My ESL Brown bear: the activities


There are so many activities, lesson plans, teacher’s notes and ideas out there about Brown Bear that I have to admit that I am a bit overwhelmed. My first idea was to find activities around the book and try to gather them in one place, but if I did that…well, this would be the longest post ever! That’s why I have decided to choose 3 of the most popular activities that everybody uses around this story to include in this post. In the future, I plan to explore learning colours, animals and senses as thematic units and maths, music and art as cross-curricular areas, all using this book.

The Top Three Activities Using Brown Bear

1. BIG BOOKS AND MINI BOOKS: Here I refer to the book I use to tell the story and also to mini-books to take home.

Big books

Some teachers find it interesting to make their own big book to tell the story. With another book, I would be pro making your own, as it doesn’t cost so much and we can engage students in the process. In this case however, if it’s possible, I recommend buying Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? big book edition, for one simple but colourful reason, the pictures. Eric Carle is an amazing artist and his collages are bright, colourful and inspiring for kids.

If you are interested in creating your own big book version have a look at this web site: The virtual vine

In my opinion, the best thing is to read the original book but to keep in mind that it’s possible to create other big books for the class using the same pattern but for other topics. I have found these great ideas:

  • Classmates book. Use photos of the students and their first name. It will go as follows:

– Peter, Peter, Who do you see?

-I see Ben looking at me.

– Ben, Ben, who do you see?

(You can find instructions and ideas in I love kindergarten)

  • Holidays book. Use the pattern to introduce or review special event vocabulary, such as:

– Pumpkin, pumpkin, what do you see?

– I see a witch looking at me.

– Witch, witch, what do you see?

  • Create your very own classroom version: Students can vary the original by changing the color of the animals or by changing the animals. You can find a lesson plan that develops this idea in Edschool.

– Pink fish, pink fish, what do you see?

– I see a green cat, looking at me.

– Green cat, green cat, what do you see?

All of these ideas will help to extend the story. I have made a predecodable and a decodable book version of the story for my students to learn how to read as the vocabulary is really simple and repetitive. Another idea is to create a version with the animals only and allow your students to extent it by adding a color for each animal. If they have already seen other adjectives such as sizes, they could also use them as follows:

– Big bear, big bear, what do you see?

– I see a small frog looking at me.

  • Any other topic: It can basically be used with any topic:

Farm animals: farmer, farmer, what do you see? I see a sheep looking at me.

Transportation: blue car, blue car, what do you see? I see a red truck looking at me.

You can find great comments from teachers telling about the big books that they prepare in class in Teacher’s net. You can find a lesson plan here Teachers.

Mini books

We can also make mini-books for children to take home or to leave in our library corner. Again we can just reproduce the original by coloring the pictures or create them around other topics. To make them you’re going to need the pictures of the animals. You can download black and white and color pages from DLTK

There are some ready made and ready to print mini books. You can find a nice one in Teacher’s love. Other books can be found in Hubbardscupboard, here you can download the pages to create an I see colors book and Teddy bear book.

I printed  the pictures from DLTK and every week I gave my students an animal to color. That session everything was related to that color, trying to find things in the class or items of clothes that matched. When we finished all the animals I stapled them together and printed a front page where students wrote their names. The example in the picture is with 4 year old students. They held them and “read-recite” (even if they can’t read, they knew it by heart) to their classmates during several sessions, sometimes in pairs and sometimes in small groups. The story planning concluded with students taking them home and showing their parents. They were really proud with their little version of our friendly brown bear! Their first English book!

2.  POCKET CHART. They seem to be very common in many schools and among teachers, but to be honest it doesn’t seem to be so popular here in Spain. I saw one for the first time last year when I received a second-hand one as a present. I find them extremely useful for any class, any subject and a must-have tool for a language class and I’m surprised that ESL books don’t come with one along with the course pack. Have a look at the ideas of using the pocket chart in the literacy class in The virtual vine.

Basically you can either buy one or you can make your own by laminating a big color cardboard. Then, stick strips of clear plastic from one side to the other, making the pockets with them.

Once you have the pocket chart you need the cards that you’re going to use with it. You can make them yourself or use some ready made. Some examples:

– The color, animal and picture of the animal together in Edschool.

– The picture of the animal and the name. AtoZ kids stuff card 1, card 2, card 3.

– Sight word cards. Teachers book bag.

– Pictures of the animals. You might need to reduce the size of them. DLTK.

– Names and picture cards. Edschool.

Color- Animal

I start with a really simple activity connecting the color and the animal. At the beginning, I place the color in the pocket chart and a student has to pick the correct animal. Later on, when they know how the pocket chart works, I say the color, one student picks the color card and places it in the pocket chart. Then, he or she picks the corresponding animal and places it next to the color. Finally, the student says the color and animal together. (Note: remember that the order of adjectives is especially important for Spanish learners. Place the adjective first like in the picture)


I have noticed that even children who don’t know how to read yet can distinguish copy CD’s of games or music with only the name on it without any picture to help them. This made me think they see the word as a symbol or picture and then they interpret it. That’s why I find really interesting to use sight words at an early age. But when they start learning how to read in their mother tongue they start using the same strategies to read in English which can interfere and it’s advisable to show the written form later on (specially for Spanish children who tend to read English syllabically as in Spanish)

Indeed, I have started to use sight words with preschool kids. They don’t have the same amount of exposure to the language as native speakers, but they could start recognizing some words to be able to connect picture- word-pronunciation. Well at least this is what I’m trying and children can easily get words such as cat, fish, blue or red.You can have a look of how to use it in hubbardscupboard.

Beginning of the word- picture

If we are introducing the alphabet this could be a good opportunity to match the animal with the letter that the word starts with. It would be quite difficult for very young learners to perform with only an hour a week of English. But with young learners this would be a wonderful exercise to practice the alphabet and also to be aware of the animals’ names and the words themselves. There are many options of connecting this with pronunciation devices. If we are introducing the jolly phonics it would be a good idea to connect the sound b (bat the ball as the jingle phonics sing) with other words such as bear, blue or brown.

For more ideas related to this go to The virtual vine.

There are great ideas on how to make and use a pocket chart and activities to use them with books like Brown Bear in A guide for using Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? in the classroom. They are intended for students between 7 and 11 yr olds, but we have to remember that these activities are for native speakers so we need either to simplify them or to use them with kids from 9 and above.

3. THEATER. The last activity I’m going to mention is acting out. It could be started by having half of the class being brown bears and the other half being monkeys for example. When they see the picture of their animal they repeat “brown bear, brown bear”. From this simple beginning we can go as far as hanging a necklace with the picture of the animal for each child to wear and perform the role of the animal they are wearing. To further see how this works have a look at hubbardscupboard and also Edschool. There are notes about rehearsing for a performance of Brown bear or the class book in Ellis and Brewster’s book Tell it again!

In my next posts I will give ideas of topic activities related to this story and also cross curricular activities. Stay tuned.

Web sites of interest:

The official Eric Carle site, ideas from teachers:

Buy the big book edition: and

Find printable pictures:

Lots of ideas and lesson plans:

A-book-a-day classroom instructions:

Class books ideas:

Comments and ideas from teachers:

Make your own big book and other ideas:

iphoto book:

Cards and flashcards to color:

Color flashcards:

Bill Martin jr. reads Brown bear:

Sight words:

Literacy class ideas, pocket chart:

Mini book downloadable:

Bill Martin jr interview:

Buy a guide for Brown bear, brown bear:

Buy the book Tell it again!:


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