it all in the month leading up to Christmas, to capture whatever positive feelings students already have associated with the holiday and this tale.
Worksheet Ideas for “A Christmas Carol”:
- Ease into comprehension with multiple choice. Since this audio is lengthy, it is a great idea to ease your students into the worksheet with at least a few easy multiple choice questions, if not an entire page of them, to get their English minds pumping. Here you can focus on character description and events, making the possible answers fun and simple. For example, “Was Marley dead or alive? Is Marley a ghost? How do Scrooge and Marley know each other?”
- Character description and summary. In the second section of the worksheet your students will group up to discuss and write a description for each character represented in the story. You will have the character’s name on the worksheet with space for your students’ detailed descriptions. It is optimal to have the appropriate amount of students in each group to cover all the characters in the story. You can set this up for each chapter of the story, adding and removing characters depending on where you are currently at.
- “A Christmas Carol” on Broadway! In the final section of your worksheet, your students will apply their deep character knowledge and develop a play. Your students will enjoy this fun and encouraging activity, putting themselves in place of the story’s characters and acting out a quick rendition of “A Christmas Carol.”
5. “The Secret Garden”
This story is a literary classic your intermediate to advanced students will surely enjoy.
Mind you, “The Secret Garden” is lengthy and contains 27 chapters of intermediate content and a complex storyline. This classic piece of literature explores the life of an only child living in India and your students’ imaginations will run wild while listening to this exceptional audio version.
Worksheet Ideas for “The Secret Garden”:
- Chapter development. In the first section of your worksheet, evoke a sense of understanding in your students by challenging them to really explore the chapters they listen to through detailed summaries. This audio story is meant for your higher level ESL students and you can challenge them a bit more with confidence. Let the first section of your worksheet be a writing exercise in which they will craft a short summary for each chapter.
- Prediction exercise. In section two of the worksheet you will harness your students’ imaginations and set them free to predict what will happen next in the story. Let’s say you cover chapters one to three in class and write detailed chapter summaries for each. The worksheet will stay consistent with the writing theme as they craft what they believe to be the next stage in the main character’s story. This is an excellent way to encourage your students to look deeper into a story they have listened to and summarized. They can also go back later and write a reflection comparing their prediction to what actually unfolded.
6. “The Monkey and the Shark”
Another exceptional audio resource, “The Monkey and the Shark” is a short mythological tale about a monkey and a shark’s relationship.
This audio story is five minutes long and great for all levels, ages and interests. The reason it is perfect for all levels of ESL is the story’s constant dialogue flow. Many ESL students find dialogue to be troublesome to follow at times, however, it is an essential part of native English speech.
Have your students follow along by coupling this audio story with the text.
Worksheet Ideas for “The Monkey and the Shark”:
- Material comprehension. Due to the story’s light text and dialogue, you can challenge your students with an open classroom discussion about what they have just heard and read. You can start out your questions easy and move into more challenging questions as the open conversation progresses. For example, “What does the monkey eat for breakfast?” and “How did Papa the shark convince Kima to go with him?” You will use the first section of your worksheet to outline the questions of the discussion and allow for room beneath each question for your students to jot down notes and thoughts during and after listening to the timeless tale.
- Focused philosophical questions. Yes, your students may have a good idea about what transpired between the monkey and shark, but what about the underlining messages? For example, “What type of friendship did Kima and Papa really have?” and “Which character do you side with more?” Your students will need to begin thinking differently in English and process their thoughts in a clear way. Section two of the worksheet will instruct students to pair up and discuss the questions on the worksheet. Each students will write down what their partner thinks. This will develop deeper discussion on topics which may not be as commonly found in the average ESL lesson.
- Crafting new dialogue. Using what your students learned during the first two sections of the worksheet activities, continue with a dialogue exercise. You will have your eager student teams craft a new story involving two different animals in a similar situation. Have them develop their short stories with heavy reliance on dialogue and natural speech. This dialogue activity will strike a chord in how they view conversation and allow them to build confidence and ESL sub skills along the way.
Audio stories will empower your students to listen intently to English while enjoying a storyline they can understand. Listening is a powerful ESL tool in a student’s arsenal and listening activities can harbor other exceptional ESL skills as well.
Incorporating writing, reading, communication and classroom interaction is the perfect combination for an ESL lesson plan, and it can be easily achieved by using audio stories in your lesson plan.
Share a few of your favorite stories with your students.
They are sure to enjoy your enthusiasm in regards to their ESL journey.
Stephen Seifert is a writer, editor, professor of English and adventurer. With over 7 years of teaching experience to students worldwide, he enjoys the many aspects of culture and traditions different from his own. Stephen continues his search for writing inspiration, boldly enjoying life to the fullest.