Wednesday, 30 April 2014

English Story Telling Competition

This past week was a busy time at my elementary school as we in the English Village, put on our annual English Story Telling Competition. At first I was a little hesitant with this project but it all turned out so stunningly that I’m looking forward to next year’s competition already. The first stage of the competition was the inner class competition. Every English class from grades 4 to 6 where asked to choose a story from our school’s online library and then memorize it, ready to recite it in front of the class the following week. The stories online were only about 6-10 sentences long so they weren’t hard to remember and practice. I remember during my time in primary school (elementary) , we did speech competitions from 7 years old and right up to when we were 12 in intermediate (middle school). So I didn’t see it a big deal having the students memorize little stories. So on class story telling day every student was asked to present their story in class. I sat at the back of the room with all the students’ names and gave marks out of ten for each student. After every student had told a story my co-teacher and I would announce the top of the class who was then made a finalist in the story competition. This is where the stress kicked in…as an artsy person; I don’t mind at all, with creating things for class that let me use my crafty side. However my co-teacher sprang this one on me and I felt a little anxious. For each of the 7 story competition finalists, I was asked to make some sort of prop for them to help present and add “pizzazz” to their spoken word. I was excited to make these things but all 7 , over a weekend seemed daunting. However, it’s for the better of the students so I hurried over to our town’s local craft store (also known as teacher’s heaven) and used our story competition budget as wisely as I could!

These are the props I came out with:
Story: The Cake that Mack Ateby Rose Robart
Plot: Dog Mack, eats cake…that took a lot of time and trouble to make!

Story: Dinnertime! by Sue Williams , illustrated by Kerry Argent 
Plot: Six fat rabbits are being stalked by a fox , when they should be home for dinner!

Story: Penguin by Polly Dunbar
Plot: Gina gets a penguin for her birthday, but it just won’t talk to her!

Story: Moon Planet by Peter McCarty
Plot: A little boy dreams of flying to the moon.

Story: Moo Moo Brown Cow Have you Any  (unknown)
Plot: Counting through farm animals!
Story: Jonnie (unknown)
Plot: Jonnie the spider is sad because everyone thinks she is scary

Story: Mr. Mcgee and the Perfect Nest (unknown)
Plot: A lazy bird finding the perfect nest

After the props were done we had about a week of lunch time and after school rehearsals.
It was all very repetitive but as they say “practice makes perfect!”
I really loved the day of the competition. Our story tellers did fantastically, I was so proud.
Here’s a picture of all of them together:

And here’s a link to one of our winners!

The Power of Bingo!

I know it seems like Bingo is an obvious choice for a game to any teacher, especially us ESL teachers. However, I’d like to revisit this life-saving game and explain alternative ways of playing bingo that spice up the normal routine.

Bingo with – listening ,reading and finding.
I have never ever played a bingo game with only words that I will simply read out. There’s always a twist. This is because I always want a challenge within the game, a extra test of understanding. For example, my grade 6’s have just finished the unit on “How do you say it in Korean?” This unit was all about talking about Korean traditional items and customs in English. It’s a useful unit I believe as I learnt a few things about Korean culture and the students had me to practice with as their English tourist. To spice up one of our lessons after the text book’s rather boring vocabulary writing activities I decided to play bingo. This was not ordinary bingo though! I mixed it up.

Here’s an example bingo card:

As you can see I have pictures, words and some of the words are even written in Korean.
I don’t usually do Korean words but for this topic it was appropriate. So, if you had this bingo card you would not be listening for “apple” you would be listening for “We say sagwa.” And for the picture of the Yunnori board game in the centre you would listen not for “Yunnori” but for “It is a traditional Korean board game.” Get it? The Korean words work the same, instead of “씨름” (Ssireum), the student waits for “This is traditional Korean wrestling.” I found that the students were actively listening and trying to understand everything I was saying. It was a great game of bingo and I play bingo with other topics using the same multifaceted format.

