Communicating Culture through Folk Stories

Marie Turner, Namie Jr. High School Takasaki


Quick Guide

  • Key Words: Speaking, Listening, Reading, Writing, Vocabulary, Grammar
  • Learner English Level: All
  • Learner Maturity Level: Elementary school to Adult
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes
  • Activity Time: 35-40 minutes


For beginner and intermediate students, expressing their own culture in English can be challenging. One way in which culture can be communicated is through the telling of a folk story. If students can explain a popular story or folk tale in English it will enhance their confidence in speaking. I have used well-known folk tales with students of all ages. I found that the students were excited about telling these popular stories. For the following lesson I used the adventures of Momotaro to help students practice the integrated skills of listening, speaking and writing. It also helps build vocabulary and strengthens students' understanding of grammar.


For preparation I went to the library and found a children's book of the Momotaro story. I copied the pictures depicting each scene. Then on an size of A3 size piece of paper I cut and pasted the pictures in sequence. I made a copy of this sheet for each student. That's all you need!


First, I have the students look at the sheet and tell me what story this is. Then I ask the students to look at each picture and write a verb that describes the action in that scene. They write the verb under the picture.

Next on a separate sheet of paper I ask them to write full sentences using the verb and describing what they see in each picture. I will start them off with "Once upon a time ...." Depending on the class level I will have the students work either independently or in pairs to tell the story on paper.

Third, we check the answers. There can be several correct answers. I write the best answers on the board. Now we have the story of Momotaro.

Then I have the students repeat after me the story line by line to practice pronunciation. Now the students are ready to pair up. One student reads the story while the other student looks at the picture sheet and listens. After they have practiced twice they are ready to tell each other the story using only the picture sheet.

Variations and Hints

1) 1 have used the folk tale "Urashima Taro" also with much success. Any short folk tale or well-known story will work.

2) When you prepare the picture sheet don't put the pictures in sequence. Let the students put the story in the correct order by numbering the pictures.

3) For intermediate students the last part of the lesson can be the students writing possible dialogue for each character to go along with the story. After they have had time to practice their scripts each student chooses a character and performs their story for the rest of the class.