A Spooky Halloween Classroom

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A look at the little ghosts and goblins at work… and, of course, play!

To see how this pictures were put into practice, click on this link for Halloween lesson plans.

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My Very Hungry EFL Caterpillar

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The very hungry caterpillar is a must-read book for native English speaking children. This book has also some valuable features which make it a wonderful resource that can be used in the EFL class.

There are thousands of web pages and ideas out there and as in previous posts, I like to try to find the most inspiring ideas that can be used in the EFL class. The best thing is that these activities are not solely limited to EFL, but include math activities, literacy activities and even crafts. Some of these activities can be used in exactly the same way would be done with native kids of the same age while others have been adjusted due to the different amount of input and vocabulary between native English speakers and students of EFL.

Keep in mind that this lesson plan is only a suggestion, as every group is different in size, time available each week and so on. Feel free to pick and choose activities and create your own lesson plan.

 

Age

  • Very young learners. From 3 to 7 years old.

Aims

  • Get to know a popular story.
  • Enjoy listening to a story.
  • Act out the story. Participate.
  • Learn the main vocabulary of the story.

Vocabulary

  • Food items
  • Numbers
  • Days of the week
  • Colours

Resources

  • The very hungry caterpillar book (big book version is a bonus). Worksheets below. Shaped labels.

The story

You can find some suggestions of how to use stories by clicking the tab above. Lets start by watching a nice video of the tale.

Activities

If you are using this book at the beginning of the academic year or you haven’t yet prepared a mini office for your students, you can make one while doing these activities and continue to add parts such as colours, numbers and so on. The great thing about mini offices is that you can use them while dealing with this book and then use it as a reference tool throughout the rest of the year.

Incentive chart

Before starting the activities you might want to hang an incentive chart on a bulletin board. Depending on the group you might want to focus on different aspects such as: behaviour during the activity, finishing the activity in the time given or tidyness. You can print the following model or create your own one:

Incentive chart (www.makinglearningfun.com)

Maths

Worksheet 1: Trace the number

Make a copy for each child of the worksheet 1. Ask the children to trace the numbers. As they finish sit down with them individually or in small groups and repeat the numbers while pointing.

Note: This will be part of the mini office.

Worksheet 2: Stick circles and form a caterpillar.

Make a copy for each child of worksheet 2. Give them round shaped labels of the same or different colours. Ask students to stick as many circles as the number shows like in the example above.

Worksheet 3: Create a mini book.

Make a copy for each student of worksheet 3: number 1, number 2, number 3, number 4 and number 5. You can work on a number every day or focus on one every week (depending on the time available). Give children round shaped labels. Ask students to stick the labels on the number, raising awareness of the number shape. Then ask them to trace the number. Finally ask them to colour the fruit. Go around the tables asking students which number is which.

Resources:

worksheet 1

Worksheet 2

Worksheet 3: number 1, number 2, number 3, number 4, number 5.

Other worksheets

Here are some other worksheets you can practice with your students (from http://www.makinglearningfun.com)

Other resources


There is a wonderful teacher’s guide where you can find activities like this mini book. Have a look at the sample pages available on their web page: Teacher created resources

Colours

Worksheet 1 and 2: Make a very colourful caterpillar.

Note: It would be ideal to read books about colours such as Brown bear, brown bear what do you see? before this lesson so that students are already familiar with colours.

Make a copy for each child of worksheet 1 and/or worksheet 2. Worksheet 1 consists on colouring the circles, cutting them and sticking them on another piece of paper (little children might not have yet acquired the ability to cut on their own). Worksheet 2 is easier and only requires them to colour the circle following the colour names.

Note: This will be part of the mini office.

Resources:

Worksheet 1

Worksheet 2

Days of the week

Prepare some flashcards with the name of the days of the week, the food items and the numbers from 1 to 5. In this activity we will use a pocket chart.

Hang the pocket chart low enough so that children can easily reach the strips but high enough so that everybody can see the result. Ask students about the story: On Monday, the hungry caterpillar ate… Place Monday on the pocket chart while talking and elicit the number and the food item, then place them. You can demonstrate another or if you see some children are getting the idea, or you have used the pocket chart before and students are familiar with it, just call a child and have him or her place the flashcards in order as in the picture.