Bingo –using the textbook, listening, reading and identifying.
At first, this particular way I used bingo confused my co-teacher and I had to explain it to her over the break between classes as she couldn’t quite believe that despite the larger amount of preparation I’d put into it, the game was still simply, bingo.

The topic for this bingo game was “She has long straight hair.” This unit was all about looks, facial features, etc. However I was dissatisfied with the text book because it didn’t teach the word ‘blond’ –my students would say ‘yellow hair’. Also, the text book didn’t teach ‘green eyes’ or ‘red hair’. So due to this I felt the need to inject this vital vocabulary into our teaching as soon as possible. And what better way of doing this? Yes, you guessed it –bingo!

So first, in this case the text book actually had an existing table that was used to practice talking about facial features and I took advantage of this page to use as a bingo board for each of my students.
This is the page:

So instead of making bingo boards I asked the students to use this page inside their text book. Before starting we had to write the names of each person and we did this by describing what they looked like for added practice of the vocabulary.  Next I made a bunch of my own people, complete with red hair and green eyes so that the students could learn more than blue and brown eyes. Here’s what my people looked like:


 Throughout the class I had them projected on the whiteboard and gave each of them names for the students to identify them with.

Snakes and Ladders are AMAZING FOR ENGLISH

Thank Goodness for Snakes and Ladders!

I absolutely love this game and since I’ve started teaching I’ve used Snakes and Ladders to learn dialogue, to practice speaking and even for listening and reading skills – all while students are having fun falling down snakes and climbing up ladders.
 I know what you’re thinking: “but where do I buy all those boards? Doesn’t that cost a lot of money? , how are you practicing English?”
So, okay, let me explain, it’s not the traditional Snakes and Ladders with a board and a dice to roll, it’s enlarged and altered for our English teacher needs!

Firstly, I made a snake and a ladder. I just printed out a big coloured snake on an A4 paper and cut out a ladder shape from coloured card. (You could always draw the snake yourself.)  I stuck magnetic strips to the back of both so they stick on the whiteboard.
Next I made the “You Won!” box. That’s the box you put on the top left corner, the box all your students want to get too. So, still pretty traditional Snakes and Ladders right?

Well this is how I “English-a-fy-it”:
Instead of just boxes and numbers I fill the boxes with pictures or words. For example, when my grade 6’s where learning the dialogue for the unit “How often do you _____________?” I had a box with pictures of all the different activities we were studying in our textbook. I will often draw the pictures on the board myself but those less artistic can always print out pictures. Or instead of pictures you can always write the sentence/key word but I find that pictures are more fun for the students to look at and to understand. Here’s an example of both versions of the board:

Now, how to play the game: (I’ll be refering to the snake and ladder board with the pictures drawn, for the topic, grade 6, “How often do you__________?”)

Step 1. Separate class into teams. I’ll always do boys against girls as elementary kids love it.

Step 2. Choose one team member from the first team to come up and roll a dice. I’ll use a big fluffy dice, but any dice will do.

Step 3. Whatever number rolled, move that teams’ magnet to the appropriate box. Now, here’s the English part: If the dice rolls a 3 and lands on the picture “wash your hands” then the student who rolled must play either A or B in the following dialogue:

A: Can you help me with my survey?
B: Sure.
A: How often do you ___________________?
B: I ________________________ times a day/week.
A: Okay. Thanks for helping me.

-this dialogue is taken from the textbook for the unit, and can be altered as you see fit.

So, in this case, because the student rolled 3 and landed on the picture of “wash your hands” they must act as B in the dialogue while the class reads for A in the dialogue. The class will fill in the missing dialogue with “wash your hands” and the student will answer appropriately with his or her answer. So here’s an example of what they might say:

(class)             A: Can you help me with my survey?
(student)          B: Sure.
(class)              A: How often do you wash your hands?
(student)          B: I wash my hands 4  times a day.
(class)              A: Okay. Thanks for helping me.

