Posted in Vocabulary Classes, Young Learners

Once upon a time: Stories and fantasy vocabulary for young learners


This is a lesson plan from a new series for young learners. I originally taught these classes spread over 2-3 half hour classes, they could obviously be combined into one hour and a half class.

Part 1 – Fantasy vocabulary

Print out this set of flashcards from MES:

Click to access fantasy1_flash.pdf

MES flashcards are a fantastic resource, I’ve been steadily working my way through all of the different categories with my primary classes.

Stick the flashcards to the board in 3 columns with enough space to write the names in next to each one. Then encourage students to name the ones they know. However,they also have to say where the flashcard is on the board: “on the left/right, in the middle, at the top/bottom, above, below, between, the 1st/2nd/3rd one down.”

Once you have gone through all the names and drilled the pronunciation you could play a number of games with the vocab:

Bingo – Students draw a 3×3 grid on a piece of paper and fill each box with a piece of vocabulary. You then read out sentences about each character, for example: “I breath fire and fly over the castle.” (Dragon) “I do magic and mix magic potions” (wizard) they cross off the characters they have as you describe them until they get a line or bingo (when they have crossed off all 9 squares).

Mimic – Print out the set of fantasy game cards from MES as well. Split the class into groups of 3-4, encourage the groups to think of an English name for their team. Then they take it in turns to send one member up to the board, this member then has 1 minute to mimic as many of the different characters using the game cards. Their team receives one point for each correctly guessed character. The team with the most points wins.

Part 2 – Running dictation

By now students should have picked up most of the vocabulary. Put them in pairs, one student sits at one end of the room with a pen and paper. Stick the dragon story handout to the opposite wall of the classroom. The other student in the pair has to run across the class room, memorise a sentence from the story and then tell it to their partner who writes it on the paper. Ensure that students copy the sentences in order and that they speak in English the whole time, especially when spelling out words to their partner. Set a time limit of 10 minutes for this activity. Students switch roles after sentence 5.

Once they have finished have them sit back in front of the board and dictate the sentences back to you. The students then correct their versions of the story, the winning team is the one with the fewest mistakes. You should also clear up any vocabulary issues, paying particular attention to the past verbs used in the story, they will be needed in part 3.

Part 3 – Write a fantasy story

Students can either stay in their pairs or you can put them in bigger groups. Encourage them to work together to invent a new fantasy story, they can use any of the vocabulary covered in part one. They will also need some extra vocabulary:

Once upon a time there was……

lived/rescued/saved/cast a spell/fought/killed/captured/went/gave/kissed

They all lived happily ever after.

They will also want to use more vocabulary so ensure they ask for it properly: “How do you say ________ in English?” If your knowledge of your student’s L1 isn’t too hot make sure you have a good dictionary. Guide and help them as they write their story, set a time limit of 10-15 minutes. Then give them 5-10 minutes to practice telling their story and acting it out for part 4.

Part 4 – Story telling and acting

Each group should either nominate a narrator or share narration amongst them (the latter is the best option). Encourage whoever is narrating to do it SLOWLY and LOUDLY, so that the others can actually hear the story. Then each group puts on their little play. My kids loved doing this, some where in stitches, make sure they take a bow at the end and give each other a round of applause. You could award prizes for various things: best actor/actress, most imaginative story, best narrator, best vocabulary, best grammar. Ensure every group gets at least one prize.


Kids have to name one of the characters from the flashcards before they are allowed to leave the classroom.

Dragon story:

  1. Once upon a time there was an enormous castle.
  2. In the castle lived a King, a queen and a beautiful princess.
  3. One day an evil dragon and an evil troll came to the castle and kidnapped the princess.
  4. The king and queen were very sad.
  5. But then, a brave knight and a famous wizard arrived at the castle, they decided to rescue the princess.
  6. They travelled to the cave where the troll and the dragon lived.
  7. The knight fought the dragon and the wizard fought the troll.
  8. The knight and the wizard won the battle and saved the princess.
  9. And they all lived happily ever after.


Barcelona based English Teacher, blogger and sometime actor and director.

One thought on “Once upon a time: Stories and fantasy vocabulary for young learners

Leave a Reply