Some beautiful flashcards are (from http://www.makinglearningfun.com)

Sunday

Monday-Tuesday

Wednesday-Thursday

Friday-Saturday

Alphabet

Worksheet 1: Make an alphabet caterpillar.

Make a copy of worksheet 1 for each student. Use alphabet charts, magnets, sand boxes and so on to demonstrate the letters of the alphabet. Older students might already be familiar with them whereas first-years might need to work on it throughout the year.

Note: This will be part of the mini office.

Resources:

Worksheet 1

Food items

Worksheet 1: Spelling

Make a copy of worksheet 1 for each student. Ask the students to cut it into four squares. Following the look, say, cover, write and check technique, tell students to practice the spelling of each word by folding the name bellow as in the picture.

Worksheet 2: Words and letters

Make a copy of worksheet 2 for each student. Show them the difference between a letter (show a magnet letter) and a word (show a flashcard). Ask them to colour green the circles with a word and blue the circles with a letter.

Resources:

Worksheet 1

Worksheet 2

Mini Office

We are ready now to make our mini office. Ask students to cut or help them cut the worksheet with the colours, the numbers, the days of the week, the fruits flashcards and the alphabet. Stick them on the mini office as you wish and it will be ready to use.

As this book has been so popular for years with both kids and teachers, there are loads of games associated with the story available, from card games to puzzles. This is truly and oldy but a goody, years of teacher experience around the world has built up a treasure chest of ideas. I hope this brief collection of activities can as useful in your classes as they are in mine.

Useful web pages:

Making learning fun

Eric Carle’s web page

Teaching heart

DLTK

First school

The virtual vine

My Easter Egg Hunt

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Language and cultural purpose

Easter is around the corner and in every school and academy teachers will be looking for stuff to do around this celebration over the next weeks. That’s why I have started to prepare some activities and stories with our best friends, Ken and Karen. The thing is that every time I want to focus my teaching on celebrations I find that, on the one hand it’s a wonderful way to teach culture and diversity but on the other hand I don’t see the point of teaching vocabulary such as jack-o-lantern, witch or reindeer. That’s why I have decided to not only have a cultural purpose but also a language one and use this opportunity to review or consolidate other topics (vocabulary items).

What do I want to review or consolidate?

Topics Stories
Colors,  numbers & days of the week What did you find in your Easter egg hunt?
Prepositions, rooms of the house Where did you find the eggs?
Family Who found the eggs?
Spring, garden, flower Planting a rainbow, by Lois Ehlert. Growing vegetable soup, by Lois Ehlert

Lesson plan

Every school and every classroom is a different world. For this reason it is difficult to give a one-size-fits-all lesson plan which will work with a class of 8, or 20 or 50; in a session of 30 minutes, of 60 or one of 90 minutes and so on. That’s why I’m going to lay out the ingredients, the basics and you cook it at your convinience.

1. Colors, numbers and days of the week

 

Karen is looking for eggs. Every day she finds a different number and different color of eggs. Karen’s story can be used to review this vocabulary and also to introduce students to a tradition in Angloxason countries: the Easter egg hunt.

The story

Read the story What did you find? at the beginning of every class so students can get used to the vocabulary items. To know what to do with the story go to How to use… the stories in the Category list.

I love to use a stage to present Karen’s story cards as it gives students the idea of watching TV or being part of a puppet theater. This way they are more willing to participate and to pay attention. Let them be the ones telling the story and changing the cards from the box. It helps them to remember and retell the story using the target vocabulary.

Flashcards

From presenting the target vocabulary to play some games, flashcards can be used in games such as What’s missing, What’s next and so on.

For tips on using them go to How to use… flashcards in the Category list. Note that if you find the background confusing you just have to change it to a white background.