Easy right? The student and class are filling in the dialogue blanks as well as thinking for themselves instead of simply memorizing without understanding. They’re also practicing their speaking skills and there’s not a lot of pressure on the individual student who will come up as you would have been over the dialogue before. I’ll write the dialogue with the blank spaces on the board before the game and we will read through it as a class together. I’ll leave it up for the first two dice rolls but then erase it so they can do it without reading. Most importantly it’s fun. All the learning is disguised by playing a game of Snakes and Ladders. Only after all the dialogue has been said can a new team player come up and roll next. I like to let the students choose the next person from the opposing team to roll the dice. This way I can try to learn names as well.

In my experience , as I play this game frequently, almost with every topic as it’s so adaptable, I get even the shyest, lowest level students volunteering to come up and roll the dice. They love it. By the time I’ve got the board up and announce it’s game time almost the entire class has their hand shot up hoping to roll first.

Recently I played this with my 6th graders who are a little challenging to get enthusiastic about English at times, but I made it a little more interesting by drawing a blank Snakes and Ladder grid on the whiteboard. We were studying the topic “What do you want to be?” which goes over different occupations.
The dialogue was:

A: What do you want to be?
B: I want to be a ____________________.
A: Wow, that’s interesting!

Instead of drawing or writing job titles in the grid I wrote 8 job titles on separate pieces of paper and put them in our class mystery bag. The student who would roll the dice had to roll and then pick a paper blindly out of the bag and draw the job in the grid box their dice landed on. It was a pictionary –Snakes and Ladders mash up! The kids loved it. Quite a lot of laughs but lots of fun and English speaking and thinking! I’m telling you, this game is always a success!

This is a board for learning past tense. The student lands on a word and has to say the past tense of the word and use it in a sentence. E.g. The student lands on ‘eat’, so they will say “Ate...I ate pizza last weekend.”

It’s not what you think, we weren’t selling people! J This lesson is a shopping lesson, practicing shopping etiquette and dialogue as well as money. So if the student landed on a box say, the box which reads “my brother is” that means he would have to say “Can you help me? My brother is looking for ________.” I had a bag of laminated pictures of clothing items that we used to help fill in the blank of that sentence. The written money amounts were used for the part of the dialogue where the student asked the class “How much are they?” and the class would reply with the amount written in the box that the student’s dice roll helped him land.

So go ahead and customize your Snake and Ladder game!

Ardyn Baia

Finger Puppets Are Cross-Circular And Cross-Cultural - Thank Goodness

The lesson: “Hello is Minu There?”
The dialogue:  A simple phone call to Minu, often with some stimulating pizza and/or homework action thrown in.
The mission: Creating some world class finger puppet shows. ( Emmy or Oscars anticipated).
The unfortunate colleague roped into play finger puppet Gina for demo-video:  Willemien Teacher ( who should honestly think about going pro-puppeteer)
The level: Cute 5th graders with a lot of spunk.
The result : Some funky finger puppets, classic student bashfulness from being on camera, a handful of prima donnas’ who took their sweet time rehearsing a five line script …and of course, fun!

As a big believer of incorporating the arts into my English lessons I got really excited with the prospect of making puppet shows. Anyone who knows me knows, I have a (strange but cool) obsession with puppet making. Of course, our grade 5 class only needed a ten minute final project so making any life-size puppets wasn’t really ideal (although I would have had so much fun) but little paper finger puppets were an excellent alternative. Text book in hand, with instructions to “follow the vocab!”, I took to my drawing board to sketch out some easy to colour and cut out finger puppets. Next all I needed was to cut them out and create a simple worksheet for ‘script writing’. My co-teacher and I spent a lesson revising the vocabulary we had learnt during the unit and then for our final assessment we started the script writing. I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of my little script writers had written some more creative scenarios, going ‘off-textbook’ as they say. For example, a pair of boys wrote about Chicken and Cat having pizza with Dog, a girl group told their tale of how Sally and Gina baked cookies and cake and a pizza all in the same afternoon and finally, I couldn’t leave out the story of Mouse One and Mouse Two who bravely ate pizza with Cat.

