Why You Need to Use Storyboard That to Teach ESL

By Jessica Miller

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Use Storyboard That for Visual Vocabulary

Storyboard That is software that easily allows anyone to make storyboards or comics. It is an excellent educational tool whether you're teaching art, history, or language. As an ESL teacher, I find Storyboard That particularly useful for teaching English. It's an interactive, fun, and visual way to teach students grammatical concepts, vocabulary, reading and comprehension, and more!

In fact, I have used it to teach students ranging from age six to 50+ at various levels from beginner to advanced. I've compiled a list of reasons I think you should too if you're an English teacher of any kind.

1. It’s Free at the Basic Level

The software is free to use at the most basic level though you can pay a monthly subscription to get access to more features. The main features include three or six cell storyboards with a classic storyboard layout and thousands illustrations. The pricing chart provides a list of the features included with each different subscription.

2. Free Trial

Storyboard That offers a free trial for 14 days if you need help deciding whether a paid subscription is right for you. While it seems like a short period, it's standard for digital subscriptions, and it's enough time to try it out and decide if it's worth it for you to upgrade. There's even teaching guides and activities to make planning assignments quick and easy! You can test the features of a paid option in your classroom and with your students before investing. Bonus: no credit card required!

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3. An Educational Subscription Option

The free option is good enough for basic use, but there are three other options: Personal, Team or Business, and Educational. Obviously, the Educational subscription is best for teachers and educators; it starts at USD 8.99 per month. This package includes multiple users, up to 100 cells per storyboard, privacy and security, rubric integration, an administrative dashboard, and more. You can also access and download pre-made storyboards and a variety of other resources.

4. It’s Digital

While I have taught English in person, I currently teach online via platforms such as Skype and Zoom. The fact that this resource is digital is a huge plus for me because I can share my screen with students and we can view and edit storyboards together. There is an option to download the images and convert to a PowerPoint as well as view it as a slideshow, meaning storyboards can be presented in a classroom via a projector. It's also possible to print the storyboards and view them on paper in any setting.

5. Fun, Interactive, Visual & Easy to Use

Most importantly, Storyboard That offers a visual, interactive way to teach English. When learning more complicated ideas and meanings, students can see the imagery as well as the facial expressions, which provides a visual context that complements a verbal explanation. Being able to see depictions of words is a more effective means of learning and understanding new vocabulary. Students can associate the actual object with the word rather than just a translation of the word.

There are countless ways in which Storyboard That can be used to teach ESL. The website alone offers several suggestions and even includes some resources for teachers. You can explore and experiment with the software to discover how you can best use it to teach your students, but I have listed a few specific ways that I use it.

Grammar & Vocabulary Activities

New Words

Storyboards are very effective for teaching students new vocabulary. You can create more detailed storyboards for advanced students using a variety of new vocabulary, or you can make very basic storyboards with only a few new vocabulary words. It's not even necessary to tell a story with every storyboard you create; you can just take advantage of the thousands of pictures, scenes, characters, and colors to illustrate each new word, as I have in the examples below. The images reinforce the meaning of the new word and help students associate the word with an actual depiction of what it is.

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Confusing Words & Words With Multiple Meanings

English is known for its many confusing words—those that can be used in a variety of ways, those with multiple meanings, those that sound the same but have different meanings, etc. Storyboards are a great way to show students the differences in use, meaning, and spelling of these words. For example, many students are confused by look, see, watch; they are all related to sight, but a story or image can clarify the subtle differences in meaning and usage. For words with multiple definitions, a story or even just a few images can illustrate the different meanings, as well as how and when each can be used.


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I have created storyboards specifically to teach onomatopoeia. The example above demonstrates how a storyboard can communicate onomatopoeia, as well as why and how they're used. Instead of giving a verbal explanation, a storyboard shows how and in which scenarios these words are typically used—no more trying to think of examples on the spot!


I have created storyboards that focus on specific prepositions, which seem to be one of the more difficult parts of English for ESL students. When teaching prepositions with Storyboard That, it’s not necessary to always tell a story - especially with lower level students - as this takes away from the focus on prepositions. See my example below of a simple storyboard focusing on prepositions of place.

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Reading & Comprehension


While the text in storyboards is usually limited, it still provides excellent opportunities for students to practice reading. In fact, storyboards can be more interesting, exciting, and interactive than reading a novel or passage from a website. Since they are just like comics, they include pictures and tell a story, which makes it more fun and engaging for students.


Storyboard That’s visual component aids students in understanding what they just read. This is especially helpful for students who struggle to comprehend reading passages, as they can use the images to see what is happening and to infer the meaning of the text.

Storytelling & Writing

Telling a Story & Writing

Students can read the storyboards you have already created, and through doing this, they can learn how to tell stories. But Storyboard That can be used in an even more interactive way—the students can create their own stories or finish stories that have been started. These activities teach students how to tell or continue a narrative in a logical, chronological way. They can also practice their English writing. Additionally, students can learn language around culture by creating stories about their own culture and reading or contributing to stories about other cultures.

Create a Storyboard 

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Themes & Morals

For more advanced students, Storyboard That can be used to discuss themes and morals. You can ask your students to identify the main theme(s) and moral(s) of the story. Focusing on a specific theme is also a better way to teach more abstract ideas and difficult expressions.

You can find ideas and storyboards that have been started online to help you begin. If you use Storyboard That to teach ESL already, how do you use it?

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