Picture dictation

TPR (Total Physical Response) activities are ideal for young children. Students perform in a relaxed enviroment without pushing them to talk, just to listen, understand and perform the action.  In this topic I suggest two activities:

The first one is a picture dictation. Give the instructions of how to cut and glue both pages (note that cutting the eggs can be difficult for very little ones) and get the colors from their pencil case. Once everybody is ready say the number and the color as follows: color number 1 red. Reuse them in another session by working in pairs asking each other Which color is number 1? Red.

The second consists of giving students a picture of a basket. It can be one basket for each student or one picture per pair or group of four. Distribute pictures of color eggs. The teacher or student names a color and the person who has that color places it on the basket. Once performed with all the class,it can be played in pairs or groups of four. Notes: laminate the pictures so they can be used over and over again. You can also hand out white eggs and tell them to color them before starting the activity, this can be done in a previous session to have time to laminate them.

Counting book

This activity focuses on reading and writing. It can be done in many different ways:

– Write the number words for students to trace.

– Students write the number words.

– Do a picture dictation as explained above. Students write the color as follows: 1 red egg.

– Let them color the eggs as they wish then write about them: 3 purple eggs.

– Practise other adjectives,  ex sizes: 1 big egg.

Note: You can find worksheets for these activities in Resources in the Category list.

2. Family

The story

Read the story Who found the eggs? at the beginning of every class so students can get used to the vocabulary items. For ideas of what to do with the story go to How to use… the stories in the Category list.

This story features family vocabulary and also colours and numbers. It’s a great opportunity to revise these topics with your students.

Picture dictionary

A truely handy activity which can be used through all the sessions and can help students to become independent autonomous leaners. There are some tips in the section How to use… the picture dictionary.

To find the picture dictionary go to Resources in the Category list.

Dice game

In pairs students can roll the family and number dice. In turns students say: My sister found 3 eggs.

Alternatively, we can have a family dice and a colored one. In turns students say: My sister found  a yellow egg.

To find the printable family dice go to Resources in the Category list.

Note: To find other resources and ideas go to Topics, Family in the category list.

Prepositions, rooms in the house

If you have been dealing with prepositions or with rooms of the house this can be a great opportunity to revise these vocabulary items. You start reviewing the rooms of the house, then the prepositions to finish the last session just before Easter with a real Easter egg hunt. You can even convey the family topic in these sessions. Some ideas are:

Rooms of the house

Show some flashcards or do any of the activities you did during this topic to refresh the vocabulary: rooms. Set students in pairs and hand out the picture of the house. One student draws some color eggs randomly. The other student has to guess where they are by asking:

Student A: Is the red egg in the bedroom?

Student B: No, it isn’t.

Student A: Is the red egg in the kitchen?

Student B: Yes, it is

Note: If you can laminate the pictures  students could use and reuse them by coloring the eggs with whiteboard markers.

Prepositions

Have an A 3 ready of the house with colored eggs with the eggs in different places, draw a house on the board or use it with an IWB. Review the following prepositions: in, on, under, behind. Ask students: Where are the blue eggs? Set students in pairs and hand out a copy with the eggs to one student and one without the eggs to the other student (you can use the pictures of the previous activity: rooms of the house). The student with the colored eggs dictate where the eggs are without showing their paper to the partner as follows:

Student A: There is an orange egg under the table.

Student B draws it.

Note: You should provide some useful language such as: Could you said that again? Do you mean under this table? and so on.

Rooms of the house and family

In this activity you can cover both topics just by placing family members in the different rooms. Perform it first in front of the class and then hand out the pictures(these can be the same that were used in the other sessions). Print Karen’s family members and cut them out. Students place the family member and say: Karen found an egg in the living room and then they write about it.


Note: To find the worksheets to print go to Resources in the Category list.

My ESL Brown bear: the activities

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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)

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My ESL Brown Bear: the story

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Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a very famous and must-read-book for native English  speakers. In many kindergarten and preschool classes, it is used to familiarize children with animals and colours. ESL teachers have realized the potential of this book for their students to acquire or learn (depending on their views) the language a long time ago. Brewster and Ellis in their book Tell it again! suggest six lessons, from introducing the main vocabulary to performing a rehearsal all of which are aimed at children in the 8-11 age group.