After writing scripts we devoted a separate lesson to puppet making, show rehearsing and filming. My puppet show lesson couldn’t have taken off without the help of Willemien. Willemien is a fellow co-worker and Native English teacher at my school who, after no bribery or blackmail (shocking, I know) helped me to create a demo finger puppet show. I must say, we are certainly natural finger puppeteers, Oscars, Emmys, Tonys – here we come.

After showcasing our fabulous episode of “Saturday Night Plans” the 5th graders were keen to start colouring their puppets and fitting them to fingers. As a treat to the more creative thinkers I drew props and made special chicken, mouse and cat puppets. A pair of boys had me at their desk busily sketching up baseball hats, clubs and mitts for their “Major League” themed scenario.
As soon as the puppets and scripts were rehearsed I grabbed them pair by pair to record their skits outside in the hallway. Although some of my precious puppeteers froze up, the speaking and writing aims were achieved. It was one of my most enjoyable lessons so far and I am eager to use finger puppets again for a final project and recommend it to all ESL teachers out there – even ya’ll in high school.

All videos can be found on YouTube. 

Click here to download easy to use finger puppet template 

2014 Update! 
Just did this with my Grade 5's for this year and it worked great again. We skipped on the video and just did live class performances. After all, the focus is the script writing and speaking. Worked really well, kids enjoyed it!

 Happy Teaching! 

Foil Sculputres for our Special Day

A Spunky Way To Add Art To Your English Class...

This week my co-teacher and I had an open class to prepare for. While the entire school (us included), acted as headless chickens in a frenzy of preparing, cleaning and beautifying our classrooms –we also had the added stress of making a lesson that meshed well with the arts. Our chosen art form: one-sided sculptures.

At first we brainstormed about using clay or papier-mâché but like every class we unfortunately have to speed on through the textbook – so our artsy lesson would have to be done in a mere forty minutes. Of course, we had to minus from this 40: lesson revision time, demonstration and instructions.  Rest assured, I’ve become a pro at this speeding along thing and so I decided to steal the idea of foil sculptures…thank you, grade 5 art textbook.

At first my co-teacher was a little hesitant and scared things would get too complicated but I reassured her we could do it. Our topic: “My Special Day”. This topic was our own, an extension of the text book unit “What did you do in the weekend?” which is all about teaching past tense vocabulary. The activity acted as a final project for our students to show off what they’d learnt throughout the unit.

Let the Sculpting Lesson Begin!

The Demonstration: 

Before any big project I always make a demo version. For this lesson I prepared a foil sculpture about Christmas Day and sculpted four different things that happened on Christmas Day. My co-teacher helped with the brainstorm example and overall the students always enjoy seeing an example project. I think it is a great strategy of inspiring your students to challenge themselves and sets the entire class a high standard to strive for.

As an added POW to impress the open class spectators I thought making a simple instructional video of how to make a foil sculpture would earn us some extra brownie points. (Still no word on said brownies) So here is the video the students watched:
At first the length of it frightened my co-teacher but it actually turned out that the students were deeply engrossed the entire 2 and-a-half-something minutes. I think it was important to show them exactly how long it took me to point out how fast and easy sculpting with foil can be. Plus the lengthiness of the video built up drama for the climatic reveal of the end product- a pair of foil men playing basketball!

Planning Time!
First off, we brainstormed what different “special days” exist and we came up with all sorts…

After brainstorming we gave out papers with the title “My Special Day:_________”. Each group had to choose one of the special days we brainstormed on the board and then start thinking of activities that they did on those days – emphasizing the past tense verbs, of course. Here are some of our student brainstorms:


Making was the fun and easy part. The students were such busy bees during this! We made sure that every group member had come up with a sentence for their brainstorm and so each sentence equalled to one foil sculpture. We gave out big sheets of black card, one for each group and by the end each card had three or four activities sculpted from foil to show what they did on their chosen special day. Our last requirement was that they write the name of the special day on their black card with a silver or gold marker and then present their work to the entire class. 

Overall, a really easy and affordable artsy activity to spruce up any English learning lesson.