Story Listening: Frequently Asked Questions


1.   What is Story Listening?

Story Listening is orally telling stories with: illustrations, gestures, and modified speech our students will understand.  Story Listening was developed and researched by Dr. Beniko Mason, who has many resources here.


2.  How do I get started? 

Story Listening does not require special training, however watching a live demonstration helps. Here’s my full explaination of getting started with Story Listening.  Consider watching videos in a foreign langauge like Kathrin Shechtman’s German Story Listening videos to experience the story from a learner’s perspective.


3.   How do I prepare for the story?   How do I actually tell the story? 

Dr. Mason wrote in 2014 these very simple steps:


“Preparation for story-listening class:

1) The teacher decides which story to tell.

2) The teacher decides which words to introduce.

  The classroom procedure:

1) The teacher tells the story.

2) The teacher draws pictures on the board to make the story more comprehensible. The teacher writes the words on the board to let the students know that he/she is using the words to tell the story.

3) The teacher asks the students to write a summary of the story in their native language. The teacher can evaluate her/his lesson that day by reading the summary of the story they write.”



5.  What activities do I do before or after I tell the story? 

We do not interrupt the story to ask “circling” questions and we do not test students on targets. The key is to engage and assess in a fun, pressure-free way with “limited accountability.”  Dr. Mason writes “A story-listening lesson should not include dictation exercises, should not be accompanied with fill-in-the-blanks, or match-the–short-dialogs-and-the-pictures exercises. It’s the story that counts” (2014, 6).

Activities should not consume our lesson, but for a few minutes after a story, we can invite children to respond in a creative, fun way by acting, illustrating, speaking or writing in L1 or L2.  Here is an example of a written retell with Story Listening.


6.  What is the difference between Story Listening and read alouds of books (big books)?

Read alouds are typically reading the text of stories verbatim from printed books.  In Story Listening, we put the book down and just tell stories orally.

Here is a pdf to explain the differences.


7.  How do I find stories? 

It helps to begin with familiar stories with repetition and simple plots: the Three Little Pigs, the Boy Who Cried Wolf, etc.  Later, teachers can use any folktale, fairytale, or story that is fun for students. Here is a list of 101 stories Dr. Mason uses, however each teacher can use and adapt stories they love.

ESL students can appreciate folktales from around the world, especially if they represent their home cultures.  Here are some international databases with stories organized by country or region:







Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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