My idea is to start earlier than 8 and target Very Young Learners, by mixing  ideas from native speaker classes and ESL ideas. Every morning I see a 3 y.o. Spanish child repeating blue the very same  way he or she repeats azul, but I don’t hear no entiendo, hablas muy deprisa, ¿qué dices?( I don’t understand), as I would hear in my primary classes. They just wander around and use the same strategies to understand what I’m saying in English as they do with Spanish (their mother tongue). They are acquiring the languages in a similar way but with different amounts of exposure.

To start with and to get inspired I recommend watching an amazing video with Bill Martin Jr reading the book himself:

Bill Martin Jr. reads Brown bear, Brown bear, What Do You See?

I have listened to it at least a hundred times. Simply for the enjoyment of it and of course to better my storytelling skills while getting the rhythm and intonation to provide my students with a good model. As I’m not a native English speaker and as I didn’t grow up with this amazing literature, I’ve had to catch up quickly.

There are many activities, lesson plans, teacher’s notes and ideas out there about Brown Bear. What I want to do here is to try to put them together, organize them and also include plans not intended for ESL activities which actually can be used in ESL classes.

The story

Every morning I go to a kindergarten class (3 y.o or 4 y.olds) with my Brown Bear big book edition and perform the same routine. First of all, I arrange students (up to 25 kids) in a circle. I start showing the front page and ask them “who is our friend?” After a couple of sessions most of them can recognize and answer “Brown bear” as a chunk. I open the book, starting with the picture of the brown bear and I repeat, not just twice as it appears in the book, but up to ten times every colour-animal. Children like the rhythm and join in right away. I usually mark time with both hands clapping on my lap to mark the beats brown-bear, blue-horse, white-dog and so on. This helps Spanish students to realize that, as opposed to the Spanish language which is syllabic, English is a stressed timed language. As they are also learning the colours and animals in their mother tongue, often when you turn the page they eagerly say the name of the animal in Spanish, feeling really proud that they know it. I encourage it as they are making the following connection:

Oso- picture- brown bear (name in Spanish -picture of the animal- name in English)

The telling of the story goes as follows:

Teacher:  Brown bear, Brown bear, Brown bear,(children start joining in) Brown bear, Brown bear, Brown bear, Brown bear, Brown bear, what do you see? (finger below the eye)

Teacher: I see (finger below the eye) [turning page slowly creating suspense]

Children: Un pájaro

Teacher: Yes that’s right, it’s a bird, a red bird looking at me (hand on my chest)

Teacher: Red bird, red bird, (children start joining in) red bird, red bird, red bird, red bird, red bird, red bird, what do you see? (finger below the eye)

Teacher: I see (finger below the eye) [turning page slowly creating suspense]

Children: Un pato amarillo.

Teacher: Yes that’s right, it’s a duck, a yellow duck looking at me (hand on the chest)

(soon see and me are also repeated, and even some children can join you with the whole question, what do you see?)

When we finish the story and we are on the page with all the animals I ask them: Which is your favourite animal? In the first sessions they just point to their favourite animal and I say the name while pointing. After several sessions, some children can say the animal without pointing, and every session more and more students are capable to name their favourite animal.

To finish the storytime I go to the page with all the colours and I point to the colour, say the name and they repeat afterwards. As they have learnt colour-animal as a chunk, some students tend to say brown-bear or purple-cat, as the name of the colour, but after some sessions they realize that when I point to the colour I only say blue or brown and they just simply repeat it.

I have noticed the interference of Spanish when learning English in primary school children in several aspects:

– Tendency of reading English syllabically, which produces a really flat intonation, making it really difficult to understand what they’re saying.

– Word order changing as in Spanish the structure goes noun-adjective as opposed to adjective-noun.

– Difficulty using the auxiliary do when making a question.

This book gives them a model to avoid these problems later on. As colour-animal has been learnt as a chunk, it gives the learners native-like  intuitive sense of rightness. On the other hand, the structure what do you see? learnt as a chunk can be played with and transformed into: what do you hear, like, eat and so on in a later stage.

Have a look at My ESL Brown Bear: the activities

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.