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Teach Your ESL Students Using "The Princess and the Pea"

By Makoto

Fairy tales are a great way to teach English while getting your students' attention and interest. Read up to find out how to use Fairy Tales in your class.

Step #1: Using Fairy Tales

Using a fairy tale as a way to teach English can be a very good way to get students of all ages interested. This particular lesson plan will Fairy Tale Time focus on “The Real Princess” (The Princess and the Pea) by Hans Christian Andersen. Keep in mind that the lesson can be adapted to just about any fairy tale. I picked this one because it is quite short compared to other fairy tales, which leaves plenty of time to study it in greater detail.

The lesson consists of a listening activity where the students fill in the blanks followed by a review activity of the new vocabulary by the means of a crossword puzzle.

The first step will be to get your hands on the fairy tale itself. This can easily by looking around for a bit on the net. For your convenience, click this link to "The Real Princess" to get started.

Step #2: Identifying the New Words

Take some time to read through the text and identify the words that might cause trouble for the students and underline them. If you're unsure, just underline them; better safe than sorry. Once you're done looking through the text and identifying the difficult words, move on to the next step.

Step #3: Translating the Words...

It is now the time to give more information about the words. I prefer to give a direct translation in the students' native language. For instance, my students are Chinese, so I would write down “princess: 公主. I do this for every word that I underlined in the text.

Once you're done, put in the words and their translation at the top of your sheet. Make sure the words are scrambled (not in the order they appeared in the text).

Refrain from giving English definitions to the words as this will be another activity later on in the class.

Step #4: Fill in the Blanks

Copy and paste the “Princess in the Pea” in your word processing software and put in the difficult words in bold. Once you are done, print this copy, this will be your answer sheet.

Once this is done, replace the words in bold (the difficult words) by blanks (_____).

This will be the students' sheet.

Step #5: Librivox

Now is the time to get the audio file for your fairy tale. In order to do this, simply head over to Librivox is a great resource for audio material. It is pretty much a free collection of audio books. Although the actual books are sometimes read by non-native speakers, the quality is usually very good. Click on this link to hear "The Real Princess"--aka, "The Princess and the Pea."

Step #6: Review Activity: Crossword Puzzle

Once you have finished preparing the student sheet with the blanks and the missing words and after downloading your audio file, write down an English definition for each one of the difficult words you selected earlier (as opposed to a translation for them).

You can either use a dictionary to do so or make up your own if you consider the definition to difficult to understand.

Once you're done, head over to this free, instant crossword puzzle generator available at

Simply follow those instructions (available on the website):

Separate each word and its clue with a slash "/" character. Press the Enter key once after each clue, except for the last clue. Clues can be up to 255 character long. Note: If you get an error, press your browser's Back button and make sure there are no blank lines, including after the last clue.

For example:

Princess / The daughter of the King and Queen.

Copy and paste the puzzle at the back of the students' sheet.

Step #7: Teaching the Class

*You will need some speakers and a computer of an MP3 player in order to do this. I prefer to use my MP3 and my speakers as I don't need to transfer files to the school computer.

Simply plug in the speakers in your headphone output.

  • Simply hand out a sheet each to the students and have them listen to the tale. Ask them to fill in the blanks from the word bank at the bottom of their sheet.
  • Students should be able to find the answers after two or three times, at most. Once they're done, have the students read the text (now free of blanks). Have each student read one sentence.
  • Students should have the original text now, mistake free. Have them do the crossword puzzle. They should be able to do this fairly easily as they have the translation for the original words as well as the word definitions in the crossword puzzle.
  • If you still have some spare time, let them tell you about fairy tales they know about.