Back to school

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Well, I’m back after extending my maternity leave to include my blog but after months of the full-time job of taking care of my little girl, I’m definitely ready to start teaching and go back to school. I don’t know how other teachers feel, but getting back into the classroom after an extended period is always a bit nervewracking for me. I get over this by making up a check-list that automatically gets me back into the routine and hopefully the kids too!

The first class is a perfect chance to:

– Check previous knowledge

– Review basic vocabulary

– Motivate and encourage to participate

– Show how classes are going to be organised in terms of groupings

– Give some language to “take away” (The Primary English Teacher’s Guide, Brewster and Ellis )

– Get to know your students and their preferences.

Here is how I have organised my first Back-to-School class:

Age

Young learners: 6-8 y.o.

Adaptable to other levels by simply changing the difficuly and content of questions.

Aims

– Check their previows knowledge

– Introduce themselves

– Asking /answering questions

– Keep a record of what we are studying/dealing with and individual preferences.

Language

– What’s your name?, How old are you? What’s your favorite…? What’s the weather like?

– Numbers, colors, weather.

Resources

– A photocopy of a flower on both sides of A4 paper, crayons, student’s photo (optional)

Procedure

* Practice/Drill with the whole class the questions above. This can be done by throwing a ball from one student to another asking their names, then move on to the age and so on.

Tip: Test their memories and make sure that they are listening to each other by asking every now and then, ‘What’s her name again? How old is Jorge?’

* Hand out the photocopy. Students cut it out, color the main petals with different colours and record the answers to the questions on one side and the actual questions on the other.

* Demonstrate in front of the class with a pair of students. Two students stand up with their flowers, encourage students to ask and answer the questions (if they need they can refresh their memory by looking at the back of their flowers.)

Tip: This is a crucial moment for shy students. If they don’t feel confident or secure from the start, the rest of the year’s speaking exercises are going to be difficult for them. Don’t force someone into the limelight if they aren’t ready for it.

* To end the class choose some pairs to demonstrate in front of the class, but now after completing the questions the rest have to remember the information and report to the others (as mentioned in the tip above, this gives them a reason to listen to the rest of the class): What’s her favorite colour?

* Post the flowers up on a bulletin board, this way we have our students’ information handy and we still have some petals left for other classes to record their favorite food, clothes or pets, thus recyling the language at a later date.

Flower pattern taken from: Festivals, Paul Johnson

As I mentioned before, getting back into the classroom is always a bit nervy for me, but a tried and true, well-planned class is the best way to get over those butterflies and set the tone for the rest of the year.

Best of luck to everyone this year!

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Your schoolbag

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This is Ken’s schoolbag

How’s your schoolbag?

We can make a big bulletin board all together with all your pictures. Send me a drawing of your schoolbag and  I’ll hang it on our Schoolbag Bulletin Board.

My schoolbag lesson plan

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The story

Ken is happy to show us his schoolbag. Ken’s story is going to let us explore classroom items with our students. This is a simple story as it is but you can make it more engaging for your students introducing it in a different way.

Sung as the story “Brown bear, brown bear”

– Peter, Peter, what do you have? I have a pen in my schoolbag.

– Brenda, Brenda, what do you have? I have a brush in my schoolbag.

As a chant

– I have a book, I have a pen, I have a brush in my bag.

As a role play

Prepare Ken’s bag with the same items as in the story. Choose a child and let him play Ken’s role.

As a real life situation

Ask  students to take out their schoolbags and tell us what they have in them.

Every story can be explored in many different ways. Find the one which suits your class and with which you find yourself more comfortable. If you have time try several ones, this way, you will be able to reach every kind of learner: auditory, visual and kinaesthetic.

Vocabulary activities

If this is the first time that your students are encountering this vocabulary, the words should be extensively practised orally before doing any activity which implies writing (especially important for Spanish learners). It is important not to introduce the writing until they can say the word otherwise students will tend to read it as they would read it in their mother tongue. Even if the vocabulary is familiar to the students it is always a good idea to start with several activities related to it. Following the five stages to vocabulary learning given by Brewster and Ellis these are some activities we could use:

Stage 1. Understanding and learning the meaning of new words:

We can use flashcards or other kind of pictures or drawings but as we are talking about objects in our classroom, the best approach is to use the items themselves. Pick up a pen and tell them to show you theirs and so on. Remember words should be repeated a million times.

Stage 2. Attending to form.

It’s time to repeat the vocabulary as many times as possible. Take your bag and begin taking things from it while naming them. If you have Ken’s bag ready, then begin taking the items out and naming them. This is the moment for students to listen and repeat.

Stage 3. Vocabulary practising, memorizing and checking activities.

The magic box. Take a box and put some items in it. Tell your students to pick one and say the name.

What’s missing and Kim’s game. The first one is played with pictures while the second is played with objects. Tell your students to look at them, remove one and tell them to guess the picture or item missing.

Label your class. If you have a place where resources are stored, get your students to make labels for the containers.

Stage 4. Consolidating, recycling, extending, organizing, recording and personalizing vocabulary.

Picture dictionary. Have them create their own picture dictionary. They can draw and label the objects or if you have access to a photocopy machine you can give them one ready to be labelled. Click  picdicbag or go to resources on this blog.

Practise spelling. Use the “look, say, cover, write, check” technique.

Reading activities

At this age, children are learning how to read in their mother tongue. For this reason it is really important to introduce every word first orally before introducing any writing. Once familiarized with the word you can convey the picture of the item and the name so that they can associate the pronunciation and the writing.

It is questioned if we should teach learning to read or reading to learn. I will go more in depth in another post. In my opinion it is good to teach students how to read in another language. To do so, in this lesson, you can use a predecodable book. Click  prebookbag or go to